Opera Scotland

Mignon 1912Carl Rosa Opera Company

Read more about the opera Mignon

For the previous four years, the single week of touring opera granted to the two northeast cities had been supplied by Moody-Manners. The Carl Rosa company had been absent for even longer than that, but now returned in full force.

Mignon had been a fixture in the Rosa repertoire in the company's early years. A charming piece, much loved by Victorian audiences, it had not been seen since the mid-nineties. It would continue to appear until the end of the decade, but would then vanish until the twenty-first century.

Perhaps the most notable feature of the cast is the arrival of the Australian soprano Beatrice Miranda, also appearing in Merry Wives. She quickly became a star of the company, eventually singing major dramatic roles, including Wagner. She later settled in Edinburgh, becoming an important teacher and an influence on musical life in the city.

Cast details are from a programme in Aberdeen City Library, and reviews in the Aberdeen Press & Journal,  Dundee Advertiser,  Dundee Courier & Argus and Scotsman.

 

The Northern View

Aberdeen Press & Journal:  Tuesday,  30 January 1912  (p4)

The Carl Rosa Opera Company - Performance of Mignon

'The name of Carl Rosa and the development of Grand Opera in this country are synonymous.  It has been well said that the salvation of operatic progress in the scheme of a nation's music depends largely on its adequate presentation in the language of the people.

'It is to the magnificent pioneer work of the late Carl Rosa and his successors in this cause of Opera for the people, in the language of the people,  that the provinces of Great Britain owe in large measure their present - if somewhat limited, still always increasing - knowledge of the various schools of operatic writing.

'It should be noted that it is in the provinces that the pioneers have found their widest and most profitable field.

'Repeated attempts have been made to establish in London a permanent season of opera in English, as witness the Beecham opera season, and, more recently the Quinlan opera season,  both generally successful from an artistic point of view, but deplorable financial failures.  Perhaps the greatest effort was Richter's production of the Ring in English.  But the plutocrats who are responsible for the financial prosperity of Covent Garden Opera notwithstanding, the emphatic success of Richter's efforts did not allow it to influence them in their future arrangements.  Opera to them is not so much a matter of music as a matter of fashion, and they prefer to hear it in any other language than English.  It is less democratic.

'During the past two seasons the wonderful Russian Ballet has been the dominant feature, and from the box office point of view the most successful feature at Covent Garden.  Therefore it is obvious that operatic developments in this country must depend largely on companies like the Carl Rosa, and it was gratifyingly evident from the brilliant and crowded auditorium of His Majesty's Theatre last night that Aberdeen music lovers mean to make the most of their all too brief operatic season.  In the French master Anmroise Thomas's Mignon, the present company had a very strong draw.  One of the most successful of the older French school, it has achieved an almost phenomenal popularity.  Excerpts like ''Kmowst thou the Land,'' the brilliant Polonaise, so beloved of concert sopranos,  and the bewitching entracte music, have been played and sung almost ad nauseam.  Yet, strange to say, it was in the nature of an almost new production to a large majority of the audience last evening, almost a generation having elapsed since the previous complete performance of this opera in Aberdeen.

'Opera in France has always held a foremost place, and as a nation it has contributed largely to the progress of operatic development.  From the days of Lulli, who was French in all but the accident of birth,  France can boast a long line of distinguished operatic writers.   Even at the present day the works of Gounod,  Bizet,  Saint-Saëns,  Massenet,  Charpentier,  Debussy,  to cite only a few, rank among the most frequently performed operas to-day, in virtue not only of their popularity, but also of their real artistic worth.  Produced in 1866, Mignon, in point of popularity, holds first place among the works of this composer, though it cannot be said to reveal the consummate musicianship and vivid dramatic force which we see in his later work, Hamlet.

'It does not possess in any conspicuous degree those characteristics which we associate with the French operatic school, and which have reached their highest point to-day in the work of Massenet,  Saint-Saëns,  Charpentier - to say nothing of Debussy, who, of course, occupies a niche at present shared by none.

'The influence of the early Verdi school is frankly evident in the rich profusion of obvious, though grateful melody, with aria succeeding aria, each separate and strictly defined.  Dramatic continuity as we perceive it in his grand opera essays is naturally absent.  But, withal, there is at times an intensity in the dramatic passages,  a striking elegance of outline in the general harmonies and melodic scheme, and above all in the orchestration evidences of the master hand of delicate orchestral colouring which left it far above the general standard of early Italian opera.

'One of the most striking characteristics of the composer was his complete knowledge of the possibilities of every department of the orchestra.  He secures a wide range of delicate orchestral colouring, and in the full passages a wealth of richness,  but in no instance does he permit the voice part to be obliterated, and while we are on this point we cannot but remark on the excellence of the orchestral accompaniments in the performance last evening.

'Rarely have we heard such finished playing and such quality of tone from the wind and brass departments, and though there may have been in the full passage only a lack of sonority, the general finish of their playing was beyond all cavil.

'The cast of last evening was one which we should characterise as consistenly good, though in no case conspicuously brilliant.

'Miss Ina Hill, in the name-part, is an artiste of considerable experience.  She possesses a voice of good quality, which she knows how to use, and in her conception of the various moods of the heroine she displayed histrionic ability of a high order.  For her rendering of the popular Styrienne she received a well-deserved ovation.  Of the ardent knight errand Wilhelm, we had in Mr Charles Neville an artiste of considerable dramatic force, though vocally at times he seemed somewhat overweighted.

'Mr Arthur Winckworth was an ideal Lothario.  He is the possessor of a voice rich and resonant in quality, and his  dignified conception of the grief-stricken father ranks as the finest performance of the evening.  In the bewitching part of Filina, Miss Beatrice Miranda had an opportunity of which she made excellent use, and her singing of the brilliant Polonaise,  ''I am Titania,'' was one of the most enjoyable items of the evening.

'Mr Frederick Clendon in the part of Laertes gave an excellent account of the whimsicalities of the impecunious and mirth-provoking actor.  A word is due to Miss Phyllis Archibald for her interpretation of the love-lorn Frederick.  She had not a great vocal opportunity, but in her rendering of the popular gavotte song, she displayed a voice of good quality and her characterisation of the debonair youth showed real dramatic significance.

'The part of Giarno, the gipsy chief, was in the capable hands of Mr Miller Reid, and the small pasrt of Antonio found a capable exponent in Mr Leslie Austin.

'The chorus, though not a very big one,  was undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable features in the production; in the grateful choral writing with which Mignon abounds  they had a comparatively easy task.  The opening chorus for men's voices, a style of writing in which Ambrose Thomas excelled was capitally sung, and the general spirit and keenness which characterised the choir ensemble throughout compels our warmest commendation.

'The general setting was in every way adequate, the exterior scene of the Rosenborg Castle being a noteworthy feature in this respect.

'Mr Walter Van Noorden conducted, and to him is due a full measure of praise for the finish of the orchestral accompaniment and the general excellence of the ensemble.'

 

Two Dundee Reviews

Dundee Advertiser: Tuesday, February 6, 1912

Carl Rosa Opera - Ambroise Thomas' “Mignon”

 'The elements yesterday afternoon and evening were not in favour of the Carl Rosa Company's opening performance, and that the fireside had attractions that were in some cases irresistible is not hard to understand.  However the dress circle at Her Majesty's Theatre was well occupied last night, and the other parts of the house will doubtless fill up during the week when it is known how excellent is the fare provided.  Still, Mignon is not to be heard again this visit, which is a pity for those who feared to face the snow.  The company made a capital start with this opera, and if the same high standard of execution is maintained in the other operas that are to be played there will be little ground for complaint on the part of even the severest critics.

'Of the many operas written by Thomas, only two now survive, Mignon and Hamlet.  The latter is seldom given in this country.  Thomas possessed the art of writing music of elegance and charm.  The chief defect is that fatal artistic weakness - the lack of individuality.  Some one else might have penned it.  There is hardly a bar in Lohengrin that does not cry Wagner; Verdi is written large all over Rigoletto; no one but Bizet could have given us CarmenMignon bears the sign-manual of others than its clever and susceptible composer, who perhaps had a too amiable admiration for the work of his successful contemporaries.  It is not to be forgotten that ere Mignon appeared Faust had entered on its extended career.  Still, if Mignon says very little that is new, what is said is always graceful and pleasant.  Some of the melodies have great beauty of a conventional kind; while occasionally in the orchestration - for example in the string accompaniment to some of Mignon's recitative in monotone - there is an originality that we do not find elsewhere in the work.

'Under the exceedingly careful guidance of Mr Walter van Noorden, Ambroise Thomas appeared in the best light at this performance.  It is not usual perhaps to speak of the band first; but so well did the forty instrumentalists, more or less, play the score; so considerate were they towards the solo voices; and so well was the internal balance of tone maintained, that in this case an exception may be made in their favour.  The instruments were never noisy, while sometimes they produced tone of quite surprising delicacy.  The chorus, which was as large as the stage could conveniently hold, sang with intelligence, and with more expression than the ordinary operatic combination.  The unaccompanied Barcarolle at the opening of the last act was specially good.

'By a gradual crescendo we arrive at the male soloists.  Of these Mr Frederick Clendon may be commended for the fine spirit of comedy which he displayed as the player Laertes.  Mr Leslie Austin's rendering of the part of Giarno, leader of the gipsy band, was picturesque and incisive. Neither of these singers had full scope in their parts for the good voices they evidently possess.  The chief male characters are of course Wilhelm, the well-dowered wanderer, and Lothario, the harper, who, to no-one's surprise, turns out to be an Italian noble.  The first role was taken by Mr Charles Neville, who, like all the other actors, played well his part.  Mr Neville's voice is a tenor of the robust order.  If it has a fault, that fault is a deficiency in sweetness.  There is plenty of power - power that many better-known tenors would be glad to possess.  His Romance in the last act was a fine effort, and the duet passages with Mignon that follow were sympathetically given.  Altogether, Mr Neville promises well.  Mr Arthur Winckworth's Lothario was a finished and satisfying picture.  He looked the part to the life, and his mellow bass made much of the many pathetic phrases it falls to him to deliver.  He may be expected to do great things with Mephistopheles to-night.

'The climax of the crescendo brings us to the ladies.  Frederick is not a part that affords much acting scope.  Miss Phyllis Archibald was not strikingly effective in it.  She sang the well-known Gavotte with taste, and a florid phrase or two seemed to suggest that the singer had in reserve qualities that Carmen may serve fully to reveal.  Very captivating and successful was Miss Beatrice Miranda (who, by the way, is niece to our townsman, Mr S C Hirst) as the coquette Filina.  It would be difficult to imagine the role better acted or dressed.  The lady's stage deportment is perfect, and her diction is peculiarly distinct and pleasing.  Her light and well-trained soprano discoursed the brilliant passages that Thomas has allotted to the part in a style that enchanted every ear.  Miss Ina Hill, who was the Mignon, must be reckoned one of the most precious possessions of the company.  In the opera she is seldom off the stage, and great demands are made on her capacities as player and singer.  To none of these demands did she fail to respond.  Beautiful and round in quality is her voice.  In the earlier passages, where pathos and gentle tones are in request, one formed the impression that possibly the singer's powers were limited in extent.  The second and final act showed, however, that she could rise at the proper moment to the supreme heights of passionate ecstasy.

'The audience was very enthusiastic.  The curtain was raised several times after the first act, and many encores were demanded, though (wisely enough) few were acceded to.'

 

Dundee Courier & Argus: Tuesday, February 6, 1912

Carl Rosa Opera Company in “Mignon” - at Her Majesty’s Theatre

 'The only disappointing thing about last night’s performance was the audience, which was distressingly small.  The oft-maligned dress circle was the most satisfactorily filled part of the house, and was quite creditable, but the cheaper parts of the theatre were very thinly-populated indeed.  Pit and gallery used to be crowded when opera in English was given in Dundee, and it is sad to see such a falling off in musical taste.

'It is nearly thirty years since Ambroise Thomas’ most popular opera, Mignon, was last heard in Dundee, and that it has held its place in the Carl Rosa repertoire all those years is proof of its abiding vitality and charm, qualities due to the romantic and pathetic interest of the story as much as to the melodious, rhythmic, and easily-grasped character of the music.

'The part of Mignon herself dominates the play, and is a character of exquisite grace and sympathy.  From the first scene, where she refuses to dance at the bidding of her bullying master, to the end, where she is left in the arms of her lover and her long-lost father, she never loses grip on the hearts of the audience, who feel with her in her affection for Wilhelm, who saves her from the gipsy tyrant; in her innocent, childlike love for Wilhelm; in her violent jealousy of the dashing and attractive Filina; and in her pitiful attempts to deck herself to please Wilhelm. In strong contrast is the character of the brilliant, frivolous, coquettish Filina, who flirts with everybody available, and drives poor Mignon frantic by her open love-making to Wilhelm.

'The most attractive of the male characters is the old harper Lothario, who wanders the wide world through in search of his long-lost daughter and who turns out to be the Count of Cipriani.  Wilhelm is a bit of a prig, and Frederick - who must be classed as a man, although he is represented by a lady - is a lady-killing fop, and nothing more.  Laertes, the actor, is an agreeable rattle, whose verbal quips and jokes, old as they now are, still possess the power of raising many a laugh.

'In addition to the familiar solos, “Knowest thou that dear land?”, “I am Titania”, there are other songs of great beauty, notably Lothario’s fine “No repose do I know”, Wilhelm’s “Farewell, Mignon”, the “Styrienne” and the great Recitative and Aria at the beginning of the second scene in the second act - all sung by Mignon; and many delightful duets and trios of which the most attractive are “Swift-flying, pretty swallows”, and the closing Trio of the opera.

'There is not a great deal of chorus work, but the opening number for male voices and the rhythmic unaccompanied chorus sung “off” at the beginning of the third act are particularly well written and effective.

'The feature of last night’s performance was its all-round level excellence.  Miss Ina Hill’s Mignon was a most satisfactory performance, vocally and dramatically, and everything she did was received with warm enthusiasm.  Her air of fright on her first appearance was admirably assumed, and in the scene where she paints her face in imitation of Filina, and dons one of that lady’s dresses, her acting has much comedy power.  The great song, “Knowest thou that dear land?” was given with fine expressiveness, and throughout Miss Hill sang with sweetness and power of voice, tunefulness, and outstanding clearness of enunciation.

'Another very good impersonation was that of Filina by Miss Beatrice Miranda.  She fully realised the gay, coquettish nature of the lady, and sang the florid music with marvellous clearness and brilliance of technique.  The famous Polonaise was given with sparkling brightness, precision, and dash, and fairly brought down the house.  Miss Phyllis Archibald invested Frederick with appropriate swagger, and sang the Gavotte song, “Here I am in beauty’s room”, trippingly and well.

'Mr Charles Neville, who appeared as Wilhelm, seemed at first to be suffering from cold, but he improved as the evening went on, and sang with considerable warmth and vigour.  He has a useful voice of fine quality in the middle register, and he uses it with freedom and ease.  His “Farewell, Mignon” and “In her simplicity” were admirably phrased, and his acting was manly and telling.  Mr Arthur Winckworth’s Lothario was full of dignity and vocal charm.  He is a most capable all-round artiste, and everything he did was well done and well sung.  Mr Frederick Clendon was a humorous Laertes, and his voice told well in the concerted numbers.  The chorus is large and efficient, and the much augmented orchestra, quietly and effectively conducted by Mr Walter Van Noorden, did ample justice to the picturesque accompaniments and the popular “Gavotte”.

'To-night the familiar but ever-popular Faust of Gounod will be staged, with Miss Ina Hill as Marguerite and Mr Arthur Winckworth as Mephistopheles.  Miss Claude Albright, an American lady, who has sung at the Metropolitan Theatre, New York, and the Opera Comique, Paris, will be the Siebel, and that famous operatic tenor Mr E C Hedmondt, who last sang here at one of Messrs Paterson’s concerts in December 1910, the Faust.  Mr Hebden Foster, a popular baritone, will appear as Valentine, and Mr Eugene Goossens will conduct.'

 

And Edinburgh

Scotsman:  Tuesday, 13 February 1912 (p5)

Carl Rosa Opera Company at the King's Theatre - Ambroise Thomas's Mignon

'A most excellent start for the Carl Rosa fortninght was made nlast night in the King's Theatre, when Mignon, the one really surviving opera of Ambroise Thomas, was presented by the best cast the company can command.  There was a good attendance though there were too many vacant seats;  but the success of the entertainment was such as should assure the company during their stay in Edinburgh of the hearty patronage of the musical public.

'Mignon is a grand opera, written by a Frenchmann in 1866 upon a romantic episode borrowed from the German Goethe's  Wilhelm Meister,  affecting musically the sensational and sentimental style of the Italian school, but on the whole possessing distinction in music, plot, and play of character that places it almost on the same level of permanent popularity as Carmen,  Faust,  and Tannhauser.  It is different in quality from all three, but it has its distinctive points as a work of operatic art, which, given so fine a performance as Mr Van Noorden secured last night, are bound to keep it in the forefront.

'The pathetic aspect of the character of Mignon has its foil in the brilliant frivolity of Filina;  there is an abundance of humour and sentiment interspersed in the libretto of MM Carré and Barbier that dispels all suggestion of monotony.  At the very outset of last night's performance Mr Van Noorden secured the rapt attention of his hearers.  The overture, a showy musical piece skilfully reproducing the chief airs of the opera in the old style - was finely rendered by an enlarged orchestra, and the opening male chorus in the courtyard of the Stork Inn was given with excellent impact and balance of tone.  Thereafter everything went smoothly.

'The first act is perhaps the most striking in its musical numbers.  ''No repose do I find,'' the song of the wandering minstrel Lothario,  was rendered with much appropriate pathetic appeal and with a finely balanced vocal quality by Mr Arhur Winckworth, who was throughout an admirable representative of the part.  Then came the tenor song, ''She is charming,'' in which Mr Gordon Thomas, in the role of William Meister, expresses his impressionable, if somewhat shallow, admiration for the flirt Filina.  He has a nice tenor voice;  he acts and speaks well;  and with study he ought to go further.

'But perhaps the audience was most deeply moved by the famous song of Mignon, ''Know'st thou the land?''  which Miss Ina Hill sang with great dramatic power, and with a simplicity of intonation that delighted the audience.  Of course Miss Beatrice Miranda had her opportunity in ''I am Titania,'' one of the most brilliant pieces in French grand opera; she is a soprano suited for showy rather than for emotional parts, and all her work last night was excellent.

'The famous gavotte, whether as played in the orchestral interlude, or as sung by Filina's boy lover Frederick, had its usual success.  Miss Phyllis Archibald rendered the piece with much vocal artistry, and was warmly applauded.  As Laertes, the actor, Mr Frederick Clendon rose to the humour of the role;  it is largely a speaking part, and when he spoke he gave the audience all the words;  vocally he was quite efficienct.

'The closing scenes between Mignon and Wilhelm had been carefully wrought up by Miss Ina Hill and Mr Gordon Thomas.  Though the intervals might with advantage have been curtailed, the audience remained enthusiastic to the close.

'During the fortnight the Carl Rosa Opera Company covers a wide range, including along with the old favourites such comparative novelties as Goldmark's Queen of Sheba,  Boïto's Mefistofele,  and Nicolai's Merry Wives.'

 

The Carl Rosa Scottish Tour - 1912

The tour lasted seven weeks:  Aberdeen 1 week (His Majesty's);  Dundee 1 week (Her Majesty's); Edinburgh 2 weeks (King's);  Greenock 1 week (King's);  Glasgow 2 weeks (Theatre Royal).

The thirteen operas performed were: Benedict (Lily of Killarney);  Nicolai (Merry Wives of Windsor); Thomas (Mignon);  Wallace (Maritana); Wagner (TannhäuserLohengrin);  Verdi (Trovatore); Gounod (Faust);  Goldmark (Queen of Sheba);  Bizet (Carmen);  Boito (Mefistofele); Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);  Mascagni (Cavalleria Rusticana).

The performance schedule was as follows

Aberdeen, w/c 29 January:  Mon 29 Mignon;  Tue 30 Tannhäuser; Wed 31 The Merry Wives of Windsor; Thu 1 Feb Faust; Fri 2 The Queen of Sheba; Sat 3 m Carmen;  Sat 3 e Il trovatore.

Dundee, w/c  5 February:  Mon 5 Mignon;  Tue 6 Faust;  Wed 7 Carmen;  Thu 8 Cav & Pag;  Fri 9 Queen of Sheba;  Sat 10 m Tannhäuser;  Sat 10 e Trovatore

Edinburgh, w/c 12 February:  Mon 12 Mignon;  Tue 13 Carmen;  Wed 14 Trovatore;  Thu 15 Lohengrin;  Fri 16 Queen of Sheba;  Sat 17 m Tannhäuser;  Sat 17 e Faust.

Edinburgh, w/c 19 February:  Mon 19 Cav & Pag;  Tue 20 Mefistofele;  Wed 21 Lily of Killarney;  Thu 22 Merry Wives of Windsor;  Fri 23 Mignon;  Sat 24 m Mefistofele;  Sat 24 e Maritana.

Greenock, w/c 26 February: Mon 26 tbc; Tue 27 tbc;  Wed 28 Trovatore;  Thu 29 Mignon;  Fri 1 March Mefistofele;  Sat 2 m tbc;  Sat 2 e Carmen.

Glasgow, w/c 4 March:  Mon 4 Tannhäuser;  Tue 5 Mefistofele;  Wed 6 Mignon;  Thu 7 Merry Wives of Windsor;  Fri 8 Lohengrin;  Sat 9 m Mefistofele;  Say 9 e Maritana.

Glasgow, w/c 11 March:  Mon 11 Cav & Pag;  Tue 12 Faust;  Wed 13  Queen of Sheba;  Thu 14 Mignon;  Fri 15 Mefistofele;  Sat 16 m Carmen;  Sat 16 e  Trovatore.

Performance Cast

Mignon stolen in childhood

Ina Hill (Jan 29, Feb 5, 12)

Philine an actress

Beatrice Miranda (Jan 29; Feb 5, 12)

Frédéric a young nobleman

Phyllis Archibald (Jan 29; Feb 5, 12)

Wilhelm Meister a student

Charles Neville (Jan 29; Feb 5)

Gordon Thomas (Feb 12)

Laërte an actor

Frederick Clendon (Jan 29; Feb 5, 12)

Lothario a wandering minstrel

Arthur Winckworth (Jan 29; Feb 5, 12)

Jarno a gypsy

Miller Reid (Jan 29)

Antonio a servant

Leslie Austin (Jan 29)

Performance DatesMignon 1912

Map List

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

29 Jan, 19.30

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

5 Feb, 19.30

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

12 Feb, 19.30 23 Feb, 19.30

Grand Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

6 Mar, 19.30 14 Mar, 19.30

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