La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein

Jump to navigation Jump to search

La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein is an opéra bouffe[1] in three acts and four tableaux by Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)[2], with an original French libretto by Henri Meilhac (1830-1897[3] and Ludovic Halévy (1834-1908)[4].

The original text

A satirical critique of unthinking militarism, the opera parodies Catherine the Great and tells of a spoiled and tyrannical young Grand Duchess who learns that she cannot always get her way.

The opera was first performed at the Théâtre des Variétés in Paris on 12 April 1867 and went on to have a long history of performance across the globe. It was first heard in New York City in French, at the Théâtre Français in September 1867.

Translations and adaptations

There are two English versions of Offenbach's work, both called The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein (though, also referred to simply as The Grand Duchess in some sources).

The first English translation was by Charles Lamb Kenney (1821-1881)[5], and was performed at Covent Garden, London, in November 1867 and in New York City at the New York Theatre in 1868. The text was published in London by Boosey & Co. in 1868.

A new English translation and adaptation (a bowdlerised version of the more risqué French text) was done by Charles Brookfield (C.H.E. Brookfield, 1857–1913)[6] with lyrics by Adrian Ross (1859-1933)[7]. This was first performed by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in 1897–98 at the Savoy Theatre, opening on 4 December, 1897. Brookfield also performed the role of "Baron Grog" in the production, as one of his last acting roles.

Performance history in South Africa

1887: Performed in English as The Grand Duchess by the Searelle Opera Company, as part of their repertoire while the visiting South Africa under the auspices of the Wheeler Company. In Cape Town they played at the Theatre Royal in Burgh Street. (Bosman, 1980, mistakenly attributes the text to Brookfield, but given the date of the Cape Town production, this must have been the Kenney version.)


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: pp.385-6, 438

Go to ESAT Bibliography

Return to

Return to PLAYS I: Original SA plays

Return to PLAYS II: Foreign plays

Return to PLAYS III: Collections

Return to PLAYS IV: Pageants and public performances

Return to South African Festivals and Competitions

Return to The ESAT Entries

Return to Main Page