Boatswain's Mate;   Monsieur Beaucaire   (Buckman)    (Palaeophonics 73)
Item# OP0317
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Boatswain's Mate;   Monsieur Beaucaire   (Buckman)    (Palaeophonics 73)
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

“If you are interested in what original audiences of early 20th century English operetta and musical comedy heard, there is a great source for such recordings – the record label Paleophonics. Dominic Combe prepares CDs for them from his huge collection of shellacs and a few cylinders.

I came across these somewhat hard-to-find CDs on the website of the mail-order company NORBECK, PETERS AND FORD, ( which is specialized in historical performances from the beginning of recorded sound all the way through to the 1960s.

There are now over fifty Paleophonics CDs, and more are being prepared or scheduled for future release. Each CD comes with a lavishly illustrated program booklet with reviews, information about the shows and fantastic publicity photographs, and artwork from the original London productions, in the form of reproductions of the magazine PLAY PICTORIAL.”