Thursday, May 6, 2010


L'Afrique, a home-made comic opera, has been the sensation of the week just closed. It was presented at the Olympic by a company of amateurs who, while they did all in their power and acquitted themselves very creditably, failed to make the musical beauties of the work as prominent as professionals could have done, thereby placing the production before the public almost entirely on its own merits. That a great success was achieved is a personal triumph for the originality and genius of the composer, Mr. W.C. McCreery, who may well feel proud of the reception given to L'Afrique and of the almost unanimous endorsement of it by the large and fashionable audiences that listened to it. It is a triumph for home talent that may be accepted as marking an epoch in the aesthetic growth of St. Louis, as it will encourage further efforts in behalf of the musical art and give an impetus to local theatrical and operatic ventures that may result in very much good.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 22, 1881

After some preliminary announcement, a certain Mr. McCreery, of St. Louis, produced a work which he is pleased to call a new comic opera, entitled "L'Afrique," at the Bijou Theatre last evening. A really new comic opera would doubtless be welcomed; but in "L'Afrique," which is neither new nor comic nor an opera, the public are not likely to find any enjoyment. It is a pity that ambitious writers seem unable to be original, and prefer to be mere servile imitators, as in the case of Mr. McCreery. It is a thankless task to say of this work that it is worthless. There is, of course, nothing American about it. The scene is supposed to be on the border of the Transvaal. the men are British soldiers, Zulu warriors, and Dutchmen with a German accent; the women are the counterparts of the rapturous maidens of "Patience," dressed in bright, short dresses, with sunflowers and other aesthetic adornments. Whatever they may say, either in their speech or songs, it is almost impossible to discover the plot, if there be any, and the result is a dreary representation. Why they should engage in the various scenes, which are of excessive length, is never apparent, and in the absence of a libretto there is no clue to the meaning of the story. As a musical matter, "L'Afrique" demands criticism only to say of it that while the composer seems to know how to orchestrate and to write bright and clever songs, he has done nothing to entitle him to praise. He is a mere imitator. His opera, as he calls it, will never be considered of any value, and will pass from public notice on a calm judgment of its merits. The cast was very weak, and suggested the presence of inexperienced amateurs and a certain variety of minstrel company style that was vulgar and inartistic.
-The New York Times, January 31, 1882

Wayman Crow McCreery, the creator of the new comic opera that was neither new nor comic nor an opera, was a former first baseman with the Union Club. He was actually an outstanding athlete and a champion billiard player, as well as the musical director of Christ Church Cathedral for over twenty-five years. The Times, however, obviously didn't think much of him or his opera.

Do we know of any other ballplayers who wrote an opera? I would imagine that it must be a short list.

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