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Lambelet, Napoleonlocked

  • Manolis Seiragakis

(b Corfu, Feb 27, 1864; d London, Feb 25, 1932). Greek composer, pianist, music director, and choir director. He studied in Naples (Conservatorio S Pietro a Majella) and right afterwards he settled in Athens, teaching music and conducting choirs. His exuberant musical activity fertilized the theatre life of the Greek capital. His rivalry with the choir director Lodovico de Mento led the theatre troupes of the era to engage choirs and small orchestras performing live music on stage. Soon he composed incidental music not only for Komeidyllio (a Greek version of the French vaudeville), but also for ancient dramas. He was conductor of the first opera troupe in Athens and also composed choral church music, which, however, elicited strong resistance. He published a music magazine (Mousiki Ephimeris) and he wrote a lot of songs setting to music works of significant Greek poets. He also collaborated with the vaudeville author Dimitrios Kokkos, who was a self-taught composer. In 1895 he fled to Egypt and soon afterwards to the United Kingdom where he was knighted in 1896. His first work there was the musical Yashmak, a Story of the East, an adaptation of Dikran Tchouhadjian’s operetta Leblebidji Horhor Agha, which ran for 121 performances in the Shaftesbury Theatre. His intention to use the music of the Armenian composer was not implemented. Even his adaptation was considered as too deeply tinged with Oriental colouring to please the English taste. Soon, the musical The Transit of Venus (1898) followed, as well as the Review Pot Pouri (1899). The latter’s song ‘Mary Was a Housemaid’ became the smash hit of the year. He wrote music for patriotic plays for the Second Anglo-Boer War. During the same period he composed music for a church service for the Greek Orthodox Church of S Sophia, which also experienced serious difficulties in order to be established. His music was melodious and his songs proved catchy. He contributed to Sidney Johnes’s Gheisha, Arthur Sturgess’s The Topsy Turvy Hotel, and Lionel Monckton’s Our Miss Gibbs. Although he initially advocated the use of oriental musical elements and modal scales he did not manage to survive in London’s West End after the emergence of Oschar Asche’s orientalist musicals. His swansong was Valentine, an out of date comic opera staged at St James Theatre (Jan 1918) and also in Athens (May 1920). The event marked his utmost unsuccessful effort to ensure his repatriation both for health reasons and because his career in London had already been completed.

Stage Music

Oi mylonades [The millers] (Komeidyllio after an It. Comedy), Athens, Euterpe, 22 Jul 1888

Archontochoriatis [Le bourgoise gentilhome] (Molière, comedy), Athens, Euterpe, 29 Jun 1889

Captain Yiakoumis (Komeidyllio, D. Kokkos), Athens, Komodion, 29 Jan 1892

I Oikogenia Paradarmenou [The floundering family] (Komeidyllio, Ch. Anninos), Omonoias, 9 Sept 1892

The Yashmak, a Story of the East (musical comedy, 2, C. Raleigh, S. Hicks), London, Shaftesbury, 31 March 1897, vs (London, 1897)

The Transit of Venus (musical comedy, 2, J.T. Tanner, A. Ross), Royal Theatre, Dublin, 9 April 1898, vs (London, 1898)

Pot-Pourri, an 1899 Review (J.T. Tanner, W.H. Risque), Notting Hill Coronet, London, 3 April 1899, vs (London, 1899)

A Gentleman in Khaki (1, P. Hope), Royal, London, 15 May 1900

The Shadow Dance (melodrama, B. Landek), Grand Theatre Islington, 7 Oct 1901

Helectra (tragedy, Sophocles), Royal Court Theatre, London, 22 May 1904

The Last Load (1, A. Sturgess), London Coliseum, 24 Dec 1904

Fenella (operetta, 1, A.R. Cleveland), London Coliseum, 18 Dec 1905, vs (London, 1906)

The Cricket on the Hearth (Ch. Dickens), London, Terry’s, 24 Nov 1906

Stemming the Stream (drama, 3), London, Scala, 30 Oct 1907

Her Answer (music dialogue, S.J. Adair Fitzgerald), Notting Hill Coronet Theatre, 22 Jul 1908

Parthenagogeio [Girls school] (Komidhyllio, I. Delikaterinis), Nea Skene, Athens, 12 Aug 1911

A Bit of Khaki (sketch, A.R. Cleveland), Empress Theatre, Brixton, 17 May 1915

To oneiro tou pierotou [Pierrot’s dream, Harlequinade, 1], Athens Municipal Theatre, 9 Feb 1916

Valentine (romantic comic opera, 2, A. Davenport, Ch. Wibrow, A. Sturgess), St James Theatre, London, 24 Jan 1918

Athens Municipal Theatre, 1 May 1920


  • GroveO (G. Leotsakos)
  • J.P. Wearing: The London Stage 1901–1909: A Calendar of Plays and Players (New Jersey, London, 1981)
  • K. Gänzl: The British Musical Theatre, vol.1: 1865–1914 (London, 1986)
  • G. Leotsakos: ‘Lambelet Napoleon’, New Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed. S. Sadie (London, 1992), vol.2, 1086–7
  • M. Seiragakis: Napoleon Lambelet, Enas anestios kosmopolitis: Symvoli stin katagrafi tis theatrikis tou drasis [Napoleon Lambelet, a homeless cosmopolitan: contribution to the mapping of his theatre activity] (Athens, 2014)
The New Grove Dictionary of Opera