Cagli Italian Opera Company

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The Cagli Italian Opera Company was a visiting opera company, headed by the Italian impresario Augusto Cagli (fl 1865–85)[1] (also known as Signor Cagli) and active in Cape Town during 1875-6.

Signor Augusto Cagli

Augusto Cagli (fl 1865–85)[2] (also known as Signor Cagli) was an Italian impresario who worked extensively in the East, performing in India round about 1867-9 (where Cagli gave an extended season of Italian opera in Calcutta in the spring and summer of 1866 and tried to establish a regular opera company there by presenting autumn and winter seasons up to 1871). In Melbourne, Australia he joined joined forces with Giovanni Pompei, to do and do a season in Australia in 1871-2 as "Cagli & Pompei's Royal Italian Opera Company", but the partnership did not last, so he went on his own, apparently to rather disasterous results. In Australian sources from the same period, the company is also variously (and rather oddly) referred to as the "Italian Opera Company of Cagli and Pompeii", the "Pompie Cagli Italian Opera Company" or the "Cagli Pompey Company".

The Cagli Italian Opera Company in South Africa

A company known locally as the Cagli Italian Opera Company stopped in Cape Town in 1875, probably enroute from the East. Since no mention is made of a second partner in South African sources, it is assumed that Cagli came to South Africa with his own company, which included the soprano Margherita Zenoni (c. 1827–1878)[3], and the company seemingly played to some success, as his was the first professional opera company to perform in the city.

In Cape Town Cagli rented the half-completed new venue in the Cape Town Institute and Club in Burg Street and completed the renovations in 1875, the company opening the new 1500 seater theatre on 11 November with a season of Italian opera and ballet that ended in April 1876. According to Hale (2015), performances of works by Verdi, Donizetti, Rossini, and other renowned composers initially drew large audiences to the theatre and reviews from local critics were enthusiastic. However, this did not last and before the end of the first season attendance had dwindled and did not improve in 1876.

Cagli released the Burg Street Theatre to Roebuck in May 1876 and presumably departed soon after, and would later return to India to perform there.


F.C.L. Bosman, 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 300, 304, 320, 343-4, 349, 352.

Nicholas Tarling. 2015. Orientalism and the Operatic World. Rowman & Littlefield: pp. 34-6[4]

Frederick Hale. 2015. "Italian grand opera at the Cape of Good Hope : the 1875 and 1876 Cagli seasons ", South African Journal of Cultural History, Volume 29, Issue 1, Jun 2015, p. 58 - 73[5]

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