Burlesque Opera of Tabasco

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Originally performed in 1894, the Burlesque Opera of Tabasco (also sometimes rendered Burlesque Opera Tabasco) is a musical comedy composed by George W. Chadwick with a libretto by R. A. Barnet. At first titled Tabasco, the opera was created without the knowledge of McIlhenny Company, maker of Tabasco brand pepper sauce since 1868. The company, however, subsequently approved its performance. The opera went on to tour the U.S. to critical acclaim, but disagreements between Chadwick and the musical's producer eventually derailed its success.

Burlesque Opera of Tabasco sheet music, 1894.


A Boston volunteer militia, the First Corps of Cadets, commissioned Chadwick and Barnet to create the opera as a fundraiser for a new armory. The cadets themselves performed the musical for this charitable purpose. Soon, however, showman Thomas Q. Seabrooke — impressed by the opera's popularity — purchased the rights and renamed it the Burlesque Opera of Tabasco ("burlesque" in that era meaning "comedic")[1]

Because Seabrooke intended to perform the opera commercially, he required, and obtained, the permission of McIlhenny Company to use its proprietary trademark. As part of its approval, however, McIlhenny Company required Seabrooke to pass out samples of Tabasco sauce during his productions. A giant papier-mâché Tabasco sauce bottle appeared on stage during the performance, and an image of the bottle showed up on the opera's published sheet music. So popular was Seabrooke's commercial production of the opera that “The Tabasco March,” the main theme composed by Chadwick, was issued in the form of a mechanical music box disk.


The opera centered on a Middle Eastern pasha who craved spicy food. Enraged by the blandness of fare provided by his royal kitchen, the pasha threatened to chop off the head of his French chef (actually a masquerading Irishman). The chef frantically searched the city for seasonings and ran into a blind beggar who gave him a mysterious potion. The concoction turned out to be Tabasco brand pepper sauce. Its piquant flavor satisfied the pasha and saved the day.


A scene from the Burlesque Opera of Tabasco, 1894.

Cast of singers in order of appearance:

  • Ben-Hidden, Grand Vizier - baritone comedy
  • Hot-Heddam Pasha, the Bey of Tangiers - low comedy
  • Dennis O'Grady, afterwards Francois, the Bey's chef - tenor comedy
  • Fatima, the new slave - soprano
  • Marco, Spanish captain of a trading vessel - high baritone
  • Lola, Marco's sister - mezzo / soubrette
  • Hasbeena, a third term harem favorite - mezzo

List of movements[edit]



1. Chorus (A) "Dawning, the dawning, the Shadows westward fall"

2. Grand Vizier's song (c) "I'm Vizier here, I'm always in mishap"

3. Pasha's song and chorus (G) "What other people say"

4. Chorus (B flat) "Reading of the mail"

5. Song and chorus (François and cooks) (F) "Tin tan, tin tan, patty pan"

6. Fatima's song (F) "O lovely home"

7. "Gem of the Orient" Pasha, Fatima, Lola, Marco, and chorus (A flat, E, c, G)

8. François' Lament (E flat) "The shamrock blooms white on the lakes of Killarney"

9. Finale (B flat F G) "Hail to his highness the Peer of Tabasco"


Interlude (G)

1. Chorus (B flat) "A beauty my boy you are, you are"

2. Hasbeena and Harem (E flat) "Hush, hush follow me"

3. Love Duet, Fatima, and Marco (E flat) "My heart again to hope begins"

4. Loves of the World:

4a. Quartette à la Bolero (Spanish) (D) "In Barcelona lived a maid" (Marco)

4b. Irish Ditty (C) "Ah now thin be aisy for love is a daisy" (François)

4c. French Rigaudon & Razzle Dazzle (F) "He met his love at the students' ball" (Lola)

4d. Plantation Ballad (A) "O darkies don't yer 'member de old Kentucky farm"

4e. Melodrama (c, E flat)

5. Solo (Marco) and chorus (D) "Ho mariner ho"

6. Song and Chorus (Hasbeena and Grand Vizier) (March: c; Song A flat) "Greet the old man with a smile"

7. Pasha's song (d) "An original idea"

8. March of the Pasha's Guard (E flat)

9. Dance of the Harem (E flat)

10. Finale (G, C, F) "Ev'rybody is coming"

Wolfgang Mirlach & Adam Leftwich in the Czech premiere of the Burlesque Opera of Tabasco, 2015


In 2012 New Orleans conductor Paul Mauffray became one of the first musicians to rediscover the opera's missing libretto along with other, related historical documents. This event spurred him to reconstruct the score based on the surviving but incomplete sheet music. In 2014 Mauffray conducted part of the Burlesque Opera Tabasco in New Orleans and also conducted excerpts in such disparate locales as Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic, California, and Chattanooga. In late January and early February 2018 Mauffray conducted the entire opera, complete with sets and costumes, in performances at Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré in New Orleans' French Quarter.[2][3][4][5]

1894 Performances[edit]

George Whitefield Chadwick's Burlesque Opera Tabasco was performed in 1894 in the following cities:

  • Boston, MA
  • New York, NY
  • Providence, RI
  • Worcester, MA
  • Springfield, MA
  • Northampton, MA
  • Portland, ME
  • Portsmouth, NH
  • Lawrence, MA
  • Manchester, NH
  • New Britain, CT
  • Bridgeport, CT
  • Washington Township, NJ
  • Trenton, NJ
  • Chester, PA
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Wheeling, WV
  • Zanesville, OH
  • Columbus, OH
  • Paris, KY
  • Lexington, KY
  • Louisville, KY
  • Columbia, TN
  • Fayetteville, TN
  • Chattanooga, TN
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Augusta, GA
  • Charleston, SC
  • Savannah, GA
  • Macon, GA
  • Columbus, GA
  • Selma, AL
  • Montgomery, AL
  • Birmingham, AL
  • Meridian, MS
  • Vicksburg, MS
  • Natchez, MS
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Galveston, TX
  • Houston, TX
  • Austin, TX
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Waco, TX
  • Fort Worth, TX
  • Denison, TX
  • Dallas, TX
  • Paris, TX
  • Fort Smith, AR
  • Little Rock, AR
  • Memphis, TN


  1. ^ Shane K. Bernard, Tabasco: An Illustrated History (Avery Island, La.: McIlhenny Company, 2007), p. 67.
  2. ^ Johnston, Raymond (August 19, 2015). "Reconstructed 'Tabasco' opera to spice up Hradec Králové". Prague Post. PraguePost.com. Archived from the original on November 30, 2015. Retrieved December 1, 2015. 
  3. ^ Mahne, Theodore (March 18, 2014). "Taste of rediscovered 'Tabasco' shows comic opera has bounce, bite". Times-Picayune. NOLA.com. Retrieved December 1, 2015. 
  4. ^ "120-Year Old Tabasco Opera Comes To Tennessee". The Chattanoogan. The Chattanoogan.com. August 26, 2015. Retrieved December 1, 2015. 
  5. ^ Nalewicki, Jennifer (August 19, 2015). "Reconstructed 'Tabasco' opera to spice up Hradec Králové". SmithsonianMagazine.com. Smithsonian.com. Retrieved January 26, 2018. 

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