Poussard-Bailey Company

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Poussard-Bailey Company is an operatic company active in South Africa in 1867-8.

Also known as the Poussard-Bailey Opera Company

The company

This company was founded by and named after the violinist Horace Poussard (1829-1898)[1] and the soprano Amelia Bailey (1842-1932)[2], and the company also consisted of the "serio-comic vocalist" Florence Beverley (known professionally as Florence Calzado, 1850-?)[3] and Bailey's husband, the manager Robert Sparrow Smythe (1833-1917)[4].

The company had come into being to undertake a 4-year tour of India and South Africa. The Poussard-Bailey Opera Company went on to give more than 300 performances on this tour, coping with the innumerable difficulties of travel by land and sea.

Contribution to theatre and performance in South Africa

They arrived at the Cape from Mauritius in , intending to merely stop over on their way to Australia, but ended up staying in South Africa for two years. According to their calculations (cited by Bosman, 1980: p.245) they travelled a total of 2300 miles by land and sea to perform to approximately 38 000 people. When they finally arrived back in Cape Town to present their 15th appearance there on 4 June, 1868, it was also to be their 130th performance in South Africa. At the end of their stay they had done a total of 150 concerts and shows, 28 in Cape Town (16 in the Commercial Exchange, 7 in the New Market, 2 in in the Mutual Hall and 3 in the Cape Town Institute and Club). Their total tally of appearances in all was 150 : 40 in various places in the Western Cape Province (including Cape Town), 81 in 17 places in the Eastern Cape Province, 20 in 6 places in the Orange Free State, 9 in 2 towns in Natal and even - against all advice - crossing the Vaal river and giving concerts in the Transvaal. They were the first concert company to do so.

In November 1868 Smythe and Poussard left for England and France just after their 150th concert, while the two singers stayed at the Cape until June 1869, billed as Calzado-Bailey (inter alia presenting concerts in the Mutual Hall, Cape Town), before sailing directly back to Melbourne to rejoin the rest of the company and reconstitute the Poussard-Bailey Company.

While in Cape Town the company also made use of the local accompanist and singer Florence Matthews and a Mr Hewitt, who had apparently joined the company before they left for Europe.

There is a strong indication that their successful example was probably one of the triggers - along with the pioneering work of Sefton Parry - that would set off the ensuing period of travelling professional theatre in South Africa (lasting well into the early 20th century), for in their own publicity they claim that no less than three Dramatic Companies were now touring the frontier, while a new musical company (presumably the newly founded Harper-Leffler Company) was playing in Cape Town.

The repertoire

Besides performances of music, dance and song (sometimes offered "in character"), the company also did the occasional piece of light musical theatre. Among these were productions of In Love with a Waltz (Moriot), The Painter and his Model (Anon.), The Fancy Ball (Anon).







F.C.L. Bosman, 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.223, 243-6,

Go to ESAT Bibliography

Return to

Return to ESAT Venues P

Return to South African Theatre Venues, Companies, Societies, etc

Return to The ESAT Entries

Return to Main Page