Opera Scotland

Aïda 1927British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Aïda

Aïda was now one of the most popular works in the repertoire, attested to by the fact that it was performed on the Saturday night in all four major Scottish cities.

While the production as a whole seems to have been thoroughly enjoyed by the critics, the star was considered the great dramatic tenor Walter Widdop.  William Michael was scheduled to sing iat all venues but was indisposed when the tour came to Dundee.  The company's two leading basses shared Ramfis, and conducting duties were also split during the tour.


The Edinburgh Opinion

The Scotsman of Monday, 24 October (p8) enthused:

'On Saturday eveniing the British National Opera fortnight in Edinburgh concluded with an excellent performance of Aïda, the fourteenth opera given during the fortnight.   The cast included Miss May Blyth as Aïda,   Miss Constance Willis as Amneris,  Mr Robert Radford as the High Priest,  Mr William Michael as Amonasro,  and Mr William Anderson as the King.

Miss Blyth,  making her first Edinburgh appearance in the rôle,  was a very effective Aïda.  She responded admirably to the exacting dramatic requirements of the character, without ever overdoing anything.  Miss Constance Willis's Amneris was a powerful dramatic study, with an enjoyablel suggestion of spontaneity in its detail.  Mr Walter Widdop sang well as Radamès,  and the difficulties of ''Celeste Aïda'' were overcome with a commendable ease.  Mr Radford's High Priest, and Mr Anderson's King, were both as effective as on previous occasions.

'There was a crowded audience, and in the course of some remarks which he made at the close of the performance, Mr Frederic Austin said that if the Edinburgh public would only rally to the support of the National Opera as heartily in the first week as in the second, all might be well.  He had, however, to appear once more in the character of a Jeremiah.  With his colleagues,  he hoped to be in Edinburgh again next year.  Much, however, depended on the fortunes of the scheme of which Sir Thomas Beecham was expected,  within the next few days, to announce the details.''


The Dundee Opinion

Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Monday, November 7 1927  (p8)

British National Opera Company - “Aïda” and “La Bohème”

'If Saturday's performance of Aïda by the British National Opera Company was not actually the climax of the week (that distinction surely goes to The Valkyrie) it was at least an impressive conclusion to what has been such an enjoyable visit.

'Aïda can be one of the most satisfying of all operas when it is given in the style that we had it on Saturday night - that is with splendid soloists, weighty and sonorous choruses, and lavish spectacular effects.  It is then that we get the exciting climaxes and dramatic purple patches in which the work abounds.

'Miss May Blyth's fine soprano was quite equal, by reason of its range and power, to the heavy demands made on it by “Ritorna vincitor” and “O patria mia.”  We have a feeling that Mr Walter Widdop was a little off-colour vocally as Rhadames, but the voice is nevertheless a splendid one.  Miss Constance Willis was a quite superb Amneris.  We do not hope to hear her music much better sung.

'Mr Percy Heming (in place of Mr Wm Michael) sang and acted with his usual keen intelligence, doing great work in the Nile Scene; and Mr Norman Allin was as resonant and dignified as anyone could wish as the High Priest.  Mr Wm Anderson was also more than adequate as the King.  The dancing of the ballet and of Miss Olive Joyner must be mentioned.  Mr Eugene Goossens, sen., conducted.

'In the afternoon, we had a performance of La Bohème under the lively direction of Mr Barbirolli.

'Miss Noel Eadie's voice may not have the melting, liquid quality of the Mimì of one's dreams, but she was a frail and appealing figure, and her singing in the last act had all the pathos required.  Mr Tudor Davies can do full justice to the sensuous curves of Puccini's vocal lines, and he sang "Che gelida manina" beautifully.

'The Bohemians of Percy Heming, Philip Bertram and Herbert Langley were an unfailing delight, and Miss Doris Lemon was a very vivacious Musetta, though a little shrill at times.  The staging of the second act was such as to give us all of its humour and bustle.

'At the close of the evening performance, Mr Frederick Austin let us know how we stand in regard to a future visit.  This, he told us, can only be possible if some sort of financial guarantee is made beforehand against loss, as the attendances this week have not conduced to the balancing of the books.  Let us hope that something to this end is done.


Dundee Evening Telegraph & Post: Monday, November 7 1927 (p3)                                     

British National Opera Company - "La Bohème" and "Aïda"

'The BNOC concluded their week at the King's Theatre on Saturday with performances of Puccini's La Bohème at the matinée and Verdi's Aïda in the evening.  Two things stand out prominently in this week's visit - the magnificent productions of Wagner's operas The Mastersingers and Valkyrie and the splendid work done by the orchestra.  We have had many visits of grand opera companies in the past, but never before have we had the orchestral parts rendered with such fullness, verve, and rich expression.  In a year when there will be no purely orchestral concert in the city, this wonderful orchestral playing came as no small compensation.

'The performance of La Bohème was conducted by Mr John Barbirolli with his customary virility.  The vocal honours went to the four Bohemians.  Mr Tudor Davies, one of our best tenors, sang the luscious music for Rudolph with fire and intensity; Mr Herbert Langley as Schaunard was as finished in acting and singing as could be wished; Mr Percy Heming as Marcel was boisterous and tender by turns and used that fine voice of his with great effect in the lovely numbers; and Mr Philip Bertram as Colline made his farewell to his overcoat a perfect gem.  All four acted well that mock-serious and mock-humorous air that is the modern equivalent of the defiance of the Fates.

'Miss Noel Eadie was an appealing and sweet Mimì, vocally satisfying and infusing gentleness into the part of the seamstress.  Miss Doris Lemon made Musetta the bit of a shrew that she really was and sang very nicely.  The second act was just the jolly thing that it ought to be and was a fine bit of stage production.

'Aïda was an ideal opera with which to end the visit.  Its colourful stage pictures, the scope it gives to dancers, its rapid action, besides its most satisfying music, make it attractive to almost every class of theatre-goer.  Saturday night's audience was certainly most appreciative of the splendid rendering of it which the company gave.

'Dundonians have heard as good an Aïda as Miss May Blyth before, but that is not to say that that fine singer and first-rate actress gave anything but a beautiful reading of her part.  She was a fit colleague of Mr Walter Widdop, who sang the part of Radamès splendidly, with full ringing tones and quite a rare sensibility, and Miss Constance Willis, whose pure, firm contralto voice was heard at its very best in the arduous role of Amneris.  Mr Norman Allin as the High Priest was not on the stage nearly often enough to satisfy most people.  Mr Eugene Goossens got from orchestra and score all that was in them.

'At the end of the performance Mr Frederick Austin, artistic director of the company, expressed the company's readiness to return to Dundee provided music-lovers band together to enable the offer of a suitable guarantee to be made, as in other cities.  If Dundonians want the BNOC back again next winter it is therefore up to them now to make arrangements for a meeting of music-lovers to be held soon to discuss the matter.


Cast details are taken from an Edinburgh programme in NLS and reviews in the Dundee Evening Telegraph & Post, Dundee Courier & Advertiser, as well as advertisements.


BNOC in Scotland - 1927

The 1927 Scottish tour included six weeks, two each in Glasgow (Theatre Royal) and Edinburgh (King's), and a further week each in Aberdeen (His Majesty's) and Dundee (King's) - the first time that BNOC went north of the central belt.

Fifteen operas were performed:

Mozart (Marriage of Figaro,  Magic Flute);  Rossini (Barber of Seville);  Wagner (Tannhäuser,  Mastersingers,  Valkyrie,  Twilight of the Gods);   Verdi  (Aïda);   Bizet (Carmen);  Saint-Saëns (Samson and Delilah);  Massenet (Manon);   Leoncavallo  (Pagliacci);   Puccini  (Bohème,  Madam Butterfly,  Gianni Schicchi).

The schedule was as follows:

Glasgow, w/c 26 September:  Mon 26  Barber of Seville;  Tue 27  Magic Flute;  Wed 28 mat  Bohème;  Wed 28 eve  Gianni Schicchi & Pagliacci:  Thu 29  Valkyrie;  Fri 30  Marriage of Figaro  Sat 01 mat  Madam Butterfly;  Sat 01 eve  Aïda.

Glasgow, w/c 03 October:  Mon 03  Carmen;  Tue 04  Manon;  Wed 05 mat  Marriage of Figaro;  Wed 05 eve  Barber of Seville;  Thu 06  Mastersingers;  Fri 07  Samson and Delilah;  Sat 08 mat  Magic Flute;  Sat 08 eve  Tannhäuser.

Edinburgh, w/c 10 October: Mon 10  Barber of Seville; Tue 11  Mastersingers;  Wed 12 mat  Gianni Schicchi & Pagliacci;  Wed 12 eve  Magic Flute;  Thu 13  Manon;  Fri 14  Marriage of Figaro;  Sat 15 mat  Bohème;  Sat 15 eve  Samson and Delilah.

Edinburgh, w/c  17 October:  Mon 17  Barber of Seville;  Tue 18  Twilight of the Gods;  Wed 19 mat Madam Butterfly;  Wed 19 eve  Tannhäuser;  Thu 20  Carmen;  Fri 21  Manon;  Sat 22 mat  Magic Flute;  Sat 22 eve  Aïda.

Aberdeen, w/c 24 October:  Mon 24  Barber of Seville;  Tue 25  Twilight of the Gods;  Wed 26 mat  Magic Flute;  Wed 26 eve Manon;  Thu 27 Mastersingers;  Fri 28  Marriage of Figaro;  Sat 29 mat  Madam Butterfly;  Sat 29 eve Aïda.

Dundee, w/c 31 October: Mon 31  Mastersingers;  Tue 01 Nov  Barber of Seville;  Wed 02 mat  Marriage of Figaro;  Wed 02 eve  Madam Butterfly;  Thu 03  Manon;  Fri 04  Valkyrie;  Sat 05 mat  Bohème;  Sat 05 eve  Aïda.

Performance Cast

Ramfis High Priest

Robert Radford (Oct 22)

William Anderson (Oct 29)

Norman Allin (Nov 5)

Radamès Captain of the Guard

Walter Widdop (Oct 22; Nov 5)

Parry Jones (Oct 29)

Amneris daughter of the King of Egypt

Constance Willis (Oct 22, 29; Nov 5)

Aïda an Ethiopian slave

May Blyth Oct 22, 29; Nov 5)

King of Egypt

William Anderson (Oct 22; Nov 5)

Philip Bertram (Oct 29)


Liddell Peddieson


Doris Lemon

Amonasro King of Ethiopia and father of Aïda

William Michael (Oct 22)

Percy Heming (Oct 29; Nov 5)


Olive Joyner

Performance DatesAïda 1927

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

1 Oct, 19.00

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

22 Oct, 19.00

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

29 Oct, 19.00

King's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

5 Nov, 19.00

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