Miss Helyett

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Miss Helyett ("Miss Eliot") is a comic opera in three acts with music by Edmond Audran (1840-1901)[1], with a libretto by Maxime Boucheron (1846-1896)[2].

The original text

The play tells of the complications ensuing when the excessively puritanical heroine believes herself duty-bound to marry an unknown man who, in rescuing her from a serious fall in the Pyrenees, has been unable to avoid seeing the exposed lower half of her body.

It was first performed in French at the Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens on 12 November 1890, and became immensely popular with Parisian audiences, being performed a staggering 816 times. Many productions would follow in continental Europe, Britain, the US, South Africa and Australia between 1891 and 1896.

Translations and adaptations

Originally adapted into little less raunchy English version as Miss Decima by F.C. Burnand (1836-1917)[3], with lyrics by Percy Reeve (1855-??)[4]. It was first produced at the Criterion Theatre, London, on 23 July 1891. In New York it opened under the original title of Miss Helyett at the Star Theatre on 3 November, 1891, in a new production by David Belasco (1853-1931)[5].

It was twice adapted to film, the first in 1927, produced by Maurice Kéroul and Georges Monca[6] and the second in 1933, directed by Hubert Bourlon and Jean Kemm[7].

Performance history in South Africa

1894: Performed in Burnand's English version as Miss Decima in the second half of the year by the Cairns James Company as part of their season in the Good Hope Theatre, Cape Town, under the auspices of the Wheeler Theatre Company.










Richard Traubner. 2004. Operetta: A Theatrical History. Routledge: p.90[8]

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: p.400

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