Italian grand opera at the Cape of Good Hope : the 1875 and 1876 Cagli seasons
The history of Italian grand opera (opera seria) remains a woefully underexplored topic in the cultural historiography of South Africa. The present article is intended to fill one of the many gaps by exploring the first two years of an ambitious undertaking by an Italian impresario and entrepreneur in Cape Town, Augusto Cagli, to arrange operatic seasons in the Mother City. It is demonstrated that initially the performances of works by Verdi, Donizetti, Rossini, and other renowned composers drew large audiences and received enthusiastic reviews from local critics. Before the end of the first season, however, attendance dwindled, and this lack of consistent public support continued in 1876. Adding ballet to the performances proved to be only a temporary nostrum. It is suggested, in accordance with contemporary journalistic commentary, that Cape Town at that time lacked a sufficiently large base of potential theatre-goers with sufficient musical sophistication and specific interest to sustain lengthy seasons of serious opera.
- Faculty of Theology