Opera Scotland

Hansel and Gretel 1923British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Hansel and Gretel

Five performances in the spring, two in Edinburgh and three in Glasgow.  In the autumn two further performances in Glasgow.  Five of the seven performances are matinees.


Critical Opinion

The Glasgow Herald of Monday, 9 April (p10) offered its opinion of the previous Saturday evening (Aïda) and matinee (Hansel and Gretel):

'The British National Opera Company brought their Glasgow season to a close on Saturday, producing Hansel and Gretel at the matinee performance and Aïda in the evening.

'Humperdinck's charming fairy opera, alone of all the works produced by the company on this occasion, has been honoured with three performances.  It is well worthy of this distinctive treatment by virtue of its power to delight equally the novices among opera-goers and the studied musician.  The former can enjoy the story, the action, and the constant flow of melody, while the latter can bring his training as a listener to bear in addition on the beauties of the orchestration.

'When the opera was younger it was customary to twit the composer with using a full modern orchestra in a setting of a fairy story; but a work must be judged by results, and the quality of these, in this case, is a complete answer to the critics.  A careful listener knows how much of the scoring is contrived with the greatest economy, and he can point to many examples of delicacy and even humour cleverly provided by the simplest means.  For such episodes as the Dream Pantomime and especially the Witch's Ride the full orchestra can be and is used with the best effect.  This opera is the musical equivalent of Peter Pan, and should be given a chance in this country of becoming a children's classic, but it will always require to be well sung, well acted, and well played.

'On Saturday afternoon Miss Isabel Rhys-Parker took the part of Gretel, and presented it in delightful fashion.  In her conception of the part Gretel is a slightly more demure little maid than Miss Stanford presents, and is perhaps more true to the normal German type of little girl.But Peter, the broom-maker, is to be envied his opportunity in the last scene of hugging either of these delightful Gretels.  Miss Doris Lemon as Hansel was as charming as before.

'Mr Sydney Russell was excellent as the Witch, a part which is really better suited to a tenor rather than a soprano when his voice, liike Mr Russell's, is sufficiently adaptable.  Mr Frederic Collier and Miss May Blyth were good as the parents.  The Sleep fairy and the Dawn Fairy were nicely sung by Miss Muriel Brunskill and MIss Gladys Leathwood, respectively, but neither lady succeeded in creating the fairy atmosphere.  More delicacy is needed here.

'Mr Julius Harrison conducted, and the performance was again greatly enjoyed by a large audience.'


In the Autumn

The Glasgow Herald of Monday, 5 November (p5) reported on a return to the production for the first Saturday matinee of the autumn season:

'Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel is making headway with Glasgow opera-goers.  During the previous visit of the British National Opera Company it was the only opera on their list that was honoured with three performances When it was given at the matinee on Saturday last the Theatre Royal was crowded in every part, and there was a kind of excitement pervading the auditorium which marked the occasion as a special one for a large proportion of the audience.

'And it is not to be hastily assumed that it was only the children who so thoroughly enoyed themselves.  They were present in great numbers, and provided, indeed, for sympathetic ears, a delightful addition to the score in the faintly audible concentration with which they looked and listened.  But the adults enjoyed themselves equally, if they were less demonstarative in expressing their pleasure, and it was noticeable that the ranks of the adults whose hair was grey or white, or had vanished altogether, and to whose case the word ''prematurely'' would not apply.

'It is true that Hansel and Gretel has all the qualities which make a wide appeal, but its simplicity, its naturalness, its humour, its wealth of melody, the beauty of its settings may not constitute its whole attraction.  It is just possible that grown-up listeners feel, consciously or subconsciously, that it is good now and again to get away from those studies of the troubled course of true love which are the central idea of so many opera plots.  It certainly seems strange in view of the great success of Humperdinck's fairy opera that his example has not been widely followed.  Is it really necessary that opera should concern itself so largely with disappointment, and that the death-rate among its characters should be so high?

'Hansel and Gretel is one of the company's best productions, and a very good performance was given on Saturday afternoon.  There were some changes in the cast.  Miss Eda Bennie as the mother looked typically German, sang well, and had many illuminationg touches in her interpretation of the part.  Miss May Blyth, who has previously done the part of the mother, is now the witch who eats children - a sad case of moral degeneration.  She did well in her new role, but could afford to be a little more unattractive both in voice and behaviour.  Perhaps a ''character'' tenor is best fitted for this part.  Frederic Collier was again splendid as the father, and Miss Doris Lemon and Miss Lillian Stanford, as the children, were, as always, entirely delightful.

'The performance was conducted by Mr Bernard Reillie, the leader of the orchestra.  He held things well together and secured good results from his players, but the pace was a little leisurely once or twice, and some of the high lights of the score were not sufficiently revealed.  The witch's ride, for instance, could have been more exciting.  Staging and lighting were excellent.  


BNOC in Scotland - 1923 (Spring & Autumn)

The company's Spring visit lasted five weeks - two in Edinburgh (King's Theatre) and three in Glasgow (at the Coliseum, as the Theatre Royal was not available).

Returning in the autumn, the visit again lasted five weeks - four in Glasgow (this time at the Theatre Royal) and one in Edinburgh (King's Theatre).


The 29 operas performed were Bach (Phoebus and Pan);  Mozart (Seraglio,  Marriage of Figaro,  Magic Flute);  Wagner (Tannhäuser,  Mastersingers,  Rhinegold,  Valkyrie,  Siegfried,  Twilight of the Gods);  Verdi (TrovatoreAïda Otello);  Gounod (Faust);  Bizet (Carmen);  Saint-Saëns (Samson and Delilah);  Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);  Puccini (Bohème,  Tosca,  Madam Butterfly,  Gianni Schicchi);  Mascagni (Cavalleria Rusticana);  Humperdinck (Hansel and Gretel);  Debussy (Pelléas and Mélisande);  Charpentier (Louise);  Smyth (Boatswain's Mate,  Fête Galante);  Holst (Savitri,  Perfect Fool).

The schedule was as follows:


Edinburgh, w/c 5 March:  Mon 5 Samson and Delilah;  Tue 6 Marriage of Figaro;  Wed 7 mat Hansel and Gretel;  Wed 7 eve Aïda; Thu 8 Madam Butterfly;  Fri 9 Carmen;  Sat 10 mat Phoebus and Pan & Pagliacci;  Sat 10 eve Trovatore.

Edinburgh, w/c 12 March:  Mon 12 Seraglio;  Tue 13 Tannhäuser;  Wed 14 mat Marriage of Figaro;  Wed 14 eve Hansel and Gretel;  Thu 15 Magic Flute;  Fri 16 Mastersingers;  Sat 17 mat Bohème;  Sat 17 eve Faust.

Glasgow, w/c 19 March:  Mon 19 Rhinegold;  Tue 20 Valkyrie;  Wed 21 mat Hansel and Gretel;  Wed 21 eve Phoebus and Pan & Pagliacci;  Thu 22 Madam Butterfly;  Fri 23 Marriage of Figaro;  Sat 24 mat Magic Flute;  Sat 24 eve Trovatore.

Glasgow, w/c 26 March:  Mon 26 Seraglio;  Tue 27 Siegfried;  Wed 28 mat Samson and Delilah;  Wed 28 eve Louise;  Thu 29 Phoebus and Pan & Pagliacci;  Fri 30 Hansel and Gretel;  Sat 31 mat Marriage of Figaro;  Sat 31 eve Madam Butterfly.

Glasgow, w/c 2 April:  Mon 2 Carmen;  Tue 3 Mastersingers;  Wed 4 mat Bohème;  Wed 4 eve Samson and Delilah;  Thu 5 Magic Flute;  Fri 6 Twilight of the Gods; Sat 7 mat Hansel and Gretel;  Sat 7 eve Aïda.


Glasgow, w/c 29 October:  Mon 29 Magic Flute;  Tue 30 Samson and Delilah;  Wed 31 mat Phoebus and Pan & Pagliacci;  Wed 31 eve Bohème;  Thu 1 Nov Aïda;  Fri 2 Valkyrie;  Sat 3 mat Hansel and Gretel;  Sat 3 eve Madam Butterfly.

Glasgow, w/c 5 November:  Mon 5 Savitri Perfect Fool;  Tue 6 Louise;  Wed 7 mat Madam Butterfly;  Wed 7 eve Cavalleria Rusticana & Gianni Schicchi;  Thu 8 Siegfried;  Fri 9 Otello;  Sat 10 mat Magic Flute;  Sat 10 e Faust.

Glasgow, w/c 12 November:  Mon 12 Aïda;  Tue 13 Mastersingers;  Wed 14 mat Samson and Delilah;  Wed 14 eve Savitri & Perfect Fool;  Thu 15 Tosca;  Fri 16 Bohème;  Sat 17 mat Fête Galante & Bosun's Mate;  Sat 17 eve Phoebus and Pan & Gianni Schicchi.

Glasgow, w/c 19 November:  Mon 19 Faust;  Tue 20 Otello;  Wed 21 mat Hansel and Gretel;  Wed 21 eve Aïda;  Thu 22 Pelléas and Mélisande;  Fri 23 Fête Galante & Boatswain's Mate;  Sat 24 mat Cav & Pag;  Sat 24 eve Magic Flute.

Edinburgh, w/c 26 November:  Mon 26 Aïda;  Tue 27 Louise;  Wed 28 mat Fête Galante & Boatswain's Mate;  Wed 28 eve Phoebus and Pan & Gianni Schicchi;  Thu 29 Pelléas and Mélisande;  Fri 30 Savitri & Perfect Fool;  Sat 31 mat Magic Flute;  Sat 31 eve Madam Butterfly.

Performance Cast


Doris Lemon (Apr 7 m; Nov 3 m)


Isabel Rhys Parker (Apr 7 m)

Lilian Stanford (Nov 3 m)

Gertrude mother of Hansel and Gretel

May Blyth (Apr 7 m)

Eda Bennie (Nov 3 m)

Peter a broom maker and father of Hansel and Gretel

Frederic Collier (Apr 7 m; Nov 3 m))


Muriel Brunskill (Apr 7 m)

Dew Fairy

Gladys Leathwood (Apr 7 m)


Sydney Russell (Apr 7 m)

May Blyth (Nov 3 m)

Performance DatesHansel and Gretel 1923

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

7 Mar, 14.00 14 Mar, 19.30

Coliseum | Glasgow

21 Mar, 14.00 30 Mar, 19.30 7 Apr, 14.00

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

3 Nov, 14.00 21 Nov, 14.00

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