Opera Scotland

Barbiere di Siviglia 1955Carl Rosa Opera Company

Read more about the opera Barber of Seville

It might have seemed likely that the Carl Rosa company would have treated an old war-horse like The Barber as a matter of routine, especially when this short Scottish visit included Dundee for the first time in decades.  Not so, however, for the company chose this season to experiment with the restoration of the role of Rosina to its original mezzo-soprano pitch - by no means standard practice at the time.

This was the first visit to Dundee by the Carl Rosa Company since 1928.  The seven scheduled performances sold out weeks in advance and so the company added an extra Wednesday matinee performance of the Barber.  This too sold out but at least allowed a school party from Madras College in St Andrews to attend.


The Glasgow Press Perspective

According to the review in the Glasgow Herald (4 May):

"After an uninspiring start with some discrepancies in the orchestra and stridency of string tone during the overture, followed by some flat singing at the beginning of the street scene, the opera settled down to provide a most enjoyable evening.   There were many excellent qualities, pace and vitality, and well-managed clowning.   Both the singing and acting of the principals - David Allan as Figaro,  Odette Ansell as Rosina,  Joseph Satariano as Dr Bartolo,  William Aitken as Count Almaviva, and  Stanislav Pieczora as Don Basilio - were consistently good, and most of the words were clearly audible.   The opera was conducted by John Bell."


Unlike the newly re-introduced Dundee venue, the Glasgow Theatre Royal was a regular fixture for 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.


A Brief Dundee Review

Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Saturday, May 28, 1955

The Barber of Seville at its most sparkling

'It was a gay evening’s music and colour at the Gaumont Theatre, Dundee last night, with the Carl Rosa Opera Company’s production of Rossini’s Barber of Seville catching both its exuberance and its witty elegance.  The comedy was refined and speedy; the recits made to sparkle as much as the arias and concerted pieces.  Also, the orchestra, conducted by John Bell, was happy in realising the delicacies of the scoring.  We were able to hear a surprising amount of the English translation, which was no small feat by the singers, considering the pace and complexity of Rossini’s ensembles.

'Specially delightful was the faintly ironic tinge imparted to the comedy.  Perhaps the composer had that in view when he made Figaro sing so portentously “Now we’re almost dead with rapture”.  Figaro, the “masterly intriguer”, was sung and acted by John Heddle Nash with a bubbling gaiety that was captivating.  He had the true animal spirits of Rossini’s music, and his tone was pleasantly unforced all evening.  The famous patter song, “I’m the Factotum”, came trippingly from him with many musical graces.  Joseph Satariano, whom we saw earlier as the tragic Rigoletto, here showed his versatility in a richly comic version of Doctor Bartolo.  He made the testy old guardian a brilliant vocal and visual caricature.

'Odette Ansell as Rosina, and William Aitken as the Count, made engaging play with the florid coloratura numbers for soprano and tenor. The Don Basilio was Richard Golding, who provided an amusing study of the “calumny” aria, “Slander’s Whisper”.  Patricia Grimshaw, with a fine voice, made the most of her chances as Bartolo’s servant.  Frederick Wood and Peter Murray completed the cast.

Dundee Evening Telegraph: Saturday, May 28, 1955    No Review

The Carl Rosa Scottish Schedule - 1955

The eleven operas performed during the tour were:  Mozart (Don Giovanni);  Rossini (Barber of Seville);  Wagner (Tannhäuser);  Verdi (Rigoletto, Trovatore);  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.


The complete cast is drawn from a copy of the Dundee programme in the OperaScotland archive; and the story of the school trip from the St Andrews Citizen of 29 May.

Performance Cast

Fiorello servant of the Count

Frederick Wood (May 27)

Count Almaviva a young nobleman

William Aitken (May 27)

Figaro a barber

David Allen (May 3)

John Heddle Nash (May 27)

Rosina Bartolo's ward

Odette Ansell (May 27)

Bartolo a doctor, Rosina's guardian

Joseph Satariano (May 27)

Ambrogio Bartolo's servant

Peter Murray (May 27)

Don Basilio a singing teacher

Richard Golding (May 27)

Berta Bartolo's housekeeper

Patricia Grimshaw (May 27)


Frederick Wood (May 27)

Production Cast


John Bell (May 27)

Performance DatesBarbiere di Siviglia 1955

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

3 May, 19.30 14 May, 14.30

Gaumont Theatre | Dundee

25 May, 14.00 27 May, 19.00

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