The Duchess of Padua - Production History

Production History

Wilde first mentioned the possibility of writing a five-act blank verse tragedy in the Biograph in 1880, originally to be entitled The Duchess of Florence

Wilde originally set on Mary Anderson for the title role:

"I cannot write the scenario until see you and talk to you. All good plays are a combination of the dream of a poet and that practical knowledge of the actor which gives concentration to the action...I want you to rank with the great actresses of the earth...having in you a faith which is as flawless as it is fervent I doubt not for a moment that I can and will write for you a play which, created for you and inspired by you, shall give you the glory of a Rachel, and may yield me the fame of a Hugo"

He had difficulty, however, negotiating with her business manager and stepfather, Hamilton Griffin, whom Wilde referred to privately as "The Griffin" and "a padded horror". On 23 September 1882, all three met in Boston and agreed to open on 22 January 1883. In October, Wilde learnt they had decided to wait until September. Finally, a contract was signed in December - Wilde received £1,000 upfront, and £4,000 if the completed play was accepted by Anderson in March 1883, which she would then produce. This was far less than the £5,000 advance and royalty that Wilde had initially hoped for, describing the deal he got as "starvation wages".

Wilde finished the play at the Hotel Voltaire in Paris by 15 March 1883, 14 days after Griffin's deadline. However, Anderson proved hard to communicate with, and provided a definite refusal in April.

The play was unexpectedly rediscovered by American actor Lawrence Barrett in 1889, who contacted Wilde about producing it. Wilde agreed to meet him in July to discuss the play, writing he was "very glad to make any alterations in it you can suggest". Among these changes Barrett suggested was the new title Guido Ferranti, named after the lead hero rather than heroine, under which he claimed it would have greater success. He also requested that Wilde's name not be attached to the play after the failure of Vera; or, The Nihilists, although this did not deceive the New York Tribune who correctly identified the author in their review, after which it was advertised as "Oscar Wilde's Love Tragedy". The play was first produced in January 1891 in New York, and ran for three weeks until stopped by Barrett.

Wilde sought to produce a second run of the play in London, but was refused by both Henry Irving and George Alexander.

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