Opera Scotland

Carmen 1922British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Carmen

Three performances of Carmen were given by BNOC during their first Scottish tour - three weeks in Edinburgh, with the last of those performances being on the final Saturday evening.

What seems more unusual is the fact that during the autumn tour of two weeks in each of the central belt cities Carmen does not feature at all.


An Edinburgh Review

The Scotsman of Friday, 10 March (p4) reviewed the Thursday performance of Carmen:

'It is nearly fifty years since Carmen, which was given at the King's Theatre last night, was first heard, in public, in Paris, and over forty years since an English version of the opera was placed before the British public by the Carl Rosa Company.  Carmen, however, maintains an unshaken hold upon the affections of the public, and the musician, while recognising the inequalitlies which the score presents,  finds what is best in the work as fascinating as ever.

'Apart from its outstanding popular features, the ''Toreador'' song, the duet between Don José and Micaëla, the Flower Song, the smugglers' quintet in the second act, and the like, there are many things in the opera that are an unfailing delight to the musician.  The whole of the opening scene, the chorus of girls from the tobacco factory, the ''Habanera,'' the duet between Carmen and José in the inn scene, the opening of the fourth act, and the final duet between Carmen and José, are all wonderfully effective.  Much, also, as has been achieved in orchestration since Bizet wrote his opera, his treatment of the orchestra still ranks as something which touches genius.

'Last night's performance, under the direction of Mr Julius Harrison,  was highly interesting.  The favourite numbers were all given with abundant spirit, but there was an additional element of enjoyment in the attention with which every beautiful detail was brought out.  There is nothing easier than for the performance of a very familiar opera to become conventionalised.  Superficially nothing appears to have been lost, but with a rendering governed by a spirit of greater care, the vast difference between an ordinary performance and one conceived in a  spirit of artistic enthusiasm becomes very evident.  Last night's rendering of the opera seemed full of fresh points of interest, and once more it was shown how much depends on the quality of conductor and orchestra.

'There was a fine cast.  Miss Phyllis Archibald was the Carmen.  There have always been two schools of opinion as to the treatment of the character; whether it should savour more of romance or of realism.  On the evidence of the score it would appear that the composer favoured the former view.  Miss Archibald's Carmen presents a certain blending of the two conceptions.  It is picturesque and dashing, but where there is a climax of feeling it becomes touched with realism.  Her impersonation of the gipsy girl is now familiar in Edinburgh, but as ordinarily happens with the work of a sincere artist, it exhibits a steady improvement, and last night it was highly convincing.

''One of the newcomers of the company, Mr Tudor Davies, made an excellent appearance as Don José.  Providing better opportunities, it was a marked advance upon his Turiddu of Wednesday afternoon.  The Escamillo of Mr Frederic Collier had much to recommend it; the Micaëla of Miss Gertrude Johnson was attractive, and as the two smugglers, Dancairo and Remendado, Messrs Albert Chapman and Sydney Russell were as good as ever.

'A special word of praise is due to Mr William Anderson, who sang well, and gave the part a dignity with which it is seldom invested.  For once in a way, the Lieutenant of Dragoons was made to appear as an officer and a gentleman.

'The chorus was good, and the opening of the last act was given with a fine brilliance, the ballet, with an excellent pas seul by Miss Penelope Spencer being particularly enjoyable.

'There was a large audience, but there were, nevertheless, more empty seats than might have been expected.'


A Correction

The Scotsman of Saturday, 11 March (p9) added a correction to the end of its review of Samson and Delilah:

'Owing to an error in the programme on Thursday night, the role of Zuniga, the officer of dragoons in Carmen, was credited to Mr William Anderson, instead of to Mr Philip Bertram, by whom it was undertaken at short notice.'


BNOC in Scotland - 1922 (Spring and Autumn)

This first season saw BNOC coming to Scotland twice. The spring visit, in March, consisted of three weeks in Edinburgh (King's Theatre).  In the autumn there were four weeks - two at Glasgow Theatre Royal, and two more in Edinburgh.

A total number of nineteen operas were included  - an astonishing number for a newly established company.  Wagner far outweighs any other composers, most notably Verdi:

They were by Mozart (Magic Flute);  Wagner (Tannhäuser,  Tristan and Isolde,   MastersingersValkyrieSiegfriedParsifal); Verdi (Aïda); Saint-Saêns (Samson and Delilah); Gounod (Faust); Offenbach (Goldsmith of Toledo);  Bizet (Carmen); Leoncavallo (Pagliacci); Puccini (BohèmeToscaMadam Butterfly); Debussy (Prodigal Son);  Mascagni (Cavalleria Rusticana); Charpentier (Louise).

The schedule was as follows:


Edinburgh, w/c 6 March:  Mon 6 Aida;  Tue 7 Parsifal;  Wed 8 mat Cav & Pag;  Wed 8 eve Tannhäuser; Thu 9 Carmen;  Fri 10 Samson and Delilah;  Sat 11 mat Madam Butterfly;  Sat 11 eve Faust.

Edinburgh, w/c 13 March:  Mon 13 Mastersingers;  Tue 14 Magic Flute;  Wed 15 mat Samson and Delilah;  Wed 15 eve Carmen; Thu 16 Goldsmith of Toledo;  Fri 17 Madam Butterfly;  Sat 18 mat Bohème;  Sat 18 eve Aïda.

Edinburgh, w/c 20 March:  Mon 20 Parsifal;  Tue 21 Samson and Delilah;  Wed 22 mat Parsifal;  Wed 22 eve Bohème; Thu 23 Mastersingers;  Fri 24 Goldsmith of Toledo;  Sat 25 mat Aïda;  Sat 25 eve Carmen.


Glasgow, w/c 6 November:  Mon 6 Parsifal;  Tue 7 Magic Flute;  Wed 8 mat Tosca;  Wed 8 eve Faust;  Thu 9 Louise;  Fri 10 Samson and Delilah;  Sat 11 mat Bohème;  Sat 11 eve Prodigal Son & Pagliacci.

Glasgow, w/c 13 November:  Mon 13 Aïda;  Tue 14 Goldsmith of Toledo;  Wed 15 mat Parsifal;  Wed 15 eve Magic Flute; Thu 16 Mastersingers;  Fri 17 Louise;  Sat 18 mat Madam Butterfly;  Sat 18 eve Faust.

Edinburgh, w/c 20 November:  Mon 20 Magic Flute;  Tue 21 Valkyrie;  Wed 22 mat Bohème;  Wed 22 eve Samson and Delilah; Thu 23 Aïda;  Fri 24 Louise;  Sat 25 mat Faust;  Sat 25 eve Tosca.

Edinburgh, w/c 27 November:  Mon 27 Siegfried;  Tue 28 Tristan and Isolde;  Wed 29 mat Magic Flute;  Wed 29 eve Goldsmith of Toledo; Thu 30 Louise;  Fri 1 Dec Bohème;  Sat 2 mat Parsifal;  Sat 2 eve Samson and Delilah.

Performance Cast

Micaëla a peasant girl

Gertrude Johnson (Mar 9)

Don José a corporal of dragoons

Tudor Davies (Mar 9)

Zuniga a lieutenant of dragoons

Philip Bertram (Mar 9)

Carmen a gypsy

Phyllis Archibald (Mar 9)

Escamillo a toreador

Frederic Collier (Mar 9)

Dancaïre a smuggler

Albert Chapman (Mar 9)

Remendado a smuggler

Sydney Russell (Mar 9)

Performance DatesCarmen 1922

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

9 Mar, 19.00 15 Mar, 19.00 25 Mar, 19.00

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