La Dame aux Camélias

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La Dame aux Camélias ("The lady with the camellias") is a play in five acts by Alexandre Dumas, fils[1] (1824-1895).

Also referred to as Camille.

The original text

Based on an incident from his own life, it was originally written and published as a novel by Dumas in 1848, and was adapted for the stage by the author and presented at the Théâtre du Vaudeville in Paris, France on 2 February, 1852.

The play famously formed the basis for the opera La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi (1853) which is the version most often performed.

Translations and adaptations

Numerous English translations have been made , and in the English-speaking world, it was initially translated as The Lady of the Camellias, but soon also became known simply as Camille. For the various versions see the Hathi Trust Digital Library website[2]

The play has been adapted for film at least 20 times to date, with the role of "Marguerite Gautier" being portrayed by such luminaries as Sarah Bernhardt, María Félix, Clara Kimball Young, Theda Bara, Yvonne Printemps, Alla Nazimova, Greta Garbo, Micheline Presle, Francesca Bertini, Isabelle Huppert, and many others.

Freely adapted from the French of Dumas by an unnamed author as The Lady of the Camellias, a tragic drama in four acts. The English version published in London by T.H. Lacy [1852?], but the date of first production given is that of the French version.

Translated from the French as Camille by the actress Matilda Heron (1830-1877)[3], and performed in St Louis, opening at Bateman's Theatre, with Heron in the leading role; then went on to Cincinnati and New Orleans before opening on January 1857 at Wallack's Theatre, New York. First published in 1856 by Wrightson & Co. and also Samuel French (initially without attribution, but this is later corrected).

An Afrikaans translation entitled Die Dame met die Kamelias was done by Wilhelmien van Zyl, and used for a 1966 production. However, according to Grütter (1987), the director - René Clermont - and three of the performers (Nerina Ferreira, Laurie van der Merwe and Berdine Grünewald) also did a lot of work on the final script.

Camille (1973) is an American play by Charles Ludlam, a parody of La Dame aux Camélias

Performance history in South Africa

While there have been a number of productions of La Traviata, and many ballet versions have been produced in the country, performances of the stage play are less plentiful. In addition, the actual version of the text used is seldom given. For versions and productions of the opera, see La Traviata. For versions and productions of the baller or Camille, see sources on South African ballet.

1866: The Le Roy-Duret Company performed an English version of the play, quaintly referred to as "Camille or Traviata" and claiming to be the "(F)irst time of Dumas' celebrated play in 5 Acts". The performance took place in the Harrington Street Theatre, Cape Town, on 16 April.

1892: Performed in the Exhibition Theatre, Cape Town, by the Potter-Bellew Company under the auspices of Luscombe Searelle, using the Heron version and starring Cora Brown-Potter and Kyrle Bellew. A great success with the public apparently.

1901: Produced as Camille in the Good Hope Theatre, Cape Town, during September by the Wheeler Theatre Company with American actress Nance O'Neill in the leading role. Most probably using the Heron version.

1902: Produced in the Good Hope Theatre by the Wheeler Theatre Company during February, once more with Nance O'Neill as Camille.

1907: Performed in the Opera House, Cape Town, by Cora Brown-Potter and company, under the auspices of by the Wheeler Theatre Company , using the Heron version again. A disappointment as the male lead was taken by an "inexperienced youth" (according to D.C. Boonzaier, 1923).

1966: Produced in the Afrikaans version by CAPAB at the Hofmeyr Theatre as part of the fifth Republic Festival. Directed by the French director René Clermont with Berdine Grünewald, Johann Nell and André Walters in the leading roles. The rest of the cast were Fanie Bekker, Nerina Ferreira, Salomi Louw, Rieta Burgers, Fitz Morley, Martin Crous, Gertie Smith-Visser, Limpie Basson, Jannie Gildenhuys, Ernst Eloff, Johan Nell, Wilhelm de la Querra, Johan van Jaarsveld, Antoinette Terblanche, Gillian Garlick, Ken Leach, Lynette Marais, Danie Marais. The production also visited Stellenbosch, Worcester, Hopefield, George, Oudtshoorn, Goodwood and Bellville. Designs were by Michael Clarke.

1966: Another Afrikaans production was directed by Fitz Morley in East London.


World Drama by Allardyce Nicoll, 1949

Facsimile version of the anonymous 4 act adaptation, 1st edition by T.H. Lacy, 1852. Hathi Trust Digital Library[4]

Facsimile version of the 5 act Heron translation, 1st edition by Wrightson & Co., 1856. Hathi Trust Digital Library[5]

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. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 203, 207, 209, 394, 400, 410, 417, 427

Grütter, Wilhelm, CAPAB 25 Years, 1987. Unpublished research. p 43 and 418.

Die Dame met die Kamelias theatre programme, 1966.,_fils

Notes on the History of South African theatre, posted by Heather MacAlister on Rootsweb[6]

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