Opera Scotland

Tales of Hoffmann 1956Carl Rosa Opera Company

Read more about the opera Tales of Hoffmann

One of the most highly esteemed British films in the years after the war was the treatment of Tales of Hoffmann by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, with a soundtrack conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham.  It is hardly surprising that the Carl Rosa company should take advantage of this to put on a show which would be more adventurous than the usual Saturday evening "pop".

What was even more praiseworthy was the fact that, under the guidance of conductor Arthur Hammond, an acknowledged expert on French opera of the period, an attempt was made to restore many of Offenbach's first intentions, which subsequent editors had adjusted after his death.  Thus Guiraud's tedious recitatives were jettisoned in favour of the original dialogue - and the acts were at last played in the correct order, with the Giulietta act following the central  Antonia act.

'Furthermore, an attempt was made to tighten the structure by having Estelle Valery now sing all four heroines,  Arthur Wallington all four villains, and Edwin Jepps the four servants.  The Barcarolle was sung by two anonymous voices instead of the rather illogical combination of Giulietta and Nicklausse.  Perhaps the only problem dramatically was still the issue as to whether Nicklausse is the Muse of Poetry - in this case they were clearly two separate personages.


The Glasgow Opinion

The review in the Glasgow Herald (10 May) argued the performance "may not have encompassed all the drama and excitement of Offenbach's creation, but there was still much to recommend it.   If the passionate nature of Hoffmann was not always apparent in George Chitty's acting, his splendid singing did much to build up a convincing character.  The vastly different roles of Olympia, Antonia, Giulietta and Stella, who succeed one another in the poet's affections, were all entrusted to Estelle Valery.  She scored a considerable success in her difficult task, by her stage presence as well as vocally."

"Arthur Wallington gave the right malignancy to the evil influences in Hoffmann's affairs, and Mona Ross's was a sympathetic study of Nicklausse. The orchestra, under Arthur Hammond, gave good service throughout the evening."



The performance was on the final Saturday evening of the stay, so no critic would be expected to attend, or at least publish a review.  Fortunately a copy of the programme has survived in the Dundee City Archives.


The Carl Rosa Opera Company in Scotland - 1956

Unusually, the tour elements were split many months apart, with Glasgow in May and Dundee October.

The eleven operas toured during the season were by Mozart (Don Giovanni);  Rossini (Barber of Seville); Wagner (Tannhäuser);  Verdi (Rigoletto,  Trovatore);  Gounod (Faust);  Offenbach (Tales of Hoffmann);  Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);  Puccini (Manon Lescaut,  Bohème);  Mascagni (Cavalleria Rusticana).

A comparison with the previous 1955 touring repertoire shows that in order to add the rare Manon Lescaut the far more popular Carmen was dropped.  It is noticeable that Tannhäuser is not taken to Dundee in either year, though it was played there often enough in the early decades of the century.

The full Scottish tour schedule was:

Glasgow, w/c 7 May:  Mon 7 Cav & Pag;  Tue 8 Don Giovanni;  Wed 9 Tales of Hoffmann;  Thu 10 Manon Lescaut;  Fri 11 Barber of Seville;  Sat 12 mat Don Giovanni;  Sat 12 eve Rigoletto.

Glasgow, w/c 14 May;  Mon 14 Faust;  Tue 15 Tannhäuser;  Wed 16 Bohème;  Thu 17 Barber of Seville;  Fri 18 Manon Lescaut;  Sat 19 mat Cav & Pag;  Sat 19 eve Trovatore.

Dundee, w/c 22 October:  Mon 22 Faust;  Tue 23  Barber of Seville;  Wed 24 Cav & Pag;  Thu 25 Don Giovanni;  Fri 26 Manon Lescaut;  Sat 27 mat Bohème;  Sat 27 eve Tales of Hoffmann

Performance Cast

Stella an opera singer

Estelle Valery (May 9; Oct 27 e)

Nicklausse Hoffmann's friend

Mona Ross (May 9; Oct 27 e)

Hoffmann's Muse

Valerie Griffiths Oct 27 e)

Lindorf a councillor of Nuremberg

Arthur Wallington (May 9; Oct 27 e)

Andrès Stella's servant

Edwin Jepps (Oct 27 e)

Luther an innkeeoer

Basil Hemming (Oct 27 e)

Nathaniel a student

Arthur Thelwell (Oct 27 e)

Hermann a student

Peter Tracey (Oct 27 e)

Wilhelm a student

Sidney Cross (Oct 27 e)

Hoffmann a poet

George Chitty (May 9; Oct 27 e)

Olympia a doll

Estelle Valery (May 9; Oct 27 e)

Spalanzani an Italian inventor

Frederick Wood (Oct 27 e)

Cochenille Spalanzani's servant

Edwin Jepps (Oct 27 e)

Coppélius a scientist, Spalanzani's rival

Arthur Wallington (May 9; Oct 27 e)

Antonia Crespel's daughter

Estelle Valery (May 9; Oct 27 e)

Crespel a councillor of Munich

Donald Campbell (Oct 27 e)

Franz Crespel's servant

Edwin Jepps (Oct 27 e)

Dr Miracle a doctor

Arthur Wallington (May 9; Oct 27 e)

Antonia's mother a spirit voice

Julia Bouttell (Oct 27 e)

First Voice on the lagoon

Nancy Creighton (Oct 27 e)

Second Voice on the lagoon

Julia Bouttell (Oct 27 e)

Giulietta a courtesan

Estelle Valery (May 9; Oct 27 e)

Schlemil Giulietta's lover

Frederick Wood (Oct 27 e)

Pitichinaccio Giulietta's admirer

Edwin Jepps (Oct 27 e)

Dapertutto a sorcerer

Arthur Wallington (May 9; Oct 27 e)

Performance DatesTales of Hoffmann 1956

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

9 May, 19.15

Gaumont Theatre | Dundee

27 Oct, 19.00

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