La Poupée

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La Poupée ("The doll") is a French opéra-comique[1], consisting of a prelude and three acts, by Maurice Ordonneau (libretto, 1854–1916)[2] and Edmond Audran (composer, 1840–1901)[3].

Note: The title usually written La poupée in French publications. In English it is often given as La Poupee

The original text

The play is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's popular short stories called Der Sandmann[4] ("the sandman") and Die Puppe ("The Doll"), first published in an 1817 book of stories titled Die Nachtstücke ("The Night Pieces"), which most famously also served as an inspiration for the ballet Coppélia (1870)[5] and for Act I of Offenbach's opera The Tales of Hoffmann[6](1881).

The Ordonneau and Audran comic opera opened at the Théâtre de la Gaîté, Paris, on 21 October 1896.

Translations and adaptations

An English libretto in two acts called La Poupee was written by Arthur Sturgess and first played at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London from 24 February 1897, going on to notch up 576 performances. A Broadway production was also done in 1897

The story - and no doubt the comic opera's success later - inspired a film by Ernst Lubitsch called Die Puppe (1919).

Performance history in South Africa

1898: First produced in English (as La Poupee) in the country by the Wheeler Brothers, with Florence Young in the leading role ("Alesia") and Frank Wheeler as "Hilarius".

1902-3: Performed in English (as La Poupee) by the Mouillot-De Jong Company, at the Opera House, Cape Town, as part of a season of musical comedy and light opera beginning in December of 1902 and running into 1903. According to Boonzaier, the leads were played by John le Hay ("Hilarius") and Aimee de Leska ("Alesia") , while "Frank Celli was magnificent as 'Father Maxime' ".


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.406, 412, 415, 428.

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