From a comedy of errors to tragedy: the cessation of Italian opera in Cape Town in 1877
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The history of grand Italian opera (opera seria) in South Africa remains largely unwritten. With regard to the pre-Union period, the few scholarly investigations into this topic have revealed that European touring companies held brief seasons in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth, and other cities. Probably owing to the lack of an adequate clientele, however, the commercial results were generally quite limited. In the latter half of the1870s the Italian impresario Augusto Cagli presented grand opera for three consecutive years with diminishing success from 1875 to 1877. This article presents evidence to show why success was elusive, despite considerable public interest in this art form. It is argued that a combination of factors, such as the size of the population, natural causes, and mismanagement on the part of the overstretched Cagli doomed his enterprise.
- Faculty of Theology