The Acquisitions Table: Norma, A Serio-Comic Burlesque

Crouch, F[rederick] Nicholls. Norma. A Serio-Comic Burlesque, Written Expressly for Sanford’s Opera House. [Philadelphia?, 1856].

512965_0001The 10 opera or song libretti in Italian and English bound together in this sammelband were all lacking or defective in AAS collections. Most are for serious Italian operas, but also included is a previously unlocated burlesque of Vincenzo Bellini’s opera Norma, re-imagined as a Know-Nothing drama. The burlesque has the same characters as the original opera, except that the characters’ names are latinized. A few lines from the opening procession and chorus sets the tone: “Defend us from this secret foe! / ‘The Know Nothings’ here! are all the go; / To save our country strike the blow, / and send them to Old Nick!” (p.3). Crouch’s Norma, a Serio-Comic Burlesque is the sole Philadelphia imprint in the sammelband, except for three small tipped-in Philadelphia theatrical playbills from the American Academy of Music (including one for Bellini’s Norma). These Philadelphia theatre connections associate this libretti collection with William D. Gemmill (1832–1906), the manager of the Chestnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, whose bookplate is affixed to the front endpaper.

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