Fra Diovolo, or The Banditti of the Abrouzes
The original text
A horseback event, it was originally performed at what the company referred to as "the Circus Theatre of Paris" (probably the Cirque des Champs-Elysées or the Cirque Olympique, both run by Louis Dejean), to music by Guerroluch, and dealt with the twenty-nine days' chase of the elusive guerilla leader/brigand Fra Diavolo (lit. "Brother Devil") by a company led by Colonel Hugo (the father of Victor Hugo) and his ultimate capture and execution. Actually named Michele Pezza (1771–1806), and depending on the source, he was either an Italian soldier turned guerilla fighter and patriot, or he was a brigand who was made into a hero by his exploits against the French.
Pezza figures prominently in Italian and French folk lore and fiction. He appears in several works of Alexandre Dumas for example, including The Last Cavalier, and Washington Irving's short story "The Inn at Terracina". The most famous stage version was the French opéra-comique by Daniel-François-Esprit Auber and Eugène Scribe, called Fra Diavolo ou l’Hôtellerie de Terracine, which was first performed on 28 January, 1830 in the Opéra-Comique in Paris, and many times afterwards, in many languages.
Performances in South Africa
The show was put on by a visiting circus company, the Equestrian Gymnastics, and performed a number of times in Cape Town, and possibly elsewhere in the region, between October and December, 1850. According to the advertisement in the South African Commercial Advertiser of 19 October 1850, it consisted of "Grand Military Evolutions by upwards of Sixty Actors on Foot and on Horseback."
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