Opera Scotland

Zauberflöte 1913Carl Rosa Opera Company

Read more about the opera Magic Flute

In view of how popular a piece The Magic Flute is nowadays, it seems surprising that the work was only on the fringes of the repertory in the 19th century, and apart from this brief period around the time of the First World War it was ignored by the Carl Rosa. Oddly, it featured again in the autumn of 1913, when the opera was picked up by the Edinburgh-based Denhof company, giving its final performances. Denhof had the great advantage of Beecham as conductor - see details here.

This Rosa cast included the renowned Canadian tenor Charles Hedmondt, who sang a wide range of roles from Mozart to Wagner, and also directed, notably the stage production in early Ring cycles in Britain.

Beatrice Miranda was a young Australian who also showed great versatility, following her Queen of Night with Philine in Mignon (another high coloratura role) then Leonora in Trovatore on three successive evenings. She went on to sing several of the heavier Wagner roles.

Miriam Licette was at the start of her career, and from all accounts still rather stiff as an actress, but she went on to have a long career at Covent Garden and elsewhere between the wars.

The then recent English translation by Edward J Dent maintained several features of the old Italian version by Gamerra (a contemporary of the composer, and himself the librettist of Lucio Silla). The Queen of Night lost her description as 'Star-blazing Queen' (Astrafiammante) but the Three Ladies all had names - Aretusa, Egle and Iperetusa. We are accustomed to the three guides being described as Boys (in German, Knaben). However Dent describes them as 'Genii' or 'Spirits'. There is a merger among the subsidiary priesthood. No Armed Men are identified separately, and there is no Speaker. Clearly these characters were combined. This had the effect, in the programme, that the voices were reversed. First Priest and Armed Man are usually allotted to the tenor. However with the Speaker, a baritone role, being renamed the others followed suit. To fit with the usual convention these parts have been swapped, with the tenor now First and the baritone Second.

Complete cast details are listed at the head of the review in the Aberdeen Press and Journal of Saturday, 25 January, with a supplementary group of soloists specified in the Dundee Advertiser of 29 January and the Scotsman of 6 February.

It is likely that Elizabeth Burgess sang Pamina at the first performance as a late replacement for Miriam Licette, who was well enough to take the part the following week in Dundee.

An extra performance was slipped into the Edinburgh schedule at the matinee (22 February) to replace The Jewels of the Madonna, which was considered to need further rehearsal and would only play in Glasgow.

 

Aberdeen Opinion

Aberdeen Press & Journal: Saturday, 25 January  1913  (p6)

Carl Rosa Opera - Revival of The Magic Flute - Evening of Enthusiasm

'If the hundreds of people present in His Majesty's Theatre last evening did not leave the place firmly convinced that magis still exists they must conider themselves aurally defective.  For fully three hours the spaces of the theatre vibrated with magic of the most convincing kind - the magic of The Magic Flute, the magic of a master among musicians.  That much was expected from Mozart's opera was proved by the size of the audience, which completely filled the house, but probably few expected such a lofty evening of pleasure unalloyed.

'The ''story,'' they knew, was whimsical o the point of absurdity - dramatically impossible, too, and not strong enough to convince a child;  but the witchery of incomparable music made everything appear natural. and rendered the whole performance a thingof sheer delight.  Aberdeen music-lovers never owed so much to an opera company as they owe to the Carl Rosa for last night's revival.

'The Magic Flute was the last of Mozart's operas, written in the plenitude of his powers.  Beethoven called it a masterpiece, and Wagner spoke of it as ''the first German opera.''  With due respect to Wagner, however, the music is German neither in character nor spirit.  It is in the Italian style on which Mozart was nurtured and on which he wrote Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro, although, no doubt, it is more serious, more subtle, more scientific (if the word be permissible).  Mozart had the rarest kind of inspiration, comparable to that of no other man.  His music - every note of it - is pure music, even when it depicts characters or is suggestively picturesque,  and it is as different as the attempted ''tone-paintings'' of Wagner, Tschaikowsky, or Richard Strauss as day is different from night.  It is not music the beauof which (as John Masefield would say) takes you by the throat;  it is of a texture refined almost to gossamer; it is everlasting, but extraordinarily fragile.

'And there is to be found the reason why The Magic Flute has come to be regarded as an old-fashioned masterpiece.  Modern ears have been hardened by the sledgehammer methods of Wagner and his school, and the man who will extract the maximum beauty out of Mozart must have tender ears, must be very well organised musically.  Moreover, Mozart's music is off such subtle tenderness that the very slightest imperfections of interpretation or execution injure it cruelly, whereas in Wagner half an orchestra might falter and have their mistakes pass unfelt and unnoticed in the - general melée!  Thus most touring opera companies find it so much easier, both on the vocal and instrumental sides, to appear with credit in works of a different nature that The Magic Flute is left in the hands of concert room orchestras and vocalists.

'As has been indicated, the appeal of The Magic Flute depends entirely on the music, for the drama of the music is practically non-existent as such.  Originally the music had a Masonic significance, purporting to be the trials to which a young couple, Tamino and Pamina, are subjected in accordance with Masonic ritual.  In form, however, it actually resembles a modern pantomime, the comic element included.  The incidents are all slight and for the most part amusing, and were it not for the music, which is in places wonderfully impressive, its most solemn passages would appear ridiculous.  It must be taken merely as a fairy story - quite a pretty one of the usual order, with Right struggling against Wrong, and wedding-bells at the end of it.  The scenes are picturesque and charming, and in this respect the production was adequate, on a scale not usually expected and seldom found in itinerant companies.

'Last evening's performance clearly demonstrated that the Carl Rosa Opera Company are finding their revival thoroughly worth while.  From the point of view of the box-office, the performance was by a long way the best of the week, and artistically and in the degree of pleasure it provided, too, it was the event of the ''season.''   Despite the counter-attraction of scores of late arrivals to the dearer seats, the orchestra was able to make the overture interesting, delightful, and very nearly as wonderful and beautiful as Mozart meant it to be.  The brasses and wood-winds, it is true, were at times too much for the strings, but under Mr Walter Van Noorden, and the influence of music which every unskilled person must envy the ability to play, the musicians rose to the occasion and performed so nobly that it would be ungrateful to mention faults.

'The musicians on the other side of the footlights also gave of their best, and scored a large measure of success.  Their difficulties were added to by the absence of one of the principals, whose place had to be filled on very short notice by Miss Elizabeth Burgess.  Miss Burgess pluckily sang the part with the help of the score, and though under such circumstances anything like dramatic success became impossible, she sang very charmingly.  Mr Hedmondt was also at a disadvantage due to a cold, and showed nothing like his best form, but the proper spirit was evidenced if the expression of it sometimes fell short of perfection.

'All the others were thoroughly deserving of the enthusiasm aroused in the audience by the music and their work.  Mr Winckworth, in particular, excelled, singing all the magnificent arias of his part, especially ''Oh, Sacred House,'' with splendid effect.   Mr Clendon made the most of his opportunities for buffoonery, and was rewarded with a remarkable demonstration by the audience during the last act.  Miss Beatrice Miranda also did well in a part which the greatest prima donna might not find easy, and all the other members of the big cast helped the audience to make the evening one of warm enthusiasm.

'The too short ''season'' of opera closes to-day with performances of Tannhäuser in the afternoon, and Mignon, the revival of which has proved so popular, in the evening.

 

A Dundee Review

Dundee Advertiser: Wednesday, 29 January 1913

Carl Rosa Opera - Mozart's Magic Flute

'At last the Carl Rosa Company has had in Dundee an audience such as its powers should invariably command. The magic name of Mozart sufficed to attract last night an assemblage that filled the theatre. That this support may be continued is devoutly to be wished; and, if it is true that the appetite sometimes grows with what it feeds on, Thomas, Verdi, Boito and the rest should be none the worse of being preceded by the ever young and attractive Mozart.

'What probably strikes most people with the greatest force on hearing The Magic Flute is the composer's Shakespearian gift of universality. There are in the opera many trivial things, and many moments of mere buffoonery, in addition to the more serious parts of the libretto. Mozart's poverty and not his will consented to deal with such comparatively ignoble matter. Many men of genius have in similar circumstances had to stoop to conquer. Very few have succeeded in stooping to such purpose.

'Out of the sow's ear Mozart has made a silk purse. We find that he deals as happily with the silly utterances of Papageno as he does with the emotions of Pamina, or the solemn mysteries of Isis and Osiris. It is true that he is precisely at his best when the highest demands are made upon him. For examples of his finest work, Sarastro's air and the connected chorus “O Isis and Osiris” might be instanced, in which we find a grave and serene spirit not inferior to Wagner when most inspired; or Pamina's pathetic aria, “Hours of joy for ever banished”.  The work abounds in melody from the first bar to the last, and it is easily perceptible that, like Hamlet, it has proved an inexhaustible mine of quotations for later writers. Quite clearly Dibdin owes his finest phrases in “Tom Bowling” to Tamino's song “Oh wondrous beauty”. No wonder Gounod said, “After Mozart we are all woodchoppers.”  Mozart has Gounod's graceful melody without his nauseous sentimentalism; he is more than the equal of Verdi in rhythm, but lacks his shallowness; while in his independent and free use of the orchestra he anticipated Wagner, while leaving the latter in sovereign possession of the quality of tediousness.

'The representation of The Magic Flute given by the Carl Rosa Company was remarkably level and sustained in its excellence. Some of the artists were, no doubt, better than others, but none of the parts were inadequately rendered. The role of the heroine, Pamina, was taken by Miss Miriam Licette, a singer who has materially advanced in her art since she appeared here with Signor Castellano's company. Her voice is fresh and of really lovely quality; and the vibrato is used only where it is emotionally appropriate.

'Miss Licette is not yet a finished actress, and she will improve still further in the matter of dialogue. She promises, however, to develop into an artist of supreme rank. The difficult character of the Queen of Night was rendered by Miss Beatrice Miranda. The exacting nature of the music of the part is matter of common knowledge. No ordinary singer ever dreams of attempting it. Miss Miranda not only sang every note - and the score is written up to F in alt - with absolute correctness and precision, but gave us beautiful tone as well. The other lady singers were each and all more than competent, and the beautiful concerted music for two and three treble voices found in them admirable exponents.

'Mr E C Hedmondt is no novice on the operatic stage and his Tamino was instinct with life from head to toe. At the beginning his tone appeared to be slightly affected by cold; but further on he sang with all his old power and skill. Mr Hedmondt is a study for all budding tenors; indeed, for all those who would know the manifold uses of the voice.  The deep bass of Mr Arthur Winckworth was heard to fine effect in Sarastro's music, in which many low Gs and Fs tread on each other's heels. “Within this hallowed dwelling” was a noble effort, and it would have been even nobler had the music of the second verse been allowed to remain as Mozart wrote it. This was the sole alteration in the score that took place during the entire evening, and even it was unnecessary. Frederick Clendon's Papageno was often funny, and the simple and lively airs of the part were given with point and vigour.

'Mozart asks much from his orchestra. The bustling fugal overture went capitally, and warmed the house at the very start. Thereafter everything flowed with perfect sweetness to the careful beat of Mr Walter van Noorden. The stage setting was adequate, and the mystical blue-light effects were striking. And now we sigh for Don Giovanni and Figaro!'

 

An Edinburgh Review

Scotsman:  Thursday, 6 February 1913  (p6)

Mozart's Magic Flute at the King's Theatre

'A large audience assembled in the King's Theatre last evening to welcome the presentation by the Carl Rosa Company of Mozart's Magic Flute.  It is an opera that has perhaps caused more discussion and debate than any other single work of its class.  It may be said at once that the performance was on the whole one of supreme excellence.

Mr Van Noorden had allotted the chief parts to his best principals. The response on the side of the singers was so sincere that the performance must stand out to those who heard it as one to be remembered.  For, difficult as it beto present Mozart's last opera in a form appreciable by modern audiences, it must be remembered that the music was written at a time when the libretto counted as nothing, and when Mozart was practically on his deathbed.  It may be doubted if he liked the idea of the fairy tale, with the wildest absurdities of plot,  which Schikaneder presented to him.  He had the Requiem beside him at the same time.  But Mozart put into The Magic Flute some of his best music, and it is by its music and not by its book that the work lives.  That fact was recognised in last night's performance.  The love intrigue, the freemasonic mysteries, the strange interplay of Egyptian formalism and modern social customs were necessarily accentuated.

'But the piece as a drama was, in the words of Mr E J Dent, the most recent interpreter of the Mozart tradition, ''a mere agglomeration of absurditites;  the language of the dialogue is for the most part a ludicrous mixture of theatrical commonplaces and trivial jests, while the versified portions are clumsy doggerel, relieved occasionaly by passages borrowed from popular masonic songs.''  The music, in short, is supreme,  and is none the worse because certain of the concerted pieces were borrowed from the chorales of the Church.

'Of last night's production it is possible to speak in terms of high praise.  It is a mistake on Mr Van Noorden's part to claim that he is producing the opera for the first time in English.  It was given in Drury Lane in English in 1838, and probably in different versions since.  But it may be admitted that in its present form the work gives us Mozart in a more acceptable English version than has ever been offered before.  The concerted pieces, which are always a feature of the older operas, were well sung.  

'Mr Hedmondt in the rôle of Tamino spoke and sang admirably.  He gave to a somewhat formal rôle much of the spirit of romance which is inseparable from his musical temperament;  the emotional ''break'' in his voice was artistically used. A most impressive part was the Sarastro of Mr Arthur Winckworth. It was a pleasure to hear a real basso tone - not the baritone so much cultivated to-day - in ''Qui Sdegno'' (''Within this Hallowed Dwelling''). Miss Beatrice Miranda, as the mysterious Queen of the Night, sang with great purity of style, and bore her full share in the honours of the trio in the third act with Tamino and Sarastro. There was distinct talent in the singing and acting of Miss Miriam Licette as Pamina; it is a part that to be effective at all must be well sung and well acted. Mr Frederick Clendon played up to tradition in giving the burlesque quality to the part of Papageno. This of course was the rôle of Schikaneder himself, who was a buffo artist. Mr Clendon has an effective style, both in speaking and singing; and, while applause was frequent after all the chief set pieces, his association with Miss Dorothy Lawson-Taylor in the famous duet for Papageno and Papagena was so successful as to win the encore of the evening.

'A special word of praise is due to the orchestra; Mozart's music is simple in a sense, but it requires, for that very reason, all the more careful rendering.'

 

Carl Rosa Scottish Tour - 1913

This late winter Scottish season conisisted of seven weeks, each with seven performances.  After a week in Aberdeen (w/c 20 Jan) then one in Dundee (w/c 27 Jan), there followed three in Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre (commencing 3 Feb, 10 Feb, 17 Feb) and two in Glasgow’s Theatre Royal (w/c 24 Feb; 3 Mar).  Two performances originally scheduled of Jewels of the Madonna in Edinburgh were cancelled to allow for more rehearsals.  The operas that replaced them were Mefistofele (20 Feb) and Magic Flute (22 Feb mat)

The sixteen operas performed were by:  Mozart (Don GiovanniZauberflöte);  Benedict (Lily of Killarney);  Balfe (Bohemian Girl);  Thomas (Mignon);  Wallace (Maritana);  Wagner (TannhäuserLohengrin);  Verdi (Trovatore);  Gounod (Faust);  Goldmark (Queen of Sheba);  Boito (Mefistofele);  Bizet (Carmen);  Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);  Mascagni (Cavalleria Rusticana);  Wolf-Ferrari (Jewels of the Madonna).

The performance schedule was:

Aberdeen, w/c 20 January:  Mon 20 Carmen;  Tue 21 Lohengrin;  Wed 22 Trovatore;  Thu  23 Mefistofele;  Fri 24 Magic Flute;  Sat 25 m Tannhäuser;  Sat 25 e Mignon.

Dundee, w/c  27 January:  Mon 27 Tannhäuser;  Tue 28 Magic Flute;  Wed 29 Mignon;  Thu 30 Trovatore;  Fri 31 Mefistofele;  Sat 1 Feb m Carmen;  Sat 1 Feb e Bohemian Girl.

Edinburgh, w/c 3 February:  Mon 3 Tannhäuser;  Tue 4 Mignon;  Wed 5 Magic Flute;  Thu 6 Trovatore;  Fri 7 Lohengrin;  Sat 8 m Faust;  Sat 8 e Bohemian Girl.

Edinburgh, w/c 10 February:  Mon 10 Magic Flute;  Tue 11 Queen of Sheba;  Wed 12 Carmen;  Thu 13 Maritana;  Fri 14 Magic Flute;  Sat 15 m Mignon;  Sat 15 e Lily of Killarney.

Edinburgh, w/c 17 February:  Mon 17 Cav & Pag;  Tue 18 Don Giovanni;  Wed 19 Faust;  Thu 20 Mefistofele;  Fri 21 Tannhäuser;  Sat 22 m Magic Flute;  Sat 22 e Trovatore.

Glasgow, w/c 24 February:  Mon  24 Magic Flute;  Tue 25 Mignon;  Wed 26 Trovatore;  Thu 27 Cav & Pag;  Fri 28 Jewels of the Madonna;  Sat 1 Mar m Tannhäuser;  Sat 1 Mar e Faust.

Glasgow, w/c  3 March:  Mon 3 Lohengrin;  Tue 4 Jewels of the Madonna;  Wed 5 Magic Flute;  Thu 6 Mignon;  Fri  7 Carmen :  Sat 8 m Jewels of the Madonna;  Sat 8 e Magic Flute.

Performance Cast

Tamino a Prince

Charles Hedmondt (Jan 24, 28; Feb 5)

First Lady in attendance on the Queen

Mabel Owens (Jan 24)

Second Lady in attendance on the Queen

Signe Becker (Jan 24)

Third Lady in attendance on the Queen

Jean Douglas-Wilson (Jan 24)

Papageno a bird-catcher

Frederick Clendon (Jan 24, 28; Feb 5)

Queen of Night

Beatrice Miranda (Jan 24, 28; Feb 5)

Monostatos a servant in the Temple

Charles Neville (Jan 24)

Pamina daughter of the Queen of Night

Elizabeth Burgess (Jan 24)

Miriam Licette (Jan 28; Feb 5)

First Boy

Winifred Geverding (Jan 24)

Second Boy

Gladys Deane (Jan 24)

Third Boy

Janet Hemsley (Jan 24)

Speaker at the Temple

Leslie Austin (Jan 24)

Sarastro High Priest of Isis and Osiris

Arthur Winckworth (Jan 24, 28; Feb 5)

First Priest

William O'Connor (Jan 24)

Second Priest

Leslie Austin (Jan 24)

Papagena disguised as an old woman

Dorothy Lawson-Taylor (Jan 24; Feb 5)

First Armed Man

William O'Connor (Jan 24)

Second Armed Man

Leslie Austin (Jan 24)

Performance DatesZauberflöte 1913

Map List

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

24 Jan, 19.30

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

28 Jan, 19.15

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

5 Feb, 19.30 10 Feb, 19.30 14 Feb, 19.30 22 Feb, 14.00

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

24 Feb, 19.15 5 Mar, 19.15 8 Mar, 19.15

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