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There are two closely related theatrical works from the early 19th century, both best known by the abbreviated title Fanchon

Fanchon la Vielleuse (1803)

Fanchon la Vielleuse ("Fanchon the hurdy-gurdy[1] player") a vaudeville piece in three acts written by Jean-Nicolas Bouilly (1763-1842) and Joseph Maria Pain (1773-1830), with music composed and arranged by Joseph-Denis Doche (1766-1825).

The original text

The French piece was first performed at the Théâtre du Vaudeville, Paris, on 18 January 1803, and published in Paris by Barba in the same year. Based on an actual young singer, the play tells of the adventures and tribulations of a Savoyard waif who becomes rich singing in the boulevards of Paris.

Translations and adaptations

It became the source for Von Kotzebue's libretto for Himmel's Singspiel Fanchon das Leyermädchen (see below)

Performance history in South Africa

Fanchon das Leyermädchen (1804)

Fanchon das Leyermädchen ("Fanchon the lyre player") is German Singspiel ("ballad opera") in three acts by Friedrich Heinrich Himmel (1765–1814)[2], with a libretto by August von Kotzebue (1761-1819)[], based on the French play by Bouilly and Pain.

Though generally referred to simply as Fanchon, the German work originally had the working title of Fanchon das Leyermaedchen (a "Lustspiel mit Gesang"), but seems to be most opten to be found under the alternative full title of Fanchon das Leyermädchen (an "Oper(ette) nach dem französischen Vaudeville") and even Fanchon oder das Leyermädel.

The original text

The German singspiel, using a libretto by August von Kotzebue, was composed in 1804 and first performed in Berlin at the National Theatre on 5 May, 1804.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1890: Performed as Fanchon (probably in English translation) by the Verdi Opera Company in the Vaudeville Theatre, Cape Town during August, with Emilie Melville in the leading role.


Facsimile version of the original 1803 edition of the vaudeville comedy, Google Books[3]

"Himmel, Friedrich Heinrich" in Opening Night! Opera & Oratorio Premieres, Stanford University Libraries[4]

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 1932. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: p.391

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