Grateful American® Foundation

What was the first opera performed in the Colonies?

February 8th

floraFebruary 8, 1735 — The first opera performed in the Colonies opened today in Charleston, SC.

A ballad opera entitled, Flora: Or Hob in the Well, debuted at the New World Theatre. The 18th-century English-language play is punctuated by popular songs of the time with lyrics to fit the action. The pieces were notorious for their slapstick humor and irreverent bawdiness.

The plot: A wronged heiress, a faithful lover, a resourceful maid, and an avaricious uncle play out their roles in the first opera ever performed in the American colonies.

Also noteworthy: Charleston hosted the first pantomime ballet performed in the Colonies, The Adventures of Harlequin and Scaramouch.

Words of Wisdom

Floria is an anti-opera. It satirizes Italian opera, systematically doing things that the Italians did not. It's performed in English with moments of spoken dialogue and there are short, popular tunes instead of specially composed arias. If a traditional opera did it, the ballad opera didn't.

— Conductor and orchestrator Neely Bruce

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