Opera Scotland

Mastersingers of Nuremberg 1922British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Meistersinger von N├╝rnberg

Two performances in the Spring, both in Edinburgh.  A single Glasgow performance in the Autumn.  This seems a strange way to treat The Mastersingers,  but several other Wagner pieces needed to be accommodated in the tour schedule, often with single performances.

An unusual feature of this cast concerns Beckmesser, almost invariably played by a baritone.  Here the part is given to Sydney Russell, a character tenor.

The Scotsman review on 14 March lists the eight singers of the minor Mastersinger parts, without indicating specific roles. Four of them have been taken from a programme for the 1920 Beecham performance:  Duncan McArthur (Nachtigall), Nathan Shacknoff (Zorn), Joseph Heaps (Moser) and Albert Chapman (Ortel).  The remaining four, two tenors and two basses, have been allocated provisionally according to voice type.


The Edinburgh View

The Scotsman of Tuesday, 14 March (p4) reviewed both the previous day's show:

'One of the most welcome features of the current National Opera season in Edinburgh is the inclusion of The Mastersingers in the repertory.   Last night Wagner's great comedy was given with a magnificence and a charm which made it the more a matter of regret that the opera will only be heard once again during the ensuing fortnight.  Delightful on a first hearing, The Masteringers is a work which becomes increasingly fascinating with repetition.

'The opera was written in one of the happiest periods in Wagner's life, and it breathes happiness in every note.  Even in The Mastersingers he ould not altogether shake himself clear of his besetting desire to point a moral.  The pedantic Mastersingers rejecting the unconventional music of Walter are the Philistines who desapproved of Wagner and his ideas.  The circumstance, however, is quite unimportant.  There is a pretty story of young love, blended with a great deal of hearty humour, all set to most wonderful music, and the opera can be enjoyed without a thought of whether or not Wagner was poking fun at unsympathetic contemporaries.

'As on the occasion of the last performance of the opera in Edinburgh, under Sir Thomas Beecham's direction,  Mr Andrew Shanks was Hans Sachs, and former impressions that he was the best exponent of the character who has been seen in Edinburgh were amply confirmed.  In its grave sentiment and humour, and its musical effectiveness, it was a masterly piece of work.

'Mr Arthur Jordan made a fine Walter, and his singing of the trial and prize songs deserves the highest praise.   Miss Sarah Fischer, making her first appearance in Edinburgh with the company, was a delightful Eva.  She sang the music with an admirable freshness, and she looked the part to the life.

'Mr Sydney Russell, one of the best actors on the operatic stage,  and a singer whose work has an unfailing finish, brought out the quaintness of Beckmesser without any resort to the unduly farcical.  The David of Mr Tudor Davies had an effectiveness beyond anything he has yet accomplished here, and Mr Robert Radford was an impressive Pogner.  Mr Frederic Collier's Kothner was another sound impersonation in which the humour was never overdone, and Miss Edith Clegg repeated a former success as the maid, Magdalene.

'The eight remaining Mastersingers were represented with an artistic completeness by Messrs Ernest Howie,  Duncan McArthur,  Nathan Shacknoff, Frederick Rickitt,  Joseph Heaps,  Albert Chapman,  Arthur Keen,  and Morris Rubin,  and Mr Philip Bertram was effective in the minor character of the Watchman, while the chorus was always good.

'In few operas does the orchestra have so important a share as in The Mastersingers  There are many situations in which the personages on stage are really giving a visible embodiment of the sense of the orchestral text, rather than being accompanied by the orchestra, and from the beginning of the overture to the climax of the final scene, the orchestra last night was superb.  The elaborate polyphonic structure, with part moving against part, was always enjoyably clear.

'The opera was handsomely put upon the stage, and every scene was a fine picture.  Mr Aylmer Buesst conducted.    The audience was large and very appreciative, but there were still some empty seats, a fact which is to beregretted when it is remembered that the present season of the British National Opera Company is a bold experiment, the success or failure of which rests entirely with the public.'


A Glasgow Perspective

The Glasgow Herald of Friday, 17 November (p8) reviewed the single autumn performance:

'Last evening in the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, the British National Opera Company produced The Mastersingers for the only time during the fortnight.  The performance attracted an audience that filled every part of the house, which made us wonder if it would not have been possiblr to give the opera twice.  In making this suggestion we are not so much complaining of the fare provided as lamenting the few opportunities of hearing this matchless work.

'There is really nothing else in music quite like The Mastersingers for sheer beauty and everlasting powers of attraction.  It sings its way along from the first note to the last, and each new strain as it arrives seems more wonderful than the one that went before and less to be accounted for except as an inspired thing,  the product of great powers working instinctively.  For Wagner was at his ripest when he wrote The Mastersingers, had finally evolved his scheme of dramatic composition and made it a part of himself.

'The opera contains his finest plot, and must be reckoned among the great things by reason also of its warm and deep humanity and fine quality of humour.  The absence, just for once, of any trace of the supernatural is a further source of refreshment, at least to us.

'It is no light task for even the greatest of opera companies to stage this work with complete success, and if the full possibilities were not always realised last evening that does not mean that the performance was a poor one.  It was very far from being that, but it frequently fell a little short of the best, and almost always the defect was with regard to the detail of stage management.  For the first time during the visit we were conscious occasionally that the performers did not always know what to do with themselves.

'This criticism applies mainly to the apprentices, whose important byplay lacked spontaneity, and to the crowd in the street scene, who appeared much too suddenly, and were also not really very convincing in their rowdyism.  We believe that a little more experience is all that is needed to rectify these matters, and more frequent performances would provide this and also relieve one or two of the principals from a slight sense of smething like ''first night'' uneasiness.

'The chief parts were generally well portrayed.  First among them is Hans Sachs, surely one of the most enjoyable operatic parts in existence.  It was finely presented last evening by Mr Andrew Shanks, who was very satisfying both vocally and in his interpretation of the character.   The lovable nature of the cobbler-poet was suggested with great ease and in many subtle ways, and vocally the performance was the best we have heard from Mr Shanks.  The fine monologue in the third act was splendidly sung, but all was good.

'Mr William Boland was not quite so satisfying as Walther.  His knightly bearing was not sufficient to atone for an occasional tired feeling in his voice, which robbed much of his music of its full eloquence.  Walther should sing as one inspired.

'The Eva of Miss Sarah Fischer was very good, and most winning in its effect.  She charmed in just the right way.  Her maid Magdalene was well sung and acted by Miss Edith Clegg.  Mr Tudor Davies showed his lighter qualities to excellent purpose in the important part of David.  All he did was very enjoyable.

'Of the other Mastersingers, the chief are Pogner (Mr Robert Radford), Beckmesser (Mr William Michael), and Kothner (Mr Frederic collier).  These were all excellently sung and portrayed, and the many smaller parts were adequately filled.  The quintet was specially good.

'The orchestral score was finely played, and much of the credit for a highly enjoyable performance must go to the members of the orchestra, and to Mr Aylmer Buesst, who conducted.  There was much enthusiasm at the close of each act.'


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,   Mastersingers, ValkyrieSiegfriedParsifal); 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

Walther von Stolzing a young knight

Arthur Jordan (Mar 13)

William Boland (Nov 16)

Eva daughter of Pogner

Sarah Fischer (Mar 13; Nov 16)

Magdalene Eva's nurse

Edith Clegg (Mar 13; Nov 16)

David apprentice to Sachs

Tudor Davies (Mar 13; Nov 16)

Hans Sachs a shoemaker

Andrew Shanks (Mar 13; Nov 16)

Veit Pogner a goldsmith

Robert Radford (Mar 13; Nov 16)

Sixtus Beckmesser town clerk

Sydney Russell (Mar 13)

William Michael (Nov 16)

Fritz Kothner a baker

Frederic Collier (Mar 13; Nov 16)

Konrad Nachtigall a tinsmith

Duncan McArthur (Mar 13)

Balthasar Zorn a pewterer

Nathan Shacknoff (Mar 13)

Ulrich Eisslinger a grocer

Frederic Rickitt (Mar 13)

Kunz Vogelgesang a furrier

Ernest Howie (Mar 13)

Augustin Moser a tailor

Joseph Heaps (Mar 13)

Hans Foltz a coppersmith

Arthur Keen (Mar 13)

Hermann Ortel a soap-boiler

Albert Chapman (Mar 13)

Hans Schwarz a stocking-weaver

Morris Rubin (Mar 13)


Philip Bertram (Mar 13)

Performance DatesMastersingers of Nuremberg 1922

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

13 Mar, 19.00 23 Mar, 18.00

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

16 Nov, 18.00

© Copyright Opera Scotland 2024

Site by SiteBuddha