Opera Scotland

Gondoliers 1922D'Oyly Carte Opera Company

Read more about the opera Gondoliers

The leading D'Oyly Carte Opera Company had paid annual visits to the four Scottish cities throughout its existence.  This had been slightly curtailed after 1919 as Her Majesty's Theatre in Dundee, an attractive and profitable venue, had been bought by a cinema company.

After a gap of two years, arrangements were made for the city's King's Theatre, originally a Variety house, to be made available for touring theatre companies.  This was the first return visit by D'Oyly Carte and clearly the natives gave them an enthusiastic welcome.  They would continue to come frequently until 1928, when the King's, in turn, became a cinema.

The repertoire was much as usual, with the single exception that Ruddigore, not seen since its initial tour some thirty years before, was now presented in a new edition, revised by Geoffrey Toye.

Further Scottish dates to be confirmed.


Audience Enthusiasm (or Masochism)

Dundee Advertiser: Tuesday, 28 November 1922

Five Hours in Cold Queues - Booking for D'Oyly Carte Week in Dundee - A 4-Inch per Minute Crawl

'The never-changing popularity of Gilbert and Sullivan's operas was demonstrated yesterday at the first rush to book seats for the D'Oyly Carte week in Dundee beginning December 18th. It was not, however, so much a rush as a crawl, and after having spent fve hours in walking from Messrs J P Mathew's shop to the King's Theatre numbers of people were turned away when the booking-office closed at four o' clock.

'The Yeomen of the Guard, which is to be presented on the evening of Saturday, 23rd, was the greatest attraction, and by the end of the day the booking for this performance was approaching completion.  Next in order of popularity comes The Gondoliers, while The Mikado and Ruddigore are up to the moment running fairly close together.

'By ten o'clock in the morning - an hour before the box office opened - there were about forty or fifty people waiting, and when eleven o'clock came the queue stretched along to the foot of the Wellgate.  Every one that came after a quarter to eleven was unlucky, although they waited till four o'clock.  If we take the distance covered by the late-comers as being about 100 feet, and the time taken to cover that distance being five hours, it is a simple calculation to show that quite a number of Dundonians spent a large part of yesterday in walking along the Cowgate at an average pace of four inches per minute.  Never before was patience more virtuous, and in many cases less rewarded.

'One cause for the delay was that the queue, although numerically not very large, represented far more people than were in it, owing to the presence of obliging friends, who were acting on behalf of whole office staffs or others who could not attend at the box office themselves.  Several times people were kept waiting while one person was buying up 40 or 50 seats, and orders amounting to £15 or £17 were booked in the course of the day. To cope with this rush there was only one lady clerk, and as the patrons received their tickets they had to shove their way out again through the crowd, there being no other exit available.

'When four o'clock came and the last order was booked some people departed peacefully.  But others, being hungry and disappointed, remained to argue the matter out.  They had waited for three or four hours; they were cold; they hadn't had lunch; they were displeased. However, the booking clerk had been just as unlucky in the matter of lunch as they were, having been hard at it without a moment's respite ever since eleven o'clock. At last a theatre hand appeared upon the scene and announced firmly that the box office was closed, so, after one or two further grumbly remarks, the disappointed ones were persuaded to leave.  At the same time they were by no means persuaded that it would not have been advisable to employ a bigger staff to cope with the work in hand.'


A Dundee Preview

Dundee Advertiser: Friday, December 15 1922    p3

D’Oyly Carte Coy. - Coming Week’s Programme in Dundee

'On Monday first the D’Oyly Carte week commences at the King’s Theatre and Dundee playgoers will hear once again those wonderful combinations of words and music which have enchanted the public for many years.

'The inclusion of Ruddigore brings something new to present-day Savoyards, for the opera has not been in the repertoire of the company since our fathers sallied forth to see it when it first toured in 1887. Princess Ida, though not quite so unfamiliar to Dundee audiences, has been entirely re-dressed and staged with new scenery, and should add to its growing popularity with audiences of today.

'The company has gone through some changes since it was last in Dundee, but the inimitable Mr Henry A Lytton is still with them, as is also Mr Fred Billington’s successor, Mr Leo Sheffield. The other members of this excellent cast are Messrs Leo Darnton, Darrell Fancourt, Sidney Granville, James Hay, and Misses Catherine Ferguson, Elsie Griffin, Winifred Lawson, and Bertha Lewis.'


A Dundee Critic

Dundee Advertiser: Tuesday, December 19 1922    p6

The Gondoliers - Brilliant Presentation by D’Oyly Carte Company

'A house packed to the roof and unbounded enthusiasm greeted the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company last night in the King’s Theatre, Dundee, when they opened an all too short season with The Gondoliers. It is four long years since the company last appeared in Dundee, and much water has flowed under the Tay Bridge since then - but the charm of the great collaborators seems to hold as strongly as ever, and the listeners seemed to be ready for every point of Gilbert’s nimble wit and to appreciate to the full every line of Sullivan’s flowing melody. In the singing of the well-worn and tenor-tattered “Take a pair of sparkling eyes,” for instance, there was a stillness seldom heard in any Dundee concert hall, and time and again numbers had to be repeated.

'The perennial freshness of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas and their abiding appeal are not difficult to account for.  At the time that the two wonder-workers came together, the fare in comic opera was decidedly poor. The music was usually thin and the story thinner. The chorus ambled on and off, and had little to do with anything or anybody. Gilbert changed all that. He was meticulously careful in his stagecraft, his chorus had to act as well as sing, and he took great pains that everything was arranged so that at rehearsal he had everybody just where he wanted them.

'And when to his wit, caustic humour, and inimitable tricks of inversion were added the pure, unadulterated melody and genuine musicianship of Sullivan, it was not surprising that the public hailed with joy the unique combination, and flocked to see and hear the fruits of their genius. During the thirty odd years since The Gondoliers was produced - it opened at the Savoy Theatre, London, in December 1889 - the popularity of the operas has never failed.

'Possibly another reason for the remarkable success of their present revival is the trend of the modern musical play. Nowadays the appeal is more to the eye than the ear, and the limes man is as important as the author or composer. Doubtless the D’Oyly Carte Company felt the draught of the rush of musical comedies and burlesques that followed in the train of the Gilbert and Sullivan productions; but through their high standards and steady adherence to traditions their appeal is as constant and refreshing decades after the burial of their competitors.

'In any case, so long as the D’Oyly Carte Company continue to present their opera on the same high level as the performance of The Gondoliers last night they need never fear lack of appreciation. It went with a delightful swing throughout, and the story of the trouble that arose by the premature decease of the gentleman through a taste for drink combined with gout was faithfully outlined in the best traditions of the opera. Sullivan’s humour was no whit behind that of Gilbert’s, and some of the best of it is displayed in The Gondoliers. The happy trick he had of inventing melodies to directly suit the words was well shown in the bisected air for the two embryonic kings.

There were one or two features of last night’s presentation that seemed new, and were distinctly to the good. The pace of several of the numbers in the opening act seemed to be considerably reduced, which made for much clearer enunciation, and, consequently, better vocal effect. The chorus throughout sang tunefully and with spirit, and ‘Roses red’ and the ensemble singing at the close of the first act was particularly good. The dressing of the opera, too, has undergone a change, and the crinolines of the Duchess and Casilda added a new note in colour and style that was distinctly agreeable. In setting, the colour scheme was rich in contrast, and the blacks and blues of the Palace of Barataria made an excellent background to the kaleidoscopic movement of the richly apparelled Kings and courtiers.

'Among the players still remain several who can be called old favourites, and Mr Lytton and Mr Sheffield had a particularly warm welcome. Mr Granville and Miss Bertha Lewis were also in the cast, and the weight of their experience played a fair share in a bright and sparkling presentation. The Duke of Mr Lytton was, as usual, admirable, and he makes the impecunious Grandee a very real figure. Mr Sheffield loses none of the unctuous pleasantries of the Grand Inquisitor, and he makes a stately and imposing figure round which the fates revolve. Mr James Hay and Mr Sydney Granville, as the luckless - or lucky - gondoliers, were as sprightly and vivacious a pair as has been seen in the city, and their excellent singing a feature of the evening. The tenor was twice recalled for his excellent treatment of “Take a pair of sparkling eyes”; and the baritone sang throughout in splendid style, with fine tone and distinct utterance. Luiz, in Mr Millidge’s hands, was as distinctive as opportunity offered, and he infused a lot of feeling in his scene with Casilda.

'Miss Bertha Lewis makes of the Duchess a very imposing personage, and she uses her fine voice with great skill. The heavy roles of the contadine, Gianetta and Tessa, were filled by Misses Elsie Griffin and Catherine Ferguson, and both gave splendid presentations, alike in stage deportment and vocally. The Casilda of Miss Winifred Lawson was nicely shaded, and she uses a fresh soprano voice with great care and skill. As usual, the cachucha and the gavotte were received with great favour, and had to be repeated.

'Mr Harry Norris is the sort of musical director who grows on one, and he did more than usually valuable work in combining vocal and orchestral effect. He helps the singers by careful attention to melodic points, and efficiently held an augmented orchestra that made few mistakes, and was quick in response.'


D'Oyly Carte Scottish Tour - 1922

This part of the 1922 tour schedule was:

Dundee, w/c 18 December:  Mon 18  Gondoliers;  Tue 19 Mikado:  Wed 20  Ruddigore;  Thu 21 Iolanthe;  Fri 22  Princess Ida;  Sat 23 mat Mikado;  Sat 23 eve Yeomen of the Guard.   

Performance Cast

Marco Palmieri a Venetian Gondolier

James Hay (Oct 18)

Giuseppe Palmieri a Venetian Gondolier

Sydney Granville (Oct 18)

Gianetta a Contadina

Elsie Griffin (Oct 18)

Tessa a Contadina

Catherine Ferguson (Oct 18)

Duke of Plaza-Toro a Grandee of Spain

Henry Lytton (Oct 18)

Duchess of Plaza-Toro

Bertha Lewis (Oct 18)

Luiz the Duke's Attendant

Henry Millidge (Oct 18)

Casilda daughter of the Duke and Duchess

Winifred Lawson (Oct 18)

Don Alhambra del Bolero the Grand Inquisitor

Leo Sheffield (Oct 18)

Production Cast


Harry Norris (Oct 18)

Performance DatesGondoliers 1922

Map List

King's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

18 Oct, 19.30

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