Opera Scotland

Tristan und Isolde 1922British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Tristan and Isolde

During its first season in 1922 the British National Opera Company performed an astonishing six Wagner operas.  Parsifal, never previously seen in Scotland, was done most often (6 times), Mastersingers (3) and Tannhäuser (2).  The other three works, Tristan, Walküre and Siegfried each received a single performance in Edinburgh in November.


The Critical Reaction

The Scotsman of  Wednesday, 29 November (p9) showed no sign of Wagner-fatigue. He had been to Siegfried the night before and had previously seen four other works.  Tristan seems to be something of a favourite:

'To give a really fine performance of Tristan and Isolde is about as great a triumph as an operatic director can hope to achieve,  It is a work which presents many serious difficulties, and no opportunities for glossing over faults.  Practically there are only two characters in the foreground, the hapless lovers, for King Mark, Kurvenal, Brangane, and the minor characters are, in the main, figures in the background.  The principal personages must be singers of great accomplishment, and they must also have a true dramatic instinct, for which ordinary good acting is scarcely a substitute.

'Apart from its music, Tristan is a dramatic poem rather than a drama, and demands a treatment of its own.  Finally, taking excellent musical conditions for granted, the staging must be without a single jarring note.  Anyone who found matter for dissatisfaction in last night's production of Tristan at the King's Theatre, must have been hard to please.  It was one of the finest productions which the National Opera artists have to their credit.

'With Mr Frank Mullings as Tristan,  Miss Beatrice Miranda as Isolde, Mr Norman Allin as King Mark,  Mr Robert Parker as Kurvenal, and Miss Phyllis Archibald as Brangane, there was a cast of principals which deserves to be accounted memorable.  The subordinate characters, Mr Raymond Ellis as Melot, Mr Nathan Shacknoff as the sailor, Mr Sydney Russell as the shepherd, and Mr Leon Russell as the steersman, were in fine keeping with the rest.  Great things were to be expected, as a matter of course, from such singers as Miss Miranda, Mr Mullings, Mr Allin and Mr Parker, but they unquestionably exceeded anticipations.

'Tristan is not an opera from which to pick out striking situations and specially effective numbers, for it begins on the note of greatness with the rise of the curtain, and mounts thereafter to a stupendous climax.  The performance, however, had a pervading distinction which made it something apart from the ordinary rendering of an opera, and singers and orchestra alike were at their very best.

''The staging of the opera was new, and extremely artistic.  Following modern methods it relied upon suggestion for its effect and there was no attempt to make the ship in the first act at all realistic.  Of the three stage pictures, that of the palace garden was most successful.  It was a beautiful translation into form and colour of the glamour with which Wagner has invested the scene.  Mr Julius Harrison conducted.'


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


Nathan Shacknoff (Nov 28)

Isolde an Irish princess

Beatrice Miranda (Nov 28)

Brangäne Isolde's attendant

Phyllis Archibald (Nov 28)

Kurwenal Tristan's squire

Robert Parker (Nov 28)

Tristan a Cornish knight

Frank Mullings (Nov 28)

Melot a Cornish courtier

Raymond Ellis (Nov 28)

King Mark King of Cornwall, Tristan's uncle

Norman Allin (Nov 28)


Sydney Russell (Nov 28)


Leon Russell (Nov 28)

Production Cast


Julius Harrison (Nov 28)


George King

Performance DatesTristan und Isolde 1922

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

28 Nov, 18.15

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