Das Geheimnis

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Das Geheimnis ("the secret") is a German play in five acts by Christian August Vulpius (1762 – 1827)[1].

The original text

Presumably first performed at the Hoftheater, in Leipzig in 1800, and published in Leipzig in 1800. It is not often cited among his better works.

(Confusingly: Vulpius also produced the French one-act opera Le Secret (Hoffman and Solié, 1796), under the title Das Geheimnis the Hoftheater, in Leipzig in 1805.)

Translations and adaptations

Translated into English as The Mystery by M. Geisweiler c. 1800.

Translated into Dutch as Het Geheim by an unknown author.

Performances in South Africa

1855: Performed as Het Geheim on Tuesday 12 June by Door Yver Bloeit de Kunst in the Garrison Theatre, Cape Town. It was stipulated as a tragedy in five acts and credited to "the author of Rinaldini" (i.e. Vulpius). Also performed were De Helleveeg (Loosjes) and Het Groot Ballet. The evening was in support of the "Patriotic Fund" for the Crimean War (see Balaclava Benefit Performances). The production was possibly repeated on 28 June. (Bosman, 1928: 462, does mention Het Geheim, a one act Dutch version of Le Secret by F.B.Hoffman, but this is unlikely to have the play performed.)

From here on there is some uncertainty about any further productions of this work in South Africa. From 1867 onwards F.C.L. Bosman (1980), and presumably the company (Door Yver Bloeit de Kunst), claim that the play performed by various incarnations of Door Yver Bloeit de Kunst between 1855 and 1910 was a "tragedy in five acts". If this is correct, it does suggest that the play produced was in actual fact this 5-act tragedy by Vulvius, and not Un Secret ("A Secret") , a three act play by Fournier and Arnould, as Bosman states in his 1980 history. (The Dutch version is also a three act play.)

However, since we have nothing but these contradictory assertions by Bosman to go on, we list all productions of the play called Het Geheim here and as well as under Un Secret, for the record.

1867: Het Geheim produced by Door Yver Bloeit de Kunst at the Theatre Royal, Cape Town on 26 June, with Uilenspiegel (Von Kotzebue).

1867: Het Geheim produced by Door Yver Bloeit de Kunst at the Theatre Royal, Cape Town on 16 July, with Het Bankroet van den Schoenlapper (Martainville).

1896: Het Geheim produced by Door Yver Bloeit de Kunst at the new Opera House, Cape Town on 7 July, with De Sint Nicolaas Avond, of Het Bezoek door den Schoorsteen (Kup).

1910: Het Geheim produced as the last production by Door Yver Bloeit de Kunst under the leadership of the 71 year old Johan Combrink, at the Good Hope Theatre 2 June and repeated on 4 June, followed by a ballet by 16 children cheoreographed by Jno Combrink and accompanied by the musical corps of F.H. Boonzaier. The critic D.C. Boonzaier wrote a devastating criticism of what was apparently a ludicrous melodrama, badly presented, though other critics weren't as negative.


D.C. Boonzaier, 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1923. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [2]: pp. 462-3

F.C.L. Bosman, 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II: 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 443-4, 452


Kulturstiftung der Länder: Bibliothek der Deutschen Literatur - Bibliographie und Register, p. 423[3]

Facsimile of the German text of 1800 (Google eBook)[4]

Facsimile version of the French text of 1840 (Google eBook)[5]

Louis B. Petit,Catalogus Der Bibliotheek Van de Maatschappij Der Nederlandsche Letterkunde Te Leiden, (Part 2): p. 78 (Google eBook)[6]

J.A. Worp, Geschiedenis van het drama en van het tooneel in Nederland. Deel 2.P. 431[7]

Facsimile version of the 1840 Dutch translation by De Bruine, Google E-book[8]

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