Excitement builds for revival of long-lost operetta, A Trip to Africa

Updated: May 7, 2020

Imperial Vienna Orchestra | Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

December 3, 2016

Dario Salvi conducting the Company in a concert performance of of A Trip to Africa, with the Imperial Vienna Orchestra
Dario Salvi conducting the Company in a concert performance of of A Trip to Africa, with the Imperial Vienna Orchestra. Photo credit: Mark Stimpson.

Source: Eastern Daily Press

The comic opera was last performed in 1922, but is getting a unique performance thanks to a labour of love by local orchestral conductor and music enthusiast Dario Salvi.

In 1883, three of the masterminds of Viennese operetta, composer Franz von Suppé and librettists Richard Genée and Moritz West, collaborated on a new masterpiece; A Trip to Africa – or Die Afrikareise in the original German.

The final result was one of the best Viennese operettas of all time. The work was performed across the world for 50 years, before the advent of films and lighter musical theatre made it, and many other works belonging to the same tradition, obsolete. The last known performance was in Italy in 1922.

Now this long-lost operetta is getting an extra special debut performance in Norwich this weekend.

The UK premiere of Franz von Suppé’s comic opera in three acts is a labour of love for local orchestral conductor and Viennese music enthusiast Dario Salvi.

A tale of love, deception and adventure set in 19th century Cairo and along the Nile, it comes to the Norfolk stage after almost 140 years since its first production and the first time ever in the UK.

The concert-performance at the Maddermarket Theatre will be conducted by Dario with the Imperial Vienna Orchestra, the Octagon singers, soloists and a cast of eight principals.

Dario founded the Norwich-based Imperial Vienna Orchestra in 2012 having just moved to the UK from Northern Italy. He was passionate about creating a full orchestra specialising in authentic Viennese music of the 19th century.

Set in Egypt in 1887, A Trip to Africa is a comic opera about a group of travellers from Italy who separately find themselves in Cairo, and whose stories become spectacularly intertwined.

There are themes of ‘east meets west’ as each culture struggles to adjust to the others’ presence; a theme which is still relevant to this day.

Dario came across the operetta whilst looking for music to play with the Imperial Vienna Orchestra. After months of research, he contacted the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the USA, who had one of the only known copies of the musical score in a box in their archives.

This was scanned and sent over page by page, and has now been cleaned and digitised ready for performance once again.

He hopes that this performance will demonstrate the wealth of high quality operettas and music that are out there, as of yet undiscovered by the modern-day audience.

“Most of the titles you see advertised nowadays are the same time and time again…Die Fledermaus, Boccaccio, the Merry Widow, plus all of the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas that are still popular to this day,” says Dario. “But there is so much more out there that has just been forgotten about, which is a real shame as the music and storylines are just as rich.

“I hope that this performance will show that these great works do not have to remain in the archives forever; they can be brought to life again on the stage.”

This is the latest passion project for Dario who, as well as founding Imperial Vienna Orchestra, recognised by the Johann Strauss Society of Great Britain as being the only orchestra in the UK to specialise in the performance of authentic 19th century Viennese music, came to Norwich to study for a Master’s in Conducting from the UEA. During this time he worked with Chamber Orchestra Anglia and the UEA Symphony Orchestra. He was recently awarded Lifetime Membership by the Johann Strauss Society of Great Britain for his contribution to Viennese music.

He has raised over £2,000 has been raised for the A Trip To Africa project to date, from the Norfolk County Council, the Johann Strauss Society of Great Britain and individual backers via a Crowdfunding campaign.

Don’t miss out on a piece of music history.

Written by: Simon Parkin, Eastern Daily Press