Opera Scotland

Cavalleria Rusticana 1955Carl Rosa Opera Company

Read more about the opera Cavalleria Rusticana

A Glasgow Point of View

The Glasgow Herald reviewer (5 May) thought the performance was worthy of a much larger attendance than it had: 

''The almost primitive emotions that run riot can be a stumbling block to a satisfactory performance by a British company, but here we find the robust, dramatic staging and the acting necessary to convey their full impact..........Particularly noticeable in the Mascagni was the work of a young newcomer, Irene Lorimer, whose fine voice was heard to great effect in the role of Santuzza.  Others who might be singled out were George Chitty (Turiddu)  amd David Allan (Alfio).......Maurits Sillem conducted the orcheatra.  The playing was sensitive, and almost always well balanced with the stage.''


Ruth Packer was a highly-regarded dramatic soprano who trained in Vienna before the war and became a notable teacher in the decades following her retirement.  The Dutch-born conductor also played an important role in maintaining musical standards in this country, working successively with Glyndebourne, Carl Rosa, Sadler's Wells and Covent Garden.

Unlike the newly re-introduced Dundee venue, the Glasgow Theatre Royal was a regular feature of Carl Rosa tours.  Works shown only in Glasgow were Don Giovanni, Carmen, The Tales of Hoffmann and Tannhäuser.  Both cities saw Bohème, Barber of Seville, Cav & Pag, Rigoletto, Trovatore and Faust.



The highlight of the Carl Rosa tour of 1955 was the inclusion of several communities which had slipped off the circuit. Gaumont Cinemas had become aware that they owned several buildings that were still fully equipped with stages, and a decision was taken to allow a varied diet of live performance for six weeks every year.  These included the Southend Odeon and Brighton Essoldo, as well as Gaumonts in Southampton, Chester, Doncaster and Preston.

The Tour

The only place in Scotland to be affected was Dundee - its Gaumont, the onetime King's Theatre, had been a very successful variety house, opening in 1909 and also staging touring shows, including opera, from 1921.  It had been acquired by a cinema company in 1928 to satisfy the apparently insatiable demand in the city for moving pictures, especially when "talkies" were beginning to appear.  It was therefore nearly thirty years since Carl Rosa had visited Dundee, even if smaller companies had appeared sporadically in other less ideal buildings.

To the surprise of many, all seven performances sold out immediately.  The company's reaction was to add an extra midweek matinee (of Barber of Seville) and to make plans for an early return visit.  This established a pattern which survived the takeover by Sadler's Wells, and continued until 1961, when the theatre was converted to a (rather unsatisfactory) wide-screen cinema and lost its stage altogether (along with many other vital features - boxes, upper circle and front-of-house space).  The irony, for opera audiences in the city, was that Scottish Opera was established in 1962, and first toured outside the central belt (to Aberdeen) as early as 1965.  Without regular feeding, the habit of opera-going in the city has gradually died.

The two-week visit to the Glasgow Theatre Royal was, by contrast, a regular feature of Carl Rosa tours. Works shown only in Glasgow were Don Giovanni, Carmen, The Tales of Hoffmann and Tannhäuser. Both cities saw Bohème, Barber of Seville, Cav & Pag, Rigoletto, Trovatore and Faust.


Press Comment - Dundee

Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Thursday, May 26, 1955

Carl Rosa Opera

'It was a “night of the long knives” at the Gaumont Theatre, Dundee last night when the Carl Rosa Opera Company presented two excellent casts in the twin opera melodramas Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci. One, and then two more, characters duly met their demise amid the flaring melodies provided by Mascagni and Leoncavallo respectively.  The high standard of the company was fully maintained, and obviously the singers and actors had been chosen to fit the parts.  Also, it was the first occasion that we were able to enjoy a session with the complete chorus.  Their volume and flexibility impressed in the Easter Hymn of Cavalleria and later in the fine part writing in Pagliacci.

'It's a matter of taste which you prefer of these two operas. But Cavalleria has to be done well not to be forgotten as a mere curtain-raiser to Pagliacci, which is slightly longer and gives more scope for characterisation. That the first performance was not lost sight of was due to telling dramatic singing by the soprano Ruth Packer.  Both she and George Chitty, as Turiddu, a robust tenor, gave the arias and duets their due surge of excitement.  David Allen was in fine voice as the baritone Alfio, and the Lola, Patricia Grimshaw, made one wish to hear more of her.

'Tenor John Myrrdyn’s Canio in Pagliacci was affectively tragic.  His “On With the Motley” aria, delivered with the intensity of tone that satisfied tradition, also contained the stuff of its bitter despair.  Later, in the play within the play, he fashioned Canio's gradual loss of self-control into a powerful climax.  The Nedda was Gita de la Fuente, a soprano with dramatic skill and volume to give it emphasis.

'Joseph Satariano, whose Rigoletto was so impressive on Tuesday, played another order of jester last night when he appeared as Tonio. This, too, was a highly individualised performance, opulent in vocal skill as in characterisation.  The Prologue was happily not torn to dramatic tatters by him, and it contained a baritone top G as good as one could hear anywhere. John Heddle Nash (baritone), smooth and uniform in tone as Silvio, and Arthur Thelwell as Beppo, completed the cast.  Maurits Sillem's conducting ensured an artistic orchestral evening.'


Dundee Evening Telegraph: Thursday, May 26, 1955  

Grand Opera “Twins”

'The Carl Rosa Opera Company last night presented the popular “twins” of the Grand Opera repertoire Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci in the Gaumont Theatre. It was the first time this week that we had heard the company's chorus singers to any great extent. Both operas excel in soaring romantic melodies and one felt that occasionally the concerted items just missed the essential thrill of this highly emotional music. The famous “Easter Hymn” in particular was shaded down rather too much, and the choir-like grouping of the singers here tended to divorce it too pointedly from the general action of the opera. The quality of the chorus's singing could not be denied, however, and all their work bore clear evidence of excellent training.

'In Cavalleria Rusticana acting and vocal honours were evenly shared between Ruth Packer as Santuzza and David Allen as Alfio. The former gave a moving interpretation of a role which requires both a wide range of singing voice and a lively dramatic sense. David Allen has a delightfully resonant baritone voice and his were the clearest words we have had so far this week. George Chitty brought the true bel canto style of singing to the rather unsympathetic role of Turiddu, and other fine voices in the cast belonged to Margaret Winkler and Patricia Grimshaw.

'So many of the world's great tenors have played Canio that I Pagliacci tends, for many of us, to become a mere vehicle for contrasting their singing styles. Last night, however, vocal honours were more evenly spread over the whole cast. Who can fail to respond to the thrilling strains of the Prologue, or to the heart-breaking appeal of “On With The Motley” as sung by Joseph Satariano as Tonio (he substituted for Redvers Llewellyn) and John Myrrdyn as Canio? Both singers have exceptionally fine voices, but one could have wished them to have exaggerated their interpretations a little. Tonio ought to have been rather more evil, and Canio rather more distraught to justify the subsequent tragedy of the play.

'Gita de la Fuente's Nedda, on the other hand, seemed to achieve just the right blend of shallowness and obstinacy required. A very fine impression was made by John Heddle Nash, as Silvio. In his short appearance as Beppo Arthur Thelwell was very much at ease. Maurits Sillem was at his sensitive best at the conductor's desk.'


The Carl Rosa Scottish Schedule - 1955

The eleven operas performed during the tour were:  Mozart (Don Giovanni);  Rossini (Barber of Seville);  Wagner (Tannhäuser);  Verdi (RigolettoTrovatore);  Gounod (Faust);  Offenbach (Tales of Hoffmann);  Bizet (Carmen);   Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);  Puccini (Bohème);  Mascagni (Cavalleria Rusticana).

The full Scottish tour schedule was:

Glasgow, w/c 2 May:  Mon 2 Bohème;  Tue 3 Barber of Seville;  Wed 4 Cav & Pag;  Thu 5 Faust; Fri 6 Tannhäuser;  Sat 7 mat Bohème;  Sat 7 eve Carmen.

Glasgow, w/c 9 May:  Mon 9 Tales of Hoffmann;  Tue 10 Rigoletto;  Wed 11 Bohème;  Thu 12 Cav & Pag;  Fri 13 Don Giovanni;  Sat 14 mat  Barber of Seville;  Sat 14 eve Trovatore.

The intervening week, commencing Monday, 16 May, was spent at the Globe Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees.

Dundee, w/c 23 May:  Mon 23 Bohème;  Tue 24 Rigoletto;  Wed 25 mat Barber of Seville;  Wed 25 eve Cav & Pag;  Thu 26 Faust;  Fri 27 Barber of Seville; Sat 28 mat Bohème;  Sat 28 eve Trovatore.



Glasgow Herald (5 May) and Dundee Courier and Advertiser (26 May).

Performance Cast

Santuzza a village girl

Ruth Packer (May 25)

Irene Lorimer (May 4)

Mamma Lucia the innkeeper, Turiddu’s mother

Margaret Winkler (May 4, 25)

Alfio the village carter

David Allen (May 4, 25)

Turiddu a young soldier

George Chitty (May 4, 25)

Lola Alfio’s wife

Patricia Grimshaw (May 4, 25)

Performance DatesCavalleria Rusticana 1955

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

4 May, 19.30 12 May, 19.30

Gaumont Theatre | Dundee

25 May, 19.00

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