The Bohemian Girl

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The Bohemian Girl is a ballad opera[1] by Alfred Bunn (1796-1860)[2] and Michael William Balfe (1808-1870)[3].

The original text

Loosely based on La Gitanilla by Cervantes tale, it has a libretto by Bunn and music composed by Balfe.

First produced in London at the Drury Lane Theatre on 27 November 1843 and played in New York City, Dublin and Philadelphia in 1844. The libretto originally published by W.S. Johnson, "Nassau Steam Press", Nassau Street, Soho, London, in 1843.

Translations and adaptations

Often translated it appears, inter alia, as Die Zigeunerin (Vienna, 1846), La Zingara (Trieste, 1854), La Bohemienne (Rouen, 1862).

A burlesque version by William Brough and R.B. Brough, called Arline, or The Fortunes and Vicissitudes of a Bohemian Girl was performed at the Haymarket Theatre, London, on 21 April, 1851 and published by L.C. Lacy.

A burlesque of The Bohemian Girl in one act by William Brough was licensed for performance by the Christy Minstrels at the Bijou Theatre (Haymarket) in May 1861. It is most probably a new version of Arline. The text for this performance published as The Gypsy Maid in The Broadview Anthology of Nineteenth-Century British Performance (2012).

Performance history in South Africa

1868: A burlesque version, by William Brough, was performed under the original name by Steele and Norton's Christy's Minstrels in the Commercial Exchange, Cape Town, probably in September.

1869: The full three act version performed by Harper-Leffler Company in the Mutual Hall, Cape Town, on 27 August.

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, Il Trovatore, Maritana, Lobgesang and Stabat Mater.

1884-5: D.C. Boonzaier (1923) mentions The Bohemian Girl as one of the plays put on by the Henry Harper Company in the new Theatre Royal, Cape Town, as part of Henry Harper's first season as lessee and manager of the venue. No details are provided, however.

1887: The full three act version presented by the Searelle Opera Company at the Theatre Royal, Cape Town as part of a popular six-month season of opera. Also toured to Port Elizabeth.


Allardyce Nicoll. 2009. History of English Drama, 1660-1900, Volume 5, Part 2. Cambridge University Press: p. 278[4]

Tracy C. Davis. 2012. The Broadview Anthology of Nineteenth-Century British Performance Broadview Press:pp. 302 ff.[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. 246, 248, 250, 385

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