Opera Scotland

Alkestis 1924British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Alkestis

Another new British opera, based on a classical subject more familiar to audinces in the seventeenth or eighteenth cemturies.

The fact that the second performance was a mid-week matinee seems unusual. Perhaps it was an attempt to lure real opera enthusiasts to an unpopular slot.  Or maybe a reward for long-suffering out-of-town people for attending all those popular pieces usually given the Wednesday afternoon sessions.

Given the huge enthusiasm on the part of the Scotsman critic, it seems a pity that his review gives no names for director and designers.

It also seems a pity that the opera itself has disappeared without trace, when this performance was received with such enthusiasm.


The Scotsman Review

The Scotsman on Saturday, 8 November (p9) gave its hugely enthusiastic opinion:

For the second time within the space of a fortnight, the management of the British National Opera Company last night introduced Edinburgh music-lovers to a new opera by a British composer, Mr Rutland Boughton's Alkestis.  When account is taken of the four works by British composers which were heard here for the first time on the occasion of the previous visit of the company, it is seen how thoroughly determined the British National Opera Company is to live up to its title.

'It is a spirit that cannot be too highly praised.  Opera in this country undoubtedly suffered from lack of enterprise, for which, it must be admitted, the public was principally to blame. The artists of the British National Opera Company, however, have displayed a courage in bringing forward new works, which must surely, in time, meet with its reward.

'In producing Mr Rutland Boughton's setting of the Alkestis of Euripides, as translated into English rhyming verse by Professor Gilbert Murray, the British National Opera directors set a severe task for the artists of the company, and incidentally took a fairly sanguine view of the power of public appreciation.  Last night's performance, however, showed that their faith was justified in both respects.  It was a singularly beautiful performance, and it obviously produced a profound impression on the large audience assembled in the King's Theatre.

'There is a noble simplicity in the music with which Mr Rutland Boughton has invested the story of the wife who dies that her husband may live, and who is afterwards brought back to the world, amid solemn rejoicing, by Herakles.

'As Admetus, the bereaved husband, Mr Walter Hyde was dignified, and appropriately free from any suggestion of the conventionally operatic.  Miss Muriel Brunskill, as Alkestis, sang and acted with a serenity and pathos reminiscent of the exalted feeling which she displayed in her rendering here last season of the contralto role in The Dream of Gerontius, and the Chief Citizen of Mr Raymond Ellis had a touching sincerity which well illustrated the versatility of an artist who is principally associated in the public mind with rôles of a humorous nature.

Mr Parry Jones as Apollo, and Mr Frederc Collier as Death were both very striking, and Miss Eda Bennie as the Handmaid, Miss Doris Lemon as the son of Admetus and Alkestis, and Miss May Blyth as the Youth were all admirably artistic.  Mr Robert Parker's Herakles was very amusing in the drunken scene, and very touching in that in which he reproaches his friend Admetus for not having admitted him to a share in his grief, and Mr William Anderson was excellent as the father of Admetus.

'The choral music in Alkestis is wonderfully fine, and was given with a sureness and beauty deserving of the highest praise, while the playing of the orchestra was equally deserving of commendation.  Mr Anthony Bernard conducted.

'The staging of the opera was an artistic triumph.  There is only one scene, the forecourt of the palace of Admetus, with the great door flanked on either side by twin Doric columns of weathered marble. Against this stately background, approached by broad semi-circular steps, the chorus and other personages of the opera were disposed in groupings which were always a delight to the eye in their harmonious disposition of mass and colour.  As a whole, whether with respect to the musical or pictorial aspects, the opera was a masterpiece of austere beauty.'


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

Admetus King of Thessaly

Walter Hyde (Nov 7)

Alkestis wife of Admetus

Muriel Brunskill (Nov 7)

Chief Citizen

Raymond Ellis (Nov 7)


Parry Jones (Nov 7)


Frederic Collier (Nov 7)


Robert Parker (Nov 7)


May Blyth (Nov 7)


Eda Bennie (Nov 7)

Son of Admetus

Doris Lemon (Nov 7)

Father of Admetus

William Anderson (Nov 7)

Production Cast


Anthony Bernard (Nov 7)


George King

Performance DatesAlkestis 1924

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

7 Nov, 19.30

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

12 Nov, 14.00

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