'Something with a cow in it': Dairying in Victoria’s Western District celebrated in a 1907 comic opera

In 1914, when playwright Louis Esson exhorted his fellow playwrights to write 'authentic' Australian plays, he used the throwaway line 'something with a cow in it' to get his idea across.

Theatrical historian Eric Irvin cleverly spotted that one man—a German émigré musician called Louis Bayer (1858–1907)—had already written a work for the stage with not one, but many cows in it: a comic opera called The Golden West: Or a dairy farm in Arcadia that had been performed seven years earlier. In Irvin’s article on Bayer, he notes that, though published, no copy of the opera’s libretto has survived. Rare Music Collection, University Library, however, has a copy: an unprepossessing pamphlet of 25 pages which makes very entertaining reading. More

Artwork by Norman Macgeorge, untitled landscape with gum tree, figure and cow

Image: Norman Macgeorge, Untitled (Landscape with gum tree, figure and cow), n.d. University of Melbourne Art Collection. Macgeorge Bequest 1970