OP0317. THE BOATSWAIN'S MATE – Excerpts (Smyth), recorded 1919, w.Rosina Buckman, Frederick Ranalow, Courtice Pounds, etc.; MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE - Excerpts (Messager), recorded 1916, w. Buckman, Fraser Gange & Ernest Pike. (England) Palaeophonics 73. Excellently transferred from the legendary Acoustic 78rpm rarities.
“THE BOATSWAIN'S MATE is an opera in one act written by British composer and suffragette Ethel Smyth in 1913–14. It was Smyth's fourth and most unabashedly feminist opera. The piece centers around a humorous battle of the sexes featuring a feisty and resourceful heroine, based loosely on Emmeline Pankhurst, who outwits her scheming suitor.
THE BOATSWAIN'S MATE was first performed at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London on 28 January 1916, under Ethel Smyth. Thomas Beecham entrusted the première to Eugene Goossens but on the day '…the composer herself elected to conduct the première of her work—much to my annoyance, as I had taken all the preliminary orchestral rehearsals. At the last moment she took over the baton, thinking herself the Heaven-sent conductor she was not.' [-Sir Eugene Goossens. OVERTURE AND BEGINNERS: a musical autobiography, Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1951 p. 117]
It was performed with full orchestra and chorus a number of times at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in the 1920s.
Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) occupies an absolutely central place in the history of British women’s music. In terms of professionalism, ambition and achievement she was in a completely different league from the female composers who preceded her, and she has gone on proving an inspiration and influence to those who came after her. In recent decades, her significance and abilities have been demonstrated by a series of recordings and rapidly increasing academic interest. There is no doubt that, with the general boom in women’s music, and the fact that her music goes out of copyright, we will be hearing a lot more of Smyth in the future.
Although a good deal of Smyth’s music is now available on record, the genre with which she was most preoccupied and identified, opera, is very poorly represented. Of her six operas, only one has been recorded entire: the magnificent WRECKERS. That recording was made twenty years ago and we believe it high time for more of Smyth’s operatic work to be available. The outstanding candidate is the immediate successor to THE WRECKERS, THE BOATSWAIN’S MATE (1916), Smyth’s most tuneful and humorous work. The relationship between these two very different operas has well been described as closely analogous to that between PETER GRIMES and ALBERT HERRING. THE BOATSWAIN’S MATE was completed in 1914 and first performed in January 1916 so it has particular resonance now, a century later, with interest in the culture of the First World War very high.”
- David Chandler, RETROSPECT OPERA
"Nellie Melba and her leading tenor, John McCormack, were highly impressed with New Zealander Rosina Buckman's singing and after much persuasion from each of them she eventually returned to Britain in mid 1912. There she soon obtained work, including an engagement conducted by Thomas Beecham. An audition at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden led to supporting rôles in a special Wagner series in early 1914. This was followed by the normal summer repertoire in which she made her début on 20 April as Musetta to Melba's Mimi in Puccini's LA BOHÈME; she went on to sing in three other operas. Beecham eventually formed an opera company of his own from British singers he believed to be the finest of the day and he selected Rosina Buckman as a principal dramatic soprano. With the post-war reopening of Covent Garden in May 1919, Buckman alternated the leading rôle in LA BOHÈME with Nellie Melba. Among other operas at Covent Garden over the next 12 months she also sang MADAMA BUTTERFLY in a performance in English which was said to be a revelation to the regular subscribers.
MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE is a romantic opera in three acts, composed by André Messager. The piece premiered at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Birmingham, England, on 7 April 1919, before opening at the Prince's Theatre in London under the management of Frank Curzon on 19 April 1919, then transferring to the Palace Theatre on 29 July 1919, for a successful run."
- Ned Ludd
“A gentleman farmer with a love of Edwardian and early Twentieth Century music has created a home industry of preserving early Musical and Revue scores as recorded on 78 and cylinder, the latter of which he is certainly a specialist. It is an impressive list of shows that Dominic Combe has digitalised and issued on Compact Disc. Not only is it the recordings but the lovingly created books that attach.
Early theatre recordings abound in Great Britain, more so than in the United States where it took them some time to start recording original cast material. And so, many early scores are available to be heard. But what Dominic discovered when he started assembling these scores was that often latter day British 78 and cylinder record collectors turned their noses up on recordings of dance music or covers and ‘best of’ or ‘gems’ making them hard to find. And, it is those recordings which can often contain songs not otherwise recorded. He has built strong connections with other collectors willing to lend material to make each issue as complete as possible.
Modern equipment and an aptitude for perfection have helped Dominic ‘clean up’ old 78 and cylinder records to deliver a sound quality that can be stunning. The booklets are produced with as much care by using original theatre programmes or magazines such as PLAY PICTORIAL and MUSIC FOR ALL so that the listener can get a good idea of how the show looked as well as to see the unique art work used to advertise the show back then.
Dominic has issued over fifty of these gems and still has titles either being completed or awaiting to be started on. The label is called PALAEOPHONICS.”
- y phayward, OVERTURES: The Bunnet-Muir Musical Theatre Archive Trust, 10 July, 2017