The Messiah

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The Messiah occurs as (or in) the title of various dramatic works

The Messiah, the oratorio by Handel (1741)

The original text

This famous English-language oratorio was composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel (1785-1759)[1], with a scriptural text (based on the King James Bible and the Coverdale Psalter) by Charles Jennens (1700-1773)[2]. It was first performed at the Fishamble Street hall, Dublin, on 13 April 1742 and at the Covent Garden theatre in London on 23 March 1743. The score was first published in 1767.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

Often performed in South Africa, as were many oratorios and cantatas, it is usually considered as a musical work, though it occasionally also made out part of the repertoire of touring theatrical and/or operatic companies - especially in the 19th century. Some of these performances are listed below.

1863: Performed twice during March in St Mary's Cathedral, Cape Town, in support of the "Lancashire Operatives Relief Fund" by the Cape Town Dramatic Club supported by local choristers, including Miss Longmore (a "favourite Cape Soprano"), and organised by R.W. Murray (secretary of the club). Done after a long and thorough period of preparation, it was considered the highlight of the year by the local press.

1864: A section of the oratorio was performed as part of a sacred concert by Mr Ashley and others in the Mutual Hall, Cape Town, during September, in aid of the Kaapse Vrij Apoteek ("Cape free pharmacy")

1867: Arias from the work were performed in Cape Town during Passion Week by the touring Poussard-Bailey Company, in association with Signor Bonicoli and others.

1869: Performed by the touring Miranda-Harper Company, the first full operatic company to tour South Africa as part of a full season in Cape Town. Done in the Mutual Hall on 4 November, it formed part of a Grand Sacred Festival and undertaken with the help of local amateurs. (An interesting note is that copies of the libretto[] for the work were on sale for 3 pennies at the event.)

Jo'burg Messiah is a play by Michael Picardie (1980)

For more information, see the entry at Jo'burg Messiah


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 1932. (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.247-8, 284, 286

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