Luigi Dalle Case

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Luigi Dalle Case (18**-18**?) was a circus owner and performer, and theatre impresario.(Generally referred to as Signor Dalle Case or simply Dalle Case while in South Africa.)


Little is known of his origins or his earlier years, beyond the fact that he seems to come from Mauritius, had little command of English (though did know French, and may have been of Italian, Spanish or Portuguese extraction). However, he appears to have made a bit of a name for himself in Australia, for his name appears as a circus performer there. He arrived in Sydney on the Salages, with a small company, on 10 July 1841 from Ile Bourbon and Mauritius.

According Steve Ward (2014: p. 72)[1], Dalle Case was the first person to bring a full circus-style performance to Sydney in the 1840s, performing at the Australian Olympic Theatre.

There are also a few other references to performances by Dalle Case in 1841, for example Arrighi and Emeljanow (2012: p.94)[2] mention an appearance with a show of equestrian gymnastics in the Royal Victoria Theatre, while an anonymous review in the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (28 Aug 1841)[3] discusses a circus-style entertainment entitled "Signor Luigi Dalle Case and the Brasilia Young Signoras", in which Case apparently performed shows of strength in the same theatre (possibly the same event?).

In 1842 he briefly ran his own theatre in the city, in which he was licensed to present equestrian gymnastics and theatrical performances. However the theatre only lasted from 25 February 1842 (when he was granted a licence) to April 1842, when the theatre apparently closed down in due to opposition from powerful rivals and lack of audiences.

He left Sydney in September, going to Hobart and Launceston, performing into 1843, before returning to Mauritius on or just after 22 March 1842 on the Phantom.

There was a rumour that Della Case had been executed, but this is patently not true, since he not only toured in Malacca, Penang, Batavia, and India in the ensuing period, but was active in South Africa from 1847 till at least 1852.

Contribution to South African theatre and performance

He first appeared in the Cape Town in 1847 with his partner Signor Severo, with whom he managed an "Italian Circus", which staged a variety of circus-style programmes as well as several pantomimes at the Victoria Theatre and the Garrison Theatre in Cape Town. His wife Signora Dalle Case, was one of the performers. In February 1848, the partners went their separate ways, each with his own circus (case continued with the Italian Circus, Signor Severo started an African Circus).

Case, however, also acted as impresario for a professional French theatre-company (the French Dramatic Artistes, or also referred to as the Dalle Case Company), described as "freshly arrived from Mauritius", which made their debut in the Hope Street Theatre in 1848 with a show featuring mainly song and dance. His wife and his daughter were also part of the company, inter alia doing "koorddanse" (Dutch for "tightrope walking"). However, Case failed to make a financial success of this venture, and the company soon abandoned him, becoming known as Thêàtre de L'Union.

Shortly thereafter Case apparently now left the Cape (and show-business) for adventures in the interior for a while. However his wife (and Dalle Case himself?) seemingly continued performing in circus presentations, possibly with Noble's Circus, since F.C.L. Bosman (1928, p. 437, f.2) notes a Signora Dalle Case (is this supposed to be signor?), who performed on the borders of the Cape toward the end of 1850 and then appears in Natal in 1852, performing with a number of wild animals, as in traditional South African circusses.

Nothing further is known about him.



Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney), "A biographical register of Australian colonial musical personnel–D", Australharmony (an online resource toward the history of music and musicians in colonial and early Federation Australia)[4]: accessed 1 July 2016

Albert Weiner, "The short unhappy career of Luigi Dalle Case", Educational Theatre Journal 27/1 (March 1975), 77-84:

Steve Ward, 2014 Beneath the Big Top: A Social History of the Circus in Britain. Pen and Sword: pp. 72[5]

Gillian Arrighi and Victor Emeljanow. 2012. A World of Popular Entertainments: An Edited Volume of Critical Essays. Cambridge Scholars Publishing[6]

"Signor Luigi Dalle Case and the Brasilia Young Signoras", Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (28 Aug 1841)[7]

Jill Fletcher, 1994

F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [8]: pp. 434-437, 475, 484, 494, 500.

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