The original text
The opera had its premiere at the Teatro Apollo in Rome on 19 January 1853.
Translations and adaptations
The Italian libretto was translated and adapted into English as Il Trovatore, or The Gipsy's Vengeance by the music publisher Charles Jeffreys (1807-1865). (On occasion simply billed as The Gipsy's Vengeance.) First performed at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1856 and published by Jeffreys in London in the same year. This version was also performed at the Prince of Wales Theatre (Sydney, N.S.W.) in 1859, and at the Royal Opera House, London, by the Moody-Manners Opera Company in 1902.
Burlesque versions of Italian, French - and, later, German - operas became popular with London audiences during the second half of the 19th century.
For example Verdi's Il Trovatore had its British premiere in 1855 in burlesque form as Ill-treated Il Trovatore (or also found as Ill Treated Il Trovatore, or The Mother, The Maiden and The Musician ) by H.J. Byron (1835-1884). The text was published by T.H. Lacy in the 1850s.
Another burlesque version of the opera (or possibly of Byron's version?) was apparently done by the Christy Minstrels (simply billed as Il Trovatore) in the 1860s, also performed during their South African visit in 1862.
South African performances of the Verdi opera
1863: Selections from Il Trovatore performed in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, "with Scenery, Chorus and Effects" by a company consisting of J.F Finlayson, Mr Bowmer, Madame Bowmer and Miss Whitfield, along with a "Dialogue Entertainment in Two Parts" called Retaliation, or Tit for Tat performed by the Bowmer couple. This presentation was repeated a few days later. It was a hastily contrived programme by the company, since their key attraction, billed as "Albert Smith's splendid Panorama of China" had not arrived.
1869: Performed in English as Il Trovatore, or The Gipsy's Vengeance in the Mutual Hall, Cape Town by the Miranda-Harper Company on 7 and 14 September. The performances were announced as having "new scenery and dresses" and the company made use of "an efficient chorus of amateurs".
1875: Performed as part of the repertoire of the Harvey-Turner Opera Company when it visited the goldfields in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The other works listed include Faust, Maritana, The Bohemian Girl, Lobgesang and Stabat Mater.
1887: Performed as part of the repertoire of the Searelle Opera Company, under the management of Wheeler Company, on their first visit to South Africa. The company, consisting of Searelle as conductor, and singers Blanche Fenton, Amy Fenton, Vernon Reid and Paul D'Arcy, augmented by performers from the Wheeler Company and a chorus drawn from local performers from the city they were appearing in. It appears the company occupied the Theatre Royal in Burg Street, Cape Town, for eight months, a record held till well into the 20th century.
1899: Performed and taken on a tour the South African cities and towns by the visiting Arthur Rousbey Grand English Opera Company, under the management of Frank de Jong and Herbert Flemming, appearing in Cape Town's Opera House in the second half of the year.
Performances of dramatic adaptations and burlesque versions in South Africa
1878: A "Burlesque Extravaganza" called Ill Treated Il Trovatore, or The Mother, The Maiden and The Musician (Byron) performed in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, on 18 March by Disney Roebuck and his company, as afterpiece to The Lyons Mail (Moreau, Siraudin and Delacour/Reade), along with a "dance on the High Pedestal" by the The Kickapoos Kickapoos and the one act play A Phenomenon in a Smock Frock (Brough).
Steven Huebner (Ed). 2017. National Traditions in Nineteenth-Century Opera, Volume I: Italy, France, England and the Americas (Volume 1), Routledge.
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