The Broken Melody

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The Broken Melody is a musical comedy-drama in three acts by Herbert Keen and James T. Tanner (1858-1915)[1], with a musical score by Auguste van Biene (1849–1913)[2].

(For this, his first play, Tanner was originally credited by the pen name "James Leader". Herbert Keen sometimes credited as "Herbert Keene".)

Not to be confused with the 1934 British film of the same name.[3]

The original text

Commissioned by actor-manager and musician Auguste van Biene as a vehicle for himself, in which he plays a deceived husband who finds solace in his cello, and when his servant persuades the cellist to play his instrument, his errant wife returns.

It was first produced at the Prince of Wales's Theatre, London, on Thursday evening the 28th July 1892, with Auguste van Biene in the leading role.

Translations and adaptations

A short, 12 minute, black-and-white silent film[4] was made of the play by Esmé Collings (1859–1936)[5], featuring Auguste van Biene and Mrs. Van Biene, and released in 1896. The film also known as Theatre Scene.

Performance history in South Africa

1903: Performed by the Van Biene Company in the Good Hope Theatre on 13 July, before what Boonzaier refers to as "one of the biggest audiences ever assembled in that theatre".


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, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 415, 421.

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