Torquil: A Scandinavian Dramatic Legend
Torquil: A Scandinavian Dramatic Legend. Opera by Charles A.E. Harriss on a text by Edward Oxenford. This two-and-a-half-hour work (which, the composer stipulates on the score, 'may be sung by Choral Societies but must be given without Costume or Action') was published in 1896 by Whaley Royce. It was premiered, in an orchestration possibly by the Boston flutist Paul Fox, at Massey Hall, Toronto, 22 May 1900, by the Boston Festival Orchestra, Torrington's Festival Chorus, and soloists - Flora Provan (soprano), Isabella Boulton (contralto), Leon Moore (tenor), and Gwilym Miles (bass) - under the composer's baton. The work was repeated with the same orchestra and soloists in Ottawa at the Russell Theatre the following day and at the Montreal Arena 25 May, assisted in each city by a large local choir. All three performances were for the benefit of families of soldiers fighting in South Africa, and, at least in Ottawa, the performers were draped patriotically in red, white, and blue. Despite its subtitle, Torquil betrays no attempt by the composer to capture a Scandinavian musical idiom. Influences range from Mendelssohn to Wagner and contemporary parlour song. Only the vocal score is extant, and Dorith Cooper has edited five excerpts from it for CMH vol 10. In her introduction to this volume, Cooper remarks on the predominance of choral episodes, which occur in 10 of the 23 numbers. She concludes that despite its serious intent and some attractive features, Torquil is an 'uneven and flawed score which clearly suffers from an admixture of styles.' An excerpt from the second-act finale, orchestrated by Godfrey Ridout, was performed in 1965 on CBC radio.