The Lyric Opera Company

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The Lyric Opera Company was a professional opera company, led by messrs Arturo Bonamici and Edgar Perkins.

Also known simply as The Lyric Company, the company actually began life as The Edgar Perkins Lyric Opera Company in 1890, before changing its name when Perkins joined forces with Bonamici in 1893.

The Edgar Perkins Lyric Opera Company

The Edgar Perkins Lyric Opera Company was a theatrical company founded, managed and produced by Edgar Perkins and its first visit to Cape Town occurred in January, 1890, when they performed in the Exhibition Theatre.

Perkins's company itself consisted inter alia of R.S. Gregg, E. le Hay, Dennis Coyne, Frank Wheeler, Harry Miller, Ada Bemister, Carrie Nelson, Harriet Wood, and Ella Bankhardt. Musical direction was by James Hyde.

F.C.L. Bosman (1980) mentions that the company's repertoire during this season consisted entirely of light comic opera, including inter alia such works as Dorothy (Cellier and Stephenson), Falka (Leterrier and Vanloo/Farnie), Pepita (Chivot and Durn), Erminie (Bellamy and Paulton), Yeoman of the Guard (Gilbert and Sullivan), The Mikado (Gilbert and Sullivan) and Patience (Gilbert and Sullivan).

According to D.C. Boonzaier (1923), reporting on the 1890 Cape Town season, Perkins had "very artistic ideas in the direction of mise-en-scène" and his operas were staged "lavishly in regard to scenery and costume".

The Lyric Opera Company

Perkins now joined forces with Arturo Bonamici to create a new company, The Lyric Opera Company, which toured South Africa for a season in 1893-4, giving performances of excellent standard.

The new company performed in the newly constructed Opera House in Cape Town for a season stretching from 31 August 1893 to February of 1894. Now known simply as The Lyric Opera Company, it had the distinction of doing the very first performance in the newly built Opera House in Cape Town, opening on 31 August, 1893, with a performance of Dorothy (Stephenson and Cellier), directed by Duncan Young.

This partnership would run the company for the entire season, performing in the new venue which had been leased by Bonamici. The cast of Dorothy included A. Gourlay, R.S.V Gregg, H.T. Davies, Fred Coyne, F.N. Carter, W.Roe, Sophie Harris, Katie Herbert, Trixie Gilfillian and Leonora Braham as "Dorothy". The company also on occasion used other singers, including Grant Fallowes, Marie Elba, Templar Saxe and others.

Besides Dorothy, their repertoire of also included La Cigale ( Meilhac and Halevy), The Old Guard (Boucicault), La Mascotte (Audran, Duru and Chivot), Maritana (Wallace and Fitzball), Haddon Hall (Grundy and Sullivan), Rip van Winkle (Planquette and Farnie), Iolanthe (Gilbert and Sullivan), The Mikado (Gilbert and Sullivan) and Princess Ida (Gilbert and Sullivan).

Over their period in the country the company would also put on such standard operatic works as La Traviata (Verdi), Faust (Gounod), Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti), La Favorita (Donizetti), I Pagliacci (Leoncavallo), Cavalleria Rusticana (Mascagni), The Barber of Seville (Beaumarchais/Rossini), Carmen (Bizet), Rigoletto (Verdi), La Gioconda (Ponchielli) and Ernani (Verdi).


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. 130, 397-8

Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg

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