Fra Diavolo

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Fra Diavolo (lit. "Brother Devil") is the name of a character who appears in a number of theatrical works. Often the name is included in the title of the play, or is used as the name of a play.

The name is also found as Frà Diavolo

The character Fra Diavolo

Fra Diavolo was the nickname given to a guerilla leader/brigand actually named Michele Pezza (1771–1806), and depending on the source, he was either an Italian soldier turned guerilla fighter and patriot, or he was a brigand who was made into a hero by his exploits against the French. Pezza figures prominently in Italian and French folk lore and fiction. He appears in several works of Alexandre Dumas for example, including The Last Cavalier, and Washington Irving's short story "The Inn at Terracina".

The plays about Fra Diavolo

Fra Diavolo, ou l’Hôtellerie de Terracine by Auber and Scribe

The original text

This is perhaps the most famous stage version and was written by by Daniel-François-Esprit Auber and Eugène Scribe. It was first performed on 28 January, 1830 in the Opéra-Comique in Paris, and many times afterwards, in many languages.

Performances in South Africa

Fra Diavolo, or The Banditti of the Abrouzes by Dejean and Guerroluch

The original text

Fra Diavolo, or The Banditti of the Abrouzes was a "Grand Historical Pantomime" in two acts originally devised by a company referred to as "the Circus Theatre of Paris" (probably the Cirque des Champs-Elysées or the Cirque Olympique, both run by Louis Dejean[1]), to music by Guerroluch.

The performance dealt with the twenty-nine days' chase of the elusive guerilla leader/brigand Fra Diavolo (lit. "Brother Devil") by a company led by Colonel Hugo (the father of Victor Hugo) and his ultimate capture and execution.

Performances in South Africa

1850: Performed a number of times in Cape Town and possibly elsewhere in the region, between October and December, by a visiting circus company called the Equestrian Gymnastics. According to the advertisement in the South African Commercial Advertiser[2] of 19 October 1850, it consisted of "Grand Military Evolutions by upwards of Sixty Actors on Foot and on Horseback."

Fra Diavolo, or The Beauty and the Brigands by Byron

The original text

Fra Diavolo, or The Beauty and the Brigands is a burlesque burletta by Henry James Byron (1835-1884)[3], based on Scriber and Auber's comic opera Fra Diavolo, ou l'Hotellêrie de Terracine. Also referred to as Beauty and the Brigands or Fra Diavolo.

It was first performed at The Strand Theatre, London on 5 April, 1858, revived on 10 September 1860. Published by T. H. Lacy in 1858.

Performances in South Africa

1860: Scenes from the burletta were performed by M'Collum's Circus during August, as accompaniment to a performance of the "laughable extravaganza La Rendezvous", along with various tableaux (such as Mont au Ciel and Harlequin Statue, etc.).

1861: Performed in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town by the Royal Alfred Dramatic Club on 10 January with Dido, Queen of Carthage and A Night at Notting Hill (Yates and Harrington).


Facsimile version of Fra Diavolo, or The Beauty and the Brigands by Lacy, Hathitrust Digital Library[4]

Patrick Bridgwater. 2013. The German Gothic Novel in Anglo-German Perspective. Amsterdam: Ropdopi: pp 435-6.[5]'Hiver

F.C.L. Bosman. 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [6]: pp.439-440

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.139, 158-9

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