La Somnambule, ou L'arrivée d'un Nouveau Seigneur

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La Somnambule, ou L'arrivée d'un Nouveau Seigneur is a scenario for a ballet-pantomime by Eugène Scribe (1791-1861)[1].

The original text

Produced in Paris in 1827, choreographed by Jean-Pierre Aumer, with music composed by Ferdinand Hérold, and quite popular, though the text of the scenario does not appear to have been published.

Translations and adaptations

Despite being unpublished, the Scribe work inspired many other works, including:

La Sonnambula ("The sleepwalker") by Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835)[2]

Described as an "opera semiseria" in two acts, with music in the bel canto tradition, it was composed by by Vincenzo Bellini with an Italian libretto by Felice Romani (1788-1865)[3]. A also described as a "drama with music", it premiered in Milan on 6 March 1831, in London on 28 July 1831 at the King's Theatre and at the Park Theatre in New York on 13 November 1835.

The Somnambulist by William Thomas Moncrieff (1794-1857)[4]

Called "A Dramatic Entertainment", it is a burlesque based on Scribe's scenario for the original ballet-pantomime. of play in two acts. (The piece is also referred to as The Somnambulist, or The Phantom of the Village, La Somnambula or The Sleep-Walker, or simply La Somnambula.)

Moncrieff's text was published as The Somnabulist in Issue 224 of Dicks' Standard Plays. Published as The Somnambulist, or The Phantom of the Village by J. Cumberland, 1899

La Sonnambula Balanchine (1904-1983)[5]

A 1965 ballet, it was also based on Scribe's scenario, choreographed by George Balanchine and set to music by Vittorio Rieti

Performance history in South Africa

Listed below are recorded performances of the various versions

1857: Performed by the Boscawen Amateurs in Simonstown on 28 December, with Who Speaks First? (Dance) as a benefit evening for the Indian Sufferers Relief Fund.

1857: What appears to have been La Somnambula or The Sleep-Walker (by Bellini and Romani) was performed by Sefton Parry and his company in the Harrington Street Theatre, Cape Town, on 8 December, with The Mistress of the Mill (Moncrieff) as afterpiece.

1862: Performed often (as La Somnambula) by the Christy Minstrels, during their three-month long tour of the Cape Province. The company was led by Mr Melvyn, with Mr Norton, Mr Rainford and Joe Brown. The director of the orchestra was Mr Stewart

1869: Performed as La Somnambula in the Mutual Hall, Cape Town by the Miranda-Harper Company.

1875: Performed as La Somnambula in the Bijou Theatre, Cape Town by Disney Roebuck and his company, with Christmas Eve, or The Duel in the Snow (Fitzball)

1901: The Somnabulist performed in the Oddfellows Hall, Cape Town, by Morris Waxman and his Hebrew Artistes


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, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 140, 408

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