Before Gershwin's PORGY AND BESS...
Before Joplin's TREEMONISHA....

There was


Opera in Three Acts with Prologue and Epilogue
"The FIRST African-American Opera"


Reviews and Information

(Click on image below to see a full-size photo of the Angel Records LP cover)
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The action takes place on a plantation on the Mississippi in Louisiana.
Time: The second half of the 18th century.


KOANGA, an African Prince and Voodoo Priest
PALMYRA, a mulatto, half-sister to Clotilda
SIMON PEREZ, Don Jose's overseer
CLOTILDA, Don Jose's wife
RANGWAN, a Voodoo Priest
UNCLE JOE, an old slave



Frederick (Fritz) Delius began composing KOANGA in 1896 and completed it in early 1897.

Joplin's TREEMONISHA (1910) and Gershwin's PORGY AND BESS (1935) are often referred to as the "First African-American Opera", but Delius' KOANGA was actually the first.

An excellent reference resource on KOANGA is found in The Delius Society Journal, Numbers 113 and 116, which are special issues dedicated exclusively to KOANGA.   THESE ARE NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE USING THE LINKS BELOW (these are PDF Acrobat files):

DSJ 113: KOANGA (Part 1)

DSJ 116: KOANGA (Part 2)

Contact The Delius Society to order these back numbers, and also get information on joining the Society.


KOANGA: The Complete Libretto (1935 and 1974 versions side by side)        Preface to the 1974 version of the libretto (with a history of the different versions)

KOANGA: The "Lost Child" of Delius' Operas

KOANGA: Discography

KOANGA: Performances

KOANGA: The Production of the American Premiere in 1970 (article by Frank Corsaro)

KOANGA: MIDI Sound Files

KOANGA: "La Calinda" conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent in 1945 film "Battle For Music" (YouTube Video)

KOANGA: The "Lost Child" of Delius' Operas

Delius had a special place in his heart for KOANGA for several reasons.  It was the first of his operas to be performed.  It was the most labor-intensive with regard to the libretto by Charles F. Keary, which was continually being revised (a major overhaul was finally made in 1974 by Douglas Craig and Andrew Page for the first complete commercial recording).

But most importantly, KOANGA was the work in which he best captured musically the sensuous atmosphere of the Old South, where he was first inspired to compose music.

Eric Fenby wrote: "KOANGA is one of those singular works that attract attention in Delius's development but which stand apart from the rest of his music.  Usually, once a work was written, Delius's interest in it would wane.  It would then be renewed and be relived temporarily every time he heard it again.  For KOANGA, however, he showed concern as though it held some secret bond that bound him to his youth in Florida.  It was the one work he deplored in old age he was never likely to hear again.  And so it proved.  A dark grandeur pervades the score which, whilst yielding to hankerings after Wagner, recalls the tragic gusto of Verdi. The elements of time, place and plot allowed him a range of textures and moods wider than in his other operas."

KOANGA: Complete Discography

Complete Opera:

1970 (Live) IGS 081/2 2 LP set Washington Opera, Callaway
1972 (Live)
Intaglio INCD 7442
2 CD set London Sym Orch, Groves
1974 (Studio) EMI/Angel SBLX-3808 

EMI Classics 

2 LP set 

2 CD set

London Sym Orch, Groves 

See a full-size scan of the Angel Records LP cover

Excerpts from KOANGA:

Closing Scene:

1934 (Studio) Dutton CDLX 7011 CD London Phil Orch, Beecham 
The restored sound on this disc is amazing!
1995 (Studio) Naxos 8.553535 CD English Northern Philharmonia, Lloyd-Jones 
Disk includes 3 World Premieres!

La Calinda:
(There are many recordings available of La Calinda as arranged for Orchestra by Eric Fenby. It appears on most of the "Delius Miniatures" collections.)

KOANGA: Performances
(Information from Stephen Lloyd, The Delius Society)

May 1899 London (St. James Hall) Alfred Hertz, cond. (excerpts)
Mar 1904 Elberfeld (Stadttheater) Fritz Cassirer, cond.
Sept/Oct 1935 London (Covent Garden) Sir Thomas Beecham, cond.
Nov 1946 London (Royal Albert Hall) Richard Austin, cond.
Feb 1958 BBC Broadcast Stanford Robinson, cond.
Dec 1970 Washington, DC (Lisner Aud.) - AMERICAN PREMIERE Paul Callaway, cond. (Previews; ticket form; program; photos; sound files; reviews; articles)
May 1972 London (Sadler's Wells) Charles Groves, cond.
Sep 1973 London (Kingsway Hall) Charles Groves, cond. (Studio Recording)
Apr 1980 Shreveport, Louisiana John Shenaut, cond. (Reviews of production)
July 1994 Leeds (Leeds Youth Opera,Civic Theater) Michael Williamson, cond. (Poster/flyer)
May 1995 London (Chelsea Opera Group, Queen Elizabeth Hall) David Lloyd-Jones, cond.
Jun/Jul 1995 Port-of-Spain, Trinidad All-black cast and chorus of 120 accompanied by 4 synthesizers and a steel-drum band (see details and YouTube video links)
Dec 1999 Trier, Germany Istvan Denes, cond. 
April 2007
London (Sadler's Wells)
Martin Andre', cond.
(Reviews and program)

KOANGA: Sound Files

IGS 2-LP SET (American Premiere)

Side 1
MP3 (30 MB)
Side 2
MP3 (32 MB)
Side 3
MP3 (15 MB)
Side 4
MP3 (29 MB)

KOANGA (BBC Broadcast - February 1958)
Koanga: Lawrence Winters    Palmyra: Leonara Lafayette
BBC Chorus & Orchestra conducted by Stanford Robinson

NOTE: This recording is now available as a high quality MP3 download
from   Click here for more information.
Part 1A
MP3 (29 MB)
Part 1B
MP3 (32 MB)
Part 2A
MP3 (21 MB)
Part 2B
MP3 (25 MB)

KOANGA: Excerpts from the opera (Bo Holten, cond.)

KOANGA: Closing Scene (Sir Thomas Beecham, cond.)

KOANGA: Digital MP3 files from MIDI (YouTube video)

Closing Scene (sequenced by Mottchan)

Closing Scene (sequenced by Alexis Van Sint Jan)

KOANGA: MIDI Sound Files

La Calinda

Closing Scene

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