Popularising comic opera in Cape Town: the 1887 season of the Searelle Opera Company

Published in: Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa
Volume 15, issue 1-2, 2018 , pages: 41–58
DOI: 10.2989/18121004.2018.1534337
Author(s): Frederick HaleNorth-West University, South Africa


The transplantation of nineteenth-century comic opera to South Africa remains largely undocumented. This article takes steps towards addressing this lacuna as part of a larger contribution to the relatively inchoate field of South African opera studies. By examining the first extended season of light opera in Cape Town, namely that put on by the British and Australian Searelle Opera Company in 1887, it is argued that the company’s successful staging of more than a dozen works in a season which lasted over six months and encompassed 162 performances can be attributed to several factors. Among these were its emphasis on comic operas of chiefly French and British origin (especially those by Gilbert and Sullivan), which had attracted large audiences in the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States of America and elsewhere. Other contributing factors were the flexibility of the company’s repertoire and the use of ancillary entertainment, not the least of which were violin performances by the Hungarian virtuoso, Ede Reményi.

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