In the spring of 1799 ‘expectation was on tip-toe’ for Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s new play.1 Pizarro, a spectacular five-act tragedy adapted from August von Kotzebue’s Die Spanier in Peru (1796), boasted an all-star cast including John Philip Kemble, Sarah Siddons, William Barrymore and Dorothy Jordan; a musical score with accompanying vocal parts especially composed by Michael Kelly; and ‘entirely new Scenes, Dresses and Decorations’.2 In anticipation of ‘overflowing’ audiences, Drury Lane unbolted its doors as early as three o’clock in the afternoon. Managers correctly predicted that the already well-advertised play, celebrating ‘the joint reputation of Sheridan and Kotzebue, and the first dramatic attempt of the former, after an interval of twenty years’, would be certain to excite the eager curiosity of metropolitan audiences.3 While the first performance pointed to the need for ‘judicious’ alterations and curtailments (in order to cut down the play’s excessive running time), reviewers confidently identified its ‘purity of moral sentiment’ and ‘genuine and enthusiastic bursts of heroic patriotism’ as ‘indisputable claims to the patronage of the Public’.4 Pizarro was played consecutively for the remainder of the season, bringing in revenue that was desperately needed to replenish Drury Lane’s depleted coffers.5 By 1815 the text had already been issued in thirty different editions and Pizarro was secure in its status as a recognised ‘favourite’ of the patent theatres. It would be frequently staged at Drury Lane, Covent Garden and provincial Theatres Royal until the mid-nineteenth century.