Opera Scotland

Gondoliers 1916D'Oyly Carte Opera Company

Read more about the opera Gondoliers

This visit came only nine months after the previous one in December 1915 - an unusually short gap.  However the company would not appear again until 1918.

The most notable feature of the single week repertoire is the appearance, after a long absence, of a new staging of The Sorcerer.

This tour was notable as the last visit by long-standing company member, a hugely popular star comedian,  Fred Billington.  Famous for his performances of the 'Pooh-Bah' roles, created by Rutland Barrington, he died in 1917.

It is also conspicuous that, with the war at its height, the orchestra is led by a woman.


Two Dundee Previews

Dundee Advertiser: Friday, 1 September 1916

Gilbert-Sullivan Operas - Return Visit to Dundee

'The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company's visits are always welcome in Dundee, and this time, one following so closely on the last is an event that should be noted, and an opportunity that Gilbert-Sullivan enthusiasts should not miss.   The company is as strong as ever, despite the call of “King and country,” to which this little band of players has made willing and adequate response.  But this visit will be looked forward to by Dundonians with interest, as Lyon Mackie, a local tenor, has now joined the D'Oyly Carte ranks, and is doing good work.

'Besides this, we have a reproduction of The Sorcerer, most beautifully mounted and dressed by Mr Rupert D'Oyly Carte, and strongly cast.   Above all, his admirers will be glad to know that their old favourite, Fred Billington, is strong and well again.   With H A Lytton, Tunks, Gibson, Hobbs, Sheffield, and Granville (back again);  Elsie M'Dermid, Nellie Briercliffe, Phyllis Smith, and Bertha Lewis in the cast, there is not much to complain about.   During the week, The Gondoliers, Patience, The Yeomen of the Guard, The Mikado, the special revival of The Sorcerer on Friday, and Iolanthe on Saturday afternoon will be presented.


Dundee Courier: Friday, 1 September 1916

Her Majesty's Theatre - The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company

'Although it is only nine months since the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company was here last, some of us have been wearying for their return for quite a long time. There is no company which has come to us for so many years, no company which invariably gives us so much delight, no company the members of which we looked upon more in the light of personal friends.

'The D'Oyly Carte Company is in some ways a conservative institution, but we doubt if it has ever happened that any company has returned to us after nine months' interval with such few changes in the cast as will be noted between then and now.  In fact, changes do not exist in the serious sense of the expression.  We still have Misses Elsie M'Dermid, Phyllis Smith, Nellie Briercliffe, and Bertha Lewis, and Messrs Fred Billington, Leicester Tunks, Dewey Gibson, Frederick Hobbs, Leo Sheffield, and Henry A Lytton.  Also we have Mr Sydney Granville, a former ornament of the Company, and Mr Lyon Mackie, a tenor of local reputation, who has sung in Dundee and district opera and other things.  He now divides with Mr Dewey Gibson the leading tenor roles, and his many friends hereabouts will be delighted to welcome Mr Lyon Mackie in his new sphere.

'Next week's programme consists of: - The Gondoliers on Monday; Patience on Tuesday; The Yeomen of the Guard on Wednesday and Saturday evening; The Mikado on Thursday; Trial by Jury and The Sorcerer on Friday; and Iolanthe on Saturday afternoon.

'The Sorcerer is the novelty of the week, for it has not been played at Her Majesty's since September 1900 - 16 years ago.  It is even longer since it was professionally played in London, so we are ahead of the Metropolis - for the nonce!  It is the first of the full-sized Gilbert and Sullivan operas, coming after the forgotten Thespis, or the Gods Grown Old, and the still popular Trial by Jury.  It is nearly 40 years since The Sorcerer started the memorable series at the old Opera Comique Theatre, London, and it is almost 38 years since it was first seen in Dundee in the same week that HMS Pinafore was first presented in the old theatre in Castle Street.  The Sorcerer possesses one of Gilbert's quaintest ideas and some of Sullivan's most delicious music. The quintette “She will nurse him, tend him, mend him”, is a combination of the choicest Gilbertian phraseology with the sweetest Sullivanic melody.

'Since the D'Oyly Carte Company was here they have been, if not at the front, certainly within smelling reach of gunpowder and within the danger zone, for they were in Dublin when the rebellion took place, and lost their engagements and even some of their apparel in the course of it.

'Mr H E Bellamy, without whom no D'Oyly Carte Company would be the same, still represents Mr Rupert D'Oyly Carte in front of the house, Mr J M Gordon still rules behind the scenes, and Mr Walter Hann will once more direct the band.

'The performances begin at 7.15 each evening, except on Saturday, when the curtain rises at seven.  May we remind intending auditors that the Sullivan overtures are part and parcel of the operas and are worth hearing, and that late arrivals will spoil the enjoyment of many.'


A Dundee Review

Dundee Courier: Tuesday, 5 September 1916

The Gondoliers

'Our friends of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company have good reason to be satisfied with their welcome to Dundee last night, for Her Majesty's Theatre was full, every box being occupied, and those who formed the audience have also every reason to be pleased, for the merry, melodious Gondoliers never went with more vivacity and brilliance than it did last night.  It is scarcely possible to realise that The Gondoliers is nearly 30 years old, and that most of those present in the theatre last night must have seen and heard it time and time again.  Still, its wonderful freshness and charm remain, and encores were frequent from Antonio's early song until late in the second act.  In fact, it seemed as if Mr Dewey Gibson's singing of “Take a pair of sparkling eyes” was to bring the opera to an untimely end, for although the popular tenor had sung the second verse three times the audience seemed inclined for more of it.

'Last night's cast differed very slightly from that of the last visit. Mr Lytton and Mr Billington were warmly welcomed and it was a delight to have Mr Billington once more with us, in his best form, with the merriest twinkle in his eye, and the most subtle note in his voice.

'Miss Phyllis Smith sang delightfully as Gianetta, earning a warm encore for “Kind Sir,” and Miss Nellie Briercliffe is more delightful as Tessa than ever.  Not only has her singing and acting improved, but she scored notably last night in her dancing.  Miss Bertha Lewis' only fault as the Duchess is a too youthful make-up; her singing is admirable and acting discretion itself. Miss Elsie M'Dermid sang delightfully as Casilda, and with Mr Granville's help did so well in the second duet in the first act that it narrowly escaped the somewhat unusual encore.

'Mr Granville, as we have indicated, was in great form.  The robust, virile style of his singing was splendidly appropriate.  Mr Lytton's Duke is a perfect piece of art, clear cut as an old cameo, and Mr Billington's Grand Inquisitor is as ripe and rich a piece of humour as ever.  Mr Tunks is an ideal Giuseppe, and Mr Harry Arnold sang spiritedly as Antonio.

'The chorus, despite a natural weakness in the male section, is wonderfully good, and the singing is crisp and clear.  The band, led by a lady and conducted by Mr Walter Hann with unfaltering precision and tact, played beautifully.'


D'Oyly Carte Scottish tour - 1916

The repertoire or this tour included Trial By Jury,  The Sorcerer,   PatienceIolanthe,  The Mikado,  The Yeomen of the Guard and The Gondoliers.

The schedule for the Dundee week is as follows:

Dundee, w/c 4 September:  Mon 4 Gondoliers;  Tue 5 Patience;  Wed 6 Yeomen of the Guard;  Thu 7 Mikado;  Fri 8 Trial by Jury & Sorcerer;  Sat 9 m Iolanthe;  Sat 9 e Yeomen of the Guard.

Other dates (Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen) to be confirmed.

Performance Cast

Antonio a Venetian Gondolier

Harry Arnold (Sep 4)

Marco Palmieri a Venetian Gondolier

Dewey Gibson (Sep 4)

Giuseppe Palmieri a Venetian Gondolier

Leicester Tunks (Sep 4)

Tessa a Contadina

Nellie Briercliffe (Sep 4)

Gianetta a Contadina

Phyllis Smith (Sep 4)

Duke of Plaza-Toro a Grandee of Spain

Henry Lytton (Sep 4)

Duchess of Plaza-Toro

Bertha Lewis (Sep 4)

Casilda daughter of the Duke and Duchess

Elsie McDermid (Sep 4)

Luiz the Duke's Attendant

Sydney Granville (Sep 4)

Don Alhambra del Bolero the Grand Inquisitor

Fred Billington (Sep 4)

Performance DatesGondoliers 1916

Map List

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

4 Sep, 19.15

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