Opera Scotland

Tales of Hoffmann 1924British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Tales of Hoffmann

The Tales of Hoffmann attained immediate popularity when introduced to Britain just before the Great War, and remained in the touring schedules of both BNOC and Carl Rosa.  As was standard practice until the last half century, the acts were performed in what is now recognised to be an incorrect order, Olympia, then Giulietta, finishing with Antonia.  This seems to have been decided by the editors for the publisher Choudens. They also inserted recitative to replace the dialogue, to make it a serious opera, rather than opéra-comique, as happened earlier with Carmen.  Nowadays, most performances have Antonia in the middle and conclude with the decadence of the Venetian scene.


Edinburgh Review

The Scotsman of Monday, 3 November (p6) reviewed the previous Saturday's performances:

On Saturday night the artists of the British National Opera Company gave an admirable performance of Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann.   Many performances of the delightful work have rendered it very familiar, but it was a great pleasure to have it performed  under the fine conditions under which Sir Thomas Beecham introduced the work to the public some years ago.

'There was an excellent cast.  Mr Browning Mummery sang with great charm as Hoffmann;  Miss May Blyth gave an appropriately swaggering account of the rôle of Nicklaus.  Of the three loves of Hoffmann, Olympia, the doll, was cleverly represented bu Miss Sylvia Nelis, whose pure soprano voice was well suited to the florid nature of the part, while Miss Mary Lewis, a welcome newcomer to the ranks of proncipals of the Company, dissplayed considerable versatility  in doubling the rôles of Giulietta in the Venetian scene, and of Antonia in the third tale,

'Other cases of rôles being doubled were furnished by Mr Frederic Collier, who was the innkeeper in the Prologue, and Crespel in the third tale;  Mr Frank Alexander, who was Nathaniel in the Prologue, and an admirable Cocciniglia in the doll scene; Mr Sydney Russell, a diverting Spalanzani and the deaf servant of Crespel; and Mr William Michael, the contributor of two excellent studies as Coppelius and Doctor Mirakel.  Mr Dennis Noble, a newcomer, sang well as Dapertutto, as did also Miss Eda Bennie, as the mother of Antonia.

'Some of the best music in the opera is in the Prologue, and here the choral work was of a high order of merit.  Mr Anthony Bernard conducted, and except that the first tale seemed to be given perhaps a little hurriedly; the performance as a whole, under his direction, was brilliant.  There was a large audience, and all the well-known numbers received a deservedly large meed of applause.

'In the afternoon there was a repeat performance of The Marriage of Figaro, with which the Company began here last Monday.'



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

Nicklausse Hoffmann's friend

May Blyth (Nov 1 e)

Luther an innkeeoer

Frederic Collier (Nov 1 e)

Nathaniel a student

Frank Alexander (Nov 1 e)

Hoffmann a poet

Browning Mummery (Nov 1 e)

Olympia a doll

Sylvia Nelis (Nov 1 e)

Spalanzani an Italian inventor

Sydney Russell (Nov 1 e)

Cochenille Spalanzani's servant

Frank Alexander (Nov 1 e)

Coppélius a scientist, Spalanzani's rival

William Michael (Nov 1 e)

Antonia Crespel's daughter

Mary Lewis (Nov 1 e)

Crespel a councillor of Munich

Frederic Collier (Nov 1 e)

Franz Crespel's servant

Sydney Russell (Nov 1 e)

Dr Miracle a doctor

William Michael (Nov 1 e)

Antonia's mother a spirit voice

Eda Bennie (Nov 1 e)

Giulietta a courtesan

Mary Lewis (Nov 1 e)

Dapertutto a sorcerer

Dennis Noble (Nov 1 e)

Performance DatesTales of Hoffmann 1924

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

1 Nov, 19.15

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

12 Nov, 19.15 17 Nov, 19.15

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