I posted recently about Herman Finck’s visit to Glasgow to conduct a season of performances of Edward German’s well-known opera Merrie England. I have discovered both the advertisement and the review of the opening night in the contemporary Glasgow Herald. I have adopted this opera for special consideration and study over the next few months.
The advert indicated that Merrie England commenced on 4 March 1935 at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow and continued for six nights. There were also to be matinee performances at 2 o’clock on Wednesday and Saturday. The opera was performed by the Princes Theatre London Company and starred Joseph Hislop and Enid Cruikshank. The ‘augmented’ orchestra was conducted, as we have noted, by Herman Finck. Out of interest the Grand Circle seats could be booked for 6/- (30p) and 4/6d (22½p) and the Upper Circle was a mere 3/- (15p)
On the 5 March 1935 the following review duly appeared. I quote it in full:-
There is still hope for opera in Britain if the size and enthusiasm of the audience at the performance of Merrie England last night be taken as a measure of public interest in this form of entertainment.
Edward German’s delightful comic opera was presented by the Princes Players with a singing cast, which included Joseph Hislop as Sir Walter Raleigh, Enid Cruikshank as Queen Elizabeth, W.S Percy as Walter Wilkins and Rosalinde Fuller as Jill-all-alone. The orchestra was conducted by Herman Finck.
One looked for a certain amount of Savoy tradition in the performance, since the music is in the true line of succession from Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas. One also feared that the lighter fare of musical comedy might encroach on the much better music of Edward German. There was a little of both influences last night, but not enough to take much from the real old English flavour so admirably captured by librettist and composer.
Joseph Hislop sang splendidly, and acted with an ease which was altogether free from the heavier style of grand opera. Enid Cruikshank, like Joseph Hislop, is experienced in opera, and at times one felt that she underlined her part overmuch. Her singing was excellent in its breadth and dignity.
Miss Fuller deserves a special word for the clever waywardness of her playing in the difficult part of Jill-all-alone. The other characters were all equally good, singing with a clear appreciation of the fact that comic opera is entertainment, and as such every word must be distinct.
In the concerted items and choruses the tone and ensemble were so good that one wondered if, when we do save opera in this country, it may not come by means of the sprightly rhythms and geniality of works such as Merrie England.
Herman Finck, the conductor, although well known for his work at Drury Lane, is making his first visit to Glasgow with this production. He had fine command of his forces in the orchestra and on the stage and the work moved with rhythmic unity. Merrie England has made an excellent beginning of the week’s run at the King’s.
This is the end of the cluster of posts about Finck, Rachmaninoff and Edward German – at least for a wee while.