Opera Scotland

Tannhäuser 1924British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Tannhäuser

A single performance in each city.

It is very unusual at this period for the designer to rate a mention in a review, so these sets must have been rather special.

The 'Paris' version, with its extensive ballet following immediately after the overture, remained an unusual variant until quite recently.  It was significantly more expensive to perform than the earlier Dresden version.

Beatrice Miranda first sang Elisabeth with the Carl Rosa in 1909, repeating it frequently, and would sing it again with them later in 1924.

It is interesting to see Walter Widdop, already a regular Siegfried and Walther von Stolzing, singing the shorter role of Walther von der Vogelweide, which still needs a good tenor.

And it is certainly luxury casting to have May Blyth, already singing Eva in The Mastersingers, to perform the short part of the Shepherd Boy.


An Edinburgh Review

The Scotsman of Thursday, 6 November (p6) has to cover both the matinee of The Magic Flute and evening performance of Tannhäuser.  Both reviews are unusually long and detailed:

'The artists of the British National Opera Company deserved well of the Edinburgh public yesterday in providing on the same day excellent performances of The Magic Flute and of Tannhäuser.  They had their reward in large audiences at both performances.  A crowded audience can scarcely be expected at a mid-week matinee, but at yesterday afternoon's performance of The Magic Flute the King's Theatre presented a well-filled appearance; while at night the size of the audience suggested that Tannhäuser is still one of the most popular works in the operatic repertory, if not, indeed, its chief attraction..........

'A finer performance of Tannhäuser than that which was given at night has probably not been heard in Edinburgh.  Mr Aylmer Buesst conducted, and under his direction the rendering of the opera was exhilarating in its well-controlled vivacity and expressiveness.  The work was given in the ''Paris version,'' and the Bacchanale had the impetuosity which the music demands, but which is so seldom realised, at any rate in stage performances.

'Mr Buesst had admirable opportunities in the nature of the cast for the performance.  Mr Parry Jones as Tannhäuser gave fresh proof of what an acquisition he is to the company.  It was a highly dramatic rendering, but intensity of feeling never made for an overstraining of vocal resources, and in the most poignant moments of the narration of the pilgrimage, his voice was always musical.  On its histrionic side, the impersonation, also, was one which always held the eye captive.

'Miss Beatrice Miranda's Elizabeth appears to gain in finish and charm each time it is heard, and the Venus of Miss Gladys Ancrum is perhaps the most completely satisfactory impersonation of the rôle which is known to the opera-going public here.

'A special interest attached to the Wolfram of Mr Howard Fry, who made his debut in opera last night.  It was a dignified and sympathetic reading of the part, both vocally and dramatically effective. Mr Robert Radford repeated a now familiar success in the Landgrave;  Miss May Blyth sang the trying music of the Shepherd Boy very well, and Messrs Walter Widdop, Frederic Collier, Nathan Shacknoff, and Philip Bertram as the minstrel-Knights were all good, while orchestra, chorus, and ballet acquitted themselves with complete success.

'There was an effective new staging of the opera, and the Hall of Song, in particular, was a fine piece of brilliant, harmonious colour.' 


The Glasgow Opinion

The Glasgow Herald of Monday, 24 November (p10) also had to provide space for the Saturday matinee double bill of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci, so has little space for comment:

'The only performance of Tannhäuser during the current season was given on Saturday evening, and attracted an audience which crowded the Theatre Royal.  It is very difficult for any company to approach perfection in the rendering of this work, but seldom is it done so well as it was on this occasion.  The orchestra played splendidly under the inspiring direction of Mr Aylmer Buesst, and the great ensemble in the Hall of Song went without the slightest hitch.  The stage trumpeters took their cue with flawless precision, and the combination of magnificent choral singing and orchestral playing left an impression that will not soon be forgotten.

'To those who have not seen Tannhäuser for some time the stage setting would have a fresh point of interest.  The scenic painting of Mr Oliver P Bernard has provided by simple means artistic pictures of the Venusberg, the Wartburg, and the Hall of Song, and the effectiveness of the scheme was enhanced by careful attention to lighting.

'The performances of the principals were notably fine in respect of enunciation; the story of Tannhäuser is seldom made so plain.  It gained in impressiveness also by the dramatic skill which Mr Walter Hyde revealed in his personation of the erring minstrel-knight.  All through the opera Mr Hyde's singing was good, best of all in the narration of the pilgrimage.

'Another experienced artist in Wagner parts, Miss Gladys Ancrum, sang and acted with distinction as Venus.  Miss Miriam Licette's singing in the music of Elizabeth was beautiful in tone and expressiveness.  The part of Wolfram was taken by Mr Howard Fry, a new-comer with a voice of useful baritone range and fine quality. A slight trace of vibrato was occasionally noticeable in his singing when pressure was put upon the voice, but he is clearly a singer with a sense of style.  Mr Norman Allin's big voice was well heard in the music of the Landgrave.

'As the Paris version of the opera was used the ballet  in the Venusberg scene was a special feature of the performance. 


BNOC's 1924 Scottish tour

The BNOC tour of Scotland in 1924 lasted five weeks - two in Edinburgh (King's) then three in Glasgow (Theatre Royal).

Amazingly, four operas by British composers were toured, as well as four French, though only one by Verdi.  As usual, Wagner and Puccini seem to enjoy undying popularity.  One Russian piece also puts in an appearance.

A total of 19 works were performed:

Mozart (Marriage of Figaro,  Magic Flute);   Wagner (Tannhäuser,  MastersingersSiegfried);  Verdi (Aïda);  Gounod (Faust);  Offenbach (Tales of Hoffmann);  Bizet (Carmen);  Rimsky-Korsakov (Golden Cockerel);  Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);   Puccini (BohèmeMadam ButterflyGianni Schicchi);  Debussy (Pelléas and Mélisande);  Mackenzie (Eve of St John);  Vaughan Williams (Hugh the Drover);  Holst (Perfect Fool);  Boughton (Alkestis).

The performance schedule is as follows:

Edinburgh,  w/c 27 October:  Mon 27 Marriage of Figaro;  Tue 28 Carmen;  Wed 29 mat Madam Butterfly;  Wed 29 eve Hugh the Drover:  Thu 30 Perfect Fool & Gianni Schicchi;  Fri 31 Siegfried;  Sat 01 mat  Marriage of Figaro;  Sat 01 eve Tales of Hoffmann.

Edinburgh, w/c 3 November:  Mon 03 Golden Cockerel;  Tue 04 Pelléas et Mélisande;  Wed 05 mat  Magic Flute;  Wed 05 eve Tannhäuser;  Thu 06 Mastersingers;  Fri 07 Alkestis;  Sat 08 mat  Hugh the Drover;  Sat 08 eve  Aïda.

Glasgow, w/c 10 November:  Mon 10 Carmen;  Tue 11 Mastersingers;  Wed 12 mat Alkestis;  Wed 12 eve  Tales of Hoffmann;  Thu 13 Magic Flute;  Fri 14  Golden Cockerel;  Sat 15 mat Aïda;  Sat 15 eve Marriage of Figaro.

Glasgow, w/c 17 November:  Mon 17 Tales of Hoffmann;  Tue 18 Bohème;  Wed 19 mat  Magic Flute;  Med 19 eve  Aïda;  Thu 20 Eve of St John & Perfect Fool;  Fri 21 Hugh the Drover;  Sat 22 mat Gianni Schicchi  Pagliacci;  Sat 22 eve Tannhäuser.

Glasgow, w/c 24 November:  Mon 24 Marriage of Figaro;  Tue 25  Faust;  Wed 26 mat Golden Cockerel;  Wed 26 eve Magic Flute;  Thu 27 Hugh the Drover;  Fri 28  Carmen;  Sat 29 mat Madam Butterfly;  Sat 29 eve Mastersingers.

Performance Cast


Gladys Ancrum (Nov 5 e, 22 e)

Tannhäuser a knight and minnesinger

Parry Jones (Nov 5 e)

Walter Hyde (Nov 22 e)

Shepherd boy

May Blyth (Nov 5 e)

Wolfram von Eschenbach a knight and minnesinger

Howard Fry (Nov 5 e, 22 e)

Hermann Landgrave of Thuringia

Robert Radford (Nov 5 e)

Norman Allin (Nov 22 e)

Walther von der Vogelweide a knight and minnesinger

Walter Widdop (Nov 5 e)

Heinrich der Schreiber a knight and minnesinger

Nathan Shacknoff (Nov 5 e)

Biterolf a knight and minnesinger

Frederic Collier (Nov 5 e)

Reinmar von Zweter a knight and minnesinger

Philip Bertram (Nov 5 e)

Elisabeth niece of the Landgrave

Beatrice Miranda (Nov 5 e)

Miriam Licette (Nov 22 e)

Performance DatesTannhäuser 1924

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

5 Nov, 18.45

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

22 Nov, 18.45

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