Opera Scotland

Andrea Chénier 1960Sadler's Wells Opera

Read more about the opera Andrea Chénier

The Scottish leg of the Sadler’s Wells Autumn tour in 1960 only took in two cities, Glasgow and Dundee, but featured several works not toured before.  The grandest of these was the first staging by the company of Andrea Chénier.  The Herald review indicates that the orchestra had a few rough edges and complains about long intervals.  Presumably the big production was an awkward fit for scene changes at the Empire.  No such problems occurred in Dundee, where a big audience were highly enthusiastic, even for a cast lacking the two original stars (who had performed in Glasgow).  It was, however, all a bit loud due to the lack of a pit in the Dundee theatre.

This new production by Anthony Besch had opened in London in 1959 with Victoria Elliott, Charles Craig and Peter Glossop.  This was the first production in Britain for more than fifty years, and it was not revived.  Since then, performances in the UK have continued to be rare.  The Royal Opera has done two short-lived stagings, one for Plácido Domingo and, more recently, one for Jonas Kaufmann.  Scottish Opera gave it a couple of concert performances in 2005 while Opera North launched a full staging in 2016.


Press Opinion - Dundee

Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Saturday, October 29, 1960

Thrilling voices in “Andrea Chenier”

'Prolonged applause rewarded the principals in the Sadler’s Wells performance of an operatic rarity Andrea Chénier at the Dundee Gaumont last night.  They deserved the repeated curtain calls, following a nerve-tingling display of tenor, soprano, and baritone top-notes.  It was an evening of the high-powered singing characteristic of the melodramatic Italian opera tradition of the late nineties.

'Chénier, unheard in Britain for over fifty years until the recent Wells revival, is the only opera (at least of any note), which ends tragically per the guillotine, or in fact which has the French Revolution for a background.  The story compresses into a love triangle between a poet (Chénier), an aristocrat soprano (Madeleine), and a servant transformed into a revolutionary leader (Gérard).  The music is strongly dramatic, combining characteristics of Mascagni and Puccini, and the orchestra accompaniment is highly coloured.  Melodies are frequent, and nearly all passionate in style.  But where Chénier drops below the Puccini appeal is in the missing final spark of genius that makes the latter universally memorable.

'The Wells production, by Anthony Besch, started with a tasteful setting of crinolines and laces, and went on to make dramatic play with revolutionary crowd scenes.  Despite the heavy orchestra scoring, the company did well to make so much of the unfamiliar text understandable.  But quite a lot of the words were lost on the way.

'Ava June as Madeleine and William Aitken as Chénier gave splendid fervour of tone to the soprano and tenor duets, while each scored heavily in a succession of arias of dramatic content.  Both climbed to and sustained high Bs of thrilling intensity.  The baritone who sang Gérard, Gwyn Griffiths, has one of the grandest voices of its type heard in the Dundee theatre.  His volume and quality of tone were exceptional, yielding impressive reserves of power in climaxes.  Michael Moores, at the conductor’s desk, achieved maximum dramatic effects from orchestra and chorus.'

Audience of over 6000

 'Audiences for the Sadler’s Wells Opera at the Gaumont this week have totalled over 6000 up to last night.  With today’s final performances, the figure will probably be around 8,500, or about 80% of capacity.

“A successful week,” said Miss Patricia Bancroft, the company’s manager on the tour, last night, “but the theatre tonight is scarcely two-thirds full, and the empty seats will bring our average down for the week.  We have brought Andrea Chénier on tour in answer to the desire for something novel, and yet for some strange reason it doesn’t draw, which is a great pity.  Dundee is not alone in this, however.  We have found the same thing elsewhere.”


Sadler's Wells Opera's Scottish Tours - 1960

Sadler's Wells Opera made two visits in 1960.  In spring there were three weeks - Edinburgh (King's) followed by Aberdeen (His Majesty's) and Glasgow (Empire).  In October a week in Glasgow (Empire) was followed by a week in Dundee (Gaumont).

The ten operas performed on thess tours were:  Mozart (Don Giovanni);  Rossini (Barber of Seville,  Cinderella);  Wagner (Tannhäuser);  J Strauss (Fledermaus);  Puccini (Bohème,  Madam Butterfly);  Humperdinck (Hansel and Gretel);  Giordano (Andrea Chénier);  German (Merrie England).

Edinburgh, w/c 29 February:  Mon 29 Fledermaus;  Tue 1 Mar Cinderella;  Wed 2 Tannhäuser;  Thu 3 Don Giovanni;  Fri 4 Cinderella;  Sat 5 m Fledermaus;  Sat 5 e Bohème.

Aberdeen, w/c 7 March:  Mon 7 Fledermaus;  Tue 8 Don Giovanni;  Wed 9 Cinderella;  Thu 10 Bohème;  Fri 11 Tannhäuser;  Sat 12 m Fledermaus;  Sat 12 e Cinderella.

Glasgow, w/c 14 March:  Mon 14 Cinderella;  Tue 15 Tannhäuser;  Wed 16 Bohème;  Thu 17 Fledermaus;  Fri 18 Don Giovanni;  Sat 19 m Fledermaus;  Sat 19 e Cinderella.

Glasgow, w/c 17 October:  Mon 17 Barber of Seville;  Tue 18 Andrea Chénier;  Wed 19 Merrie England;  Thu 20 Barber of Seville;  Fri 21 Hansel and Gretel;  Sat 22 m Merrie England;  Sat 22 e Madam Butterfly.

Dundee, w/c 24 October:  Mon 24 Merrie England;  Tue 25 Hansel and Gretel;  Wed 26 Barber of Seville;  Thu 27 Madam Butterfly;  Fri 28 Andrea Chénier;  Sat 29 m Barber of Seville;  Sat 29 e Merrie England.

The cast is taken from a programme for the Dundee performance in the OperaScotland collection, supplemented by variations from the Glasgow Herald review.

Performance Cast


William McGovern

Carlo Gérard Charles Gérard, a servant of the Countess, later an agent of Robespierre

Gwyn Griffiths

Maddalena Madeleine de Coigny

Victoria Elliott (Oct 18)

Ava June (Oct 28)

Countess di Coigny Maddalena's mother

Cynthia Morey

Bersi Maddalena’s mulatto maid

Ann Robson

Fléville Pierre Fléville, a cavalier

Julian Moyle


John Fryatt

Andrea Chénier a poet

Charles Craig (Oct 18)

William Aitken (Oct 28)

Mathieu a waiter

Bernard Turgeon

Roucher a friend of Chénier

Julian Moyle

Incredibile an 'incroyable' or young beau, also an informer

John Stoddart 2

Madelon an old woman

Jane Whitehead

Dumas president of the council

William McGovern

Fouquier-Tinville attorney-general

Lawrence Folley

Schmidt gaoler at St Lazare prison

Eric Stannard

Performance DatesAndrea Chénier 1960

Map List

Empire Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

18 Oct, 19.00

Gaumont Theatre | Dundee

28 Oct, 19.00

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