Le Juif Polonais
The original text
First performed in French at the théâtre de Cluny in Paris in 1869, with a score by Etienne Singla. in 1867
Translations and adaptations
The play saw a large number of translations, adaptations, travesties and imitations over the years under various titles - the first apparently an early translation by Frank C. Burnand.
However, the best known English version has perhaps been the English translation by Leopold Davis Lewis (1828-1890) called The Bells. First performed at the Lyceum Theatre, London, on November 25, 1871, starring Sir Henry Irving as "Mathias", it would long be an Irving standard play, and was almost immediately followed by more versions.
Other English titles found are Paul Zegers, or The Dream of Retribution (Anon., 1871), The Polish Jew, or The Sledge Bells (J. Redding Ware, 1872), The Polish Jew (S. Emery, 1872), and so on. (For more on the various versions, see the Henry Irving and The Bells: Irving's Personal Script of the Play by Leopold Lewis, as edited by David Mayer, Manchester University Press, 1980)
The Erckmann-Chatrian play was adapted into an opera of the same name by Camille Erlanger, composed to a libretto by Henri Cain and first performed in Paris at the Opéra Comique on 11 April 1900.
The play was later filmed a number of times, usually as The Bells, including an Australian film in 1911, a Belgian film in 1925 (as Le Juif Polonais, an American film in 1928, a British film in 1931, and another Australian film in 1935 (this time as The Burgomeister).
Performance history in South Africa
The play is notable in South Africa as the play that launched the South African theatrical careers of two notable businessmen, who also happened to be pugelists and performers: Barney Barnato and Harry Stodel.
1877: Performed in English by Disney Roebuck and company in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, as The Bells, or The Murder of the Polish Jew (ascribed to Lewis) on 28 July, with a burlesque of Black Ey'd Susan (Burnand)
1878: Performed in English by former players of the Disney Roebuck company and the Dramatic Recital Society, in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, on 1 August, as a benefit evening for victims of a storm in Table Bay, under the auspices of the Governor and the Cape parliament, army and navy.
1878: Performed in English by the Dramatic Recital Society, in the Theatre Royal, Cape Town, on 19 September, as a benefit evening for the cartoonist and amateur player Hugh Fisher, with A Happy Pair (Smith), A Rough Diamond (Buckstone).
1900: Performed in English as The Bells at the Port Elizabeth Opera House, December 7, 1900, produced by William Haviland of the Haviland and Lawrence Shakesperian & Dramatic Company. Cast: William Haviland (Mathias), Gerald Lawrence (Christian), and Amy Coleridge (Annette), Murray Hathorn (Walter), Mr Brereton (Hans), Miss Aicken (Catherine), Mr Haviland (The Judge of the Mesmerist [Notary?]).
David Mayer (Ed.). 1980. Henry Irving and The Bells: Irving's Personal Script of the Play by Leopold , Manchester University Press
Trek, 10(8):23, 1945.
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