Vinceslao Bonicoli

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Vinceslao Bonicoli (1820-1897) was a 19th century Italian flautist and clarinetist, a composer of band music and director of military bands.

Mostly referred to simply as Signor Bonicoli in South Africa, but also known as "Maestre Bonicoli", "Cavaliere Bonicoli" or "Chevalier Bonicoli" in some sources. His name wrongly written as Venceslao Bonicoli, in some cases.


Born in Prato, Italy, in 1820, he was trained by Giuseppe Nuti at the local Scuola Comunale di Musica, he worked as a director of bands in Tuscany and Piemonte for a number of years, including the Concerto Cittadino Edoardo Chiti in Prato (1850-1853).

On the basis of his reputation and experience he was made the "direttore e ispettore" of British military bands in the Cape Colony at some time in the 1860s, a capacity in which he was often involved in theatrical events and celebratory performances. Later in 1867, Bonicoli went to King William’s Town in the eastern Cape, and then in 1870 he returned to Italy where he was knighted for his contribution to musical education in on 15 March, 1883.

For a discussion of his compositions and his South African period, see Becky L. Steltzner's unpublished doctoral thesis, The History of the Clarinet in South Africa (University of Cape Town, 2016): pp. 106-109.

He died on 16 November, 1897 and was buried in the English graveyard, the Cimitero Evangelico degli Allori, in Florence, Italy.

Contribution to South African theatre and perfomance

Over the course of his stay in Cape Town, he was involved in a number of theatrical events, including "Dramatic and Musical Entertainments" staged by the Garrison Players in Cape Town (e.g. as benefit performances for Band Sergeant T. Earnshaw on the 24th of September, 1866, another on the 18th of December), and a Benefit Performance for the Somerset Hospital in Cape Town n 4 and 5 March 1867, arranged by the officers of the 9th Regiment in the Theatre Royal.


Becky L. Steltzner. 2016.The History of the Clarinet in South Africa. Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Cape Town: pp. 106-109

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 259-260.

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