A Trip to Africa

Guest blog by Hannah Salvi

Norwich is well-known for its rich cultural offer, with a thriving music scene covering a variety of genres from contemporary to classical.

One event not to be missed in the local musical calendar is the revival of a long-forgotten operetta (or light opera) called A Trip to Africa, which will be performed in concert-form by the Imperial Vienna Orchestra, the Octagon Singers and a cast of soloists at the Maddermarket Theatre on Saturday 3 December.

Set in Egypt in the early 19th century, the story tells of a group of Italians who head to Cairo seeking adventure, love and fortune. Coupled with deception, double-crossings and a whole host of misunderstandings, it is both funny and charming, which is partly what drew conductor and Viennese music enthusiast Dario Salvi to it in the first place.

The task of reviving this lost work came about when Dario was looking for music to play with the Imperial Vienna Orchestra, which he founded upon moving to Norwich from Italy in 2012. Favouring music that is not usually played over the more popular pieces, he came across a single song from A Trip to Africa that caught his intrigue, written by composer Franz von Suppé in 1883.

After months of scouring archives, libraries and private collections worldwide, he found the original hand-written orchestral score for the whole operetta in a dusty box in the basement of the University of Wisconin-Madison in the USA. They painstakingly scanned each page individually so that Dario could digitise and correct it using computer software and restore it to its former glory ready for the modern stage.

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It is sure to be a truly unique concert, set in probably one of the most beautiful and interesting theatres in the UK – the Maddermarket was originally a Roman Catholic chapel built in 1794, and has since been used as a baking soda factory, a grocery warehouse and a hall for the Salvation Army before being renovated in the early 1900s into an Elizabethan-style playhouse. The vaulted ceiling gives it wonderful acoustics, making it a great choice for theatre and music.

The upcoming performance is exciting not only for Norwich as a cultural hot-spot, but for the wider classical music community, as it will be the first time that the operetta has been performed since 1922 – and the first time ever in the UK.

The concert will be recorded, and the sheet music is going to be published by Bell Music Publishing – so hopefully this charming operetta will not be forgotten for another century.

For more information visit imperialviennaorchestra.co.uk

To book call 01603 620917 or visit maddermarket.co.uk/production/view/356

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Twitter: twitter.com/ImperialVienna1