Joseph Haydn in Egypt

Well, one of his overture. Shortly after Napoleon’s army conquered Cairo a number of establishments were opened to entertain the troops. A Citizen Chay opened the rather grand Café de l’ Armée victorieuse in Ibrahim Bey’s house. However, citizens Hannig and Audiffret went one better and opened a concert hall. We know that a concert was held there on Boxing Day 1800, the orchestra drawn from military bandsmen playing two symphonies by Pleyel, a Cimarosa overture and one by Devienne.

Such was its success that they followed it with a more ambitious programme on 5 January 1800. This was described in the Courier d’Egypte. After an article on the plague in the Ottoman army the correspondent describedthe concert in some detail:

A symphony by Pleyel

Citizen Vincenzo sang a Martini excerpt

Citizens Wagner, Martin, Duchaine the younger, the musicians from the Guides and Citizen La Moine of the 18th Line performed a sinfonia concertante by Devienne for flute, clarinet, horn and bassoon

An overture by Haydn

Then, after an intermission, there was some more music:

An overture by Julie

Citizen Vassoly of the 88th Line sang a comic opera aria by Paesiello

Citizen Duchaine performed a violin concerto by Saint-Georges

Citizen Vincenzo sang  a grand aria by N. N.

The overture Iphigenie by Gluck


This closed the concert. It is doubtful that many Egyptians came to listen to this performance of classical music. A certain Villoteau observed that: “The Egyptians did not care for our music, but thought theirs brilliant. We liked our own and found that of the Egyptians detestable. Each felt they were right and seemed surprised by the reaction of the other to what he had heard.” An opinion borne out by Malus who recalled that “headquarters dined with the Sheikh El Bekri. He irritated us a great deal with his music.”