Appeal launched to find missing act of Vassallo opera

Libraries are searching for an opera act by a Maltese composer which recounts the story of nurse Edith Cavell, a First World War heroine

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A campaign is underway to find the missing third act of an opera by the Maltese composer Paolino Vassallo which was first performed in Malta in 1927. The work is based on the story of the Norfolk nurse Edith Cavell who helped 200 British soldiers escape from occupied Belgium into Holland during the First World War. She was later arrested for treason by German police and executed by a firing squad in October 1915.

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The Norfolk Record Office holds the first two acts, after acquiring them at auction in 1941. But staff are now appealing for help to find the third act to help a student who is studying Vassallo’s work in Malta.

Nick Miller, keeper of the Cavell memorabilia for St Mary’s Church in Swardestone, the village where the nurse grew up, says: ‘It is an extraordinary document. The composer's handwriting is all over the first two acts in four colours of ink – so there's no reason the third act won't be the same. We want people to know what a courageous and extraordinary woman she was.’

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Vassallo (1856-1923) studied with Massenet in Paris, before founding his own Musical Institute back in the Maltese capital of Valletta in 1885. He was appointed the maestro di cappella at Mdina Cathedral in 1902 and wrote three operas: Amor Fatale, Frazir and Edith Cavell.