Opera Scotland

Masked Ball 1911Moody-Manners Opera Company

Read more about the opera Ballo in maschera

The final Scottish tour by the once great, now sadly faltering, Moody-Manners Opera Company was hardly the most auspicious way in which to give one of Verdi's most attractive scores what seems to be its Scottish premiere.

The main reason for the delay in spreading Un ballo in maschera round the country is likely to have been the peculiar adjustments to the libretto required by the Neapolitan censors.  Instead of assassinating a Swedish King, the revised version required the murder of a British aristocratic Governor of colonial Boston (Riccardo, Earl of Warwick).  For British audiences this was rather sillier than the original.  To make it suitable for the British stage it was relocated once more, this time,to Naples, where the tenor became Duke of Olivares.

It is likely that this is the version presented by Moody-Manners.  The Glasgow Herald critic is, sensibly, more interested in the quality of performance.  Some of the Boston/Naples renaming is still familiar from recordings - Riccardo, Renato, Ulrica, Sam, Tom and Silvano.  For some reason Adelia and Edgar never caught on, so Amelia and Oscar were reinstated quite quickly.  It is noticeable that the critic mentions a rumour (ill-founded) of a new company to be established by public subscription.  This sounds a bit like the scheme proposed some twenty years later by Sir Thomas Beecham for a somewhat grander, but equally ill-fated enterprise, the Imperial League of Opera.

The partial cast is as reported by the Glasgow Herald.  Unfortunately, no conductor rates a mention, but there is no reason to believe that the seemingly workaholic Harrison Frewin would have taken the night off.


A Glasgow Review

Glasgow Herald: Saturday, 25 March 1911  (p9)

The Masked Ball

'One can explain the opera company at the King's Theatre this week only by seeing in it Mr Manners crouching back like Mr Micawber for a spring.  The spring, we believe, is to take the form of a new company, with the public as small shareholders.  Meantime, unfortunately, music-lovers are conscious only of managerial relaxed muscles and depressed vitality,  and that at a time when healthy and vigorous competitors are in the field.  Nor are they likely to take any future action on Mr Manners's part as excuse for the many present shortcomings of his company.

'This week's performances at the King's Theatre are a diplomatic mistake.  After so much good work they seem like a confession of failure.  One's attitude to the production last night of Verdi's The Masked Ball was further complicated  by remembrance of the specially brilliant work of the Castellano company in the same opera.  The Italians were not only very strong on the vocal side, but they had the Verdi traditions at their finger ends.  When one avoids comparisons, however, one finds the performance of last night not lacking altogether in commendable features.

'In The Masked Ball the composer is beginning to break with the Trovatore ideals, and, although still fond of strumming accompaniments, is using his orchestra more skilfully, and is generally aiming at a well-built, organic structure.  Aïda was ten years later to mark his progress.  The Moody-Manners orchestra is meantime one of its weak features, and even a Verdi score found it wanting in certainty.  Perhaps the chief fault, however,  was the bad blend of voices which made most of the important ensembles ineffective.

'Miss Grace Nicoll, who took the part of Adelia, was in very poor form.  Mr Albert Bowyer had his good moments as Riccardo, although his voice is of the aggressive quality that is best heard alone.  Mr William Farmer was excellent as Renato, and was heartily encored for his big solo in the third act, and Miss Raymond, who was also singing well,  had to repeat Edgar's ''You'd fain be hearing.''  Other creditable performances were Mr Cliffe as Samuel,  Mr Mann as Thomas,  and Miss Helen Culver as Ulrica.'

Performance Cast

Count Ribbing a conspirator (Sam)

Richard Cliffe (Mar 24)

Count Horn a conspirator (Tom)

Harry Mann (Mar 24)

Oscar page to Gustavus (Edgar)

Raymonde Amy (Mar 24)

Gustavus III King of Sweden (Riccardo)

Albert Bowyer (Mar 24)

Anckarström friend to the king (Renato)

William Farmer (Mar 24)

Mamzell Arvidson a fortune-teller (Ulrica)

Helen Culver (Mar 24)

Amelia wife of Anckarström (Adelia)

Grace Nicoll (Mar 24)

Production Cast


Harrison Frewin (Mar 24)

Performance DatesMasked Ball 1911

Map List

King's Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

24 Mar, 19.30

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