Did you know that a 2-ounce bottle of Tabasco contains exactly 720 drops? What about the fact that the beloved hot sauce contains just three ingredients: vinegar, salt, and red peppers? Well, we're willing to bet you didn't know there was once an entire opera that paid homage to this iconic condiment.
Yep, you read that correctly. "The Burlesque Opera of Tabasco" — originally referred to as simply "Tabasco" — is a notable comedic and satirical work composed by George Whitefield Chadwick. Premiering in 1894, the piece defied the conventions of opera by infusing it with a whimsical, humorous touch. The plot follows a tongue-in-cheek narrative that parodies the prevailing grandiose themes of the time. The story revolves around Irish sailor Dennis O'Grady, who ends up in Morocco after getting lost at sea and pretends to be a French chef named François who cooks for a high-ranking officer who craves spice. And as it turns out, the fastidious leader is a fan of the piquant Avery Island sauce.
The synthesis of historical events with hyperbole was a delight to audiences, and the unique approach of incorporating satire and farce into an opera set "Tabasco" apart from its more serious counterparts at the time. Chadwick, an American composer associated with the New England Conservatory of Music, sought to create an entertaining work that would engage audiences through a witty lens.
'The Burlesque Opera Of Tabasco' Was A Revolution
"Tabasco" achieved relative success during its initial run. However, despite its initial popularity, the opera did not become a prevailing piece of art in the same way as some other works. Nevertheless, it remains a unique example of how composers, even back then, were fearless when it came to experimenting with various musical styles and embracing comedic elements within the operatic genre.
In 2018, to simultaneously celebrate the 300th anniversary of New Orleans' founding and the 150th anniversary of McIlhenny Company's most famous product hitting the market, the performance was revived by New Orleans Opera conductor Paul Mauffray at Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré in the French Quarter. Mauffray had discovered the show's playbill in the archives and toiled to recreate its zesty magic for the stage once again. The show's five performances at the Nola theater all sold out, proving "Tabasco's" timeless success more than 120 years later.
"The Burlesque Opera of Tabasco" stands as an eccentric piece that deviates from tradition. Through its playful, comedic approach, the Louisiana-made hot sauce-inspired opera offers a glimpse into a distinctive period of musical experimentation and cultural blending in the late 19th century.
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