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Composed as a love letter to the iconic hot sauce during the 1800s, the Burlesque Opera of Tabasco has not been performed in over a century

David Landsel
December 20, 2017

What do you get for the hot sauce that has everything? After 150 years, Louisiana's iconic Tabasco Pepper Sauce, now loved the world over, has already been fêted every which way. What's left to say or do that hasn't been said or done already?

Paul Mauffray, an accomplished conductor with a passion for reviving lost music, has just the idea—he's bringing back one of the earliest gifts ever to be laid at the proverbial feet of the now-classic condiment. It is—wait for it—an opera. An opera revolving entirely around the amazingness of Tabasco.

Brainchild of Boston composer George W. Chadwick, the Burlesque Opera Tabasco was first performed in 1894. The McIlhenny Company, creators of Tabasco, had, believe it or not, nothing to do with the project, but apparently didn't mind this extremely ambitious bit of fan fic making the rounds; eventually, they even put their seal of approval on the thing. (It's said that in exchange for allowing the producers to use the Tabasco trademark, they had to promise to hand out samples of Tabasco sauce to the audience.) The great Tabasco opera toured the United States for nearly a year, playing in dozens of cities. And then it disappeared.

Until now. While in New Orleans researching opera history, Mauffray reportedly uncovered the score of this long-lost masterpiece, which tells the entirely probable story of an Irishman masquerading as a French chef in the royal kitchens of a Middle Eastern pasha whose head is on the chopping block (quite literally) when his fake French cooking fails to land on the palate of his apparently very discriminating employer.

A wild, all singing, all dancing romp ensues, and in the end, the Irishman manages to retrieve a secret potion that turns out to be Tabasco, which of course turns out to be a huge hit back at the palace, and nobody has to have their head chopped off, cue grand finale.

Mauffray's reconstruction of the original work will be staged January 25-28 in New Orleans, and this time, it's not only with the full support of the McIllhenny Company—this is actually being billed as the kick-off to Tabasco's big birthday party.

"For nearly 150 years, Tabasco Sauce has played a rich and storied role in the history of food and in American and global culture," Anthony A. Simmons, president and CEO of McIlhenny Company and fifth-generation McIlhenny family member told the Lafayette Daily Advertiser in a recent story. "As we proudly celebrate my great-great-grandfather's legacy, we thought it fitting to resurrect one of the more musical moments in our history."

We're in complete agreement. Interested? Tickets start at $25, and you can buy them here.

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