When George Colman’s comic opera Inkle and Yarico was first performed in London, England in August of 1787 at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket, London, it was an instant success. It soon became the most popular comic opera in England during the late eighteenth century and was put on one hundred and sixty-four times between 1787 through 1800. The audience loved it because of its forbidden romance and its message against slavery. The relationship between Inkle and Yarico allowed the viewers a more personal glimpse into the cruelty and immorality of the slave trade.
The newspaper World and Fashionable Advertiser praised the opera for reviving the paper’s good opinion of the theatre. In one of the opera’s first reviews, it commended Inkle and…show more content… Elizabeth Kemble’s portrayal of Yarico. While the article admired her acting and singing skills, it lambasted the actress’s wardrobe. According to the paper, her attire was so dismal that it concealed her true talents until the last scene. Wowski, played by Miss George, was also criticized for her clothing. The author of the review felt that Yarico should have been clothed in more vivid native American clothing, such as “Plumes of feathers” and more decorative garments, instead of looking like “a begging gypsy in a blanket” (Review of Inkle and Yarico). The depiction of Inkle and Yarico below this paragraph illustrates how the costumes of the actors and actresses might have appeared. While the newspaper promotes the antislavery message, it also reveals its racial bias by assuming that native Americans dress in a “highly fanciful and ornamental” (Review of Inkle and Yarico)…show more content… It also accurately predicts that the play will help revive the Haymarket Theatre, of which Colman’s father was manager, by commenting that the son will be “useful to the Sire” (Review of Inkle and Yarico). After a fruitful run in the summer, the opera was transferred to the Covent Garden Theatre for the rest of the season. This was an unusual move for this time period that shows the extreme popularity of the opera.
At Covent Garden, new songs and a “Negro Dance” were included but the opera remained very similar to the Haymarket version. According to a 1788 article in the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, Mr. Edwin, who played the role of Trudge in both theatres, continued a superb performance. The reviewer commented that the overall consensus was that the Inkle of Haymarket, played by Mr. Bannister, was the better actor but Covent Garden’s Inkle, portrayed by Mr. Johnstone, was the better singer. However the review did mention that the overall quality of the opera was not as high as the one at the Haymarket. Such flaws were to be expected in “dramatick transplantation” (“Theatre Intelligence”) and did not seem to detract from the spectators’ enjoyment. While individual newspapers had differing opinions on whether certain aspects of one opera were as superb as the other’s rendering,