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Article

Colin Timms and Anne MacNeil

[Giambattista]

(b Florence, Feb 9, 1576; d Reggio nell’Emilia, June 7, 1654). Italian actor, dramatist and poet. He was the son of Isabella and Francesco Andreini, famous commedia dell’arte players, and was educated at the University of Bologna. In 1594, taking the stage name ‘Lelio’, he joined the Compagnia dei Gelosi, the comic troupe to which his parents belonged, and in 1601 he married the actress and singer Virginia Ramponi (‘La Florinda’). By the time the Gelosi disbanded in 1604 he had already formed his own company, the Compagnia dei Fedeli, which served the Medici and Gonzaga families, with brief interruptions, until it disbanded, playing throughout northern and central Italy. In 1613 Maria de’ Medici invited the Fedeli to Paris. Their visit, which lasted from September 1613 to July 1614, was so successful that they performed there again from January 1621 to March 1622, probably December 1622 to March 1623...

Article

(b Padua, 1562; d Lyons, June 10, 1604). Italian actor, dramatist and poet, mother of G.B. Andreini. After her marriage in the late 1570s to Francesco Andreini, they joined the renowned Compagnia dei Gelosi, assuming the roles of prima donna innamorata and Lelio innamorato. They were favoured performers at the courts of Tuscany, Ferrara, Mantua and France. Isabella led the Gelosi from the 1580s until her death (when it disbanded), negotiating patronage and accepting payments on its behalf. In 1589 she performed alongside her rival Vittoria Piisimi at the wedding celebrations in Florence for Ferdinando de' Medici and Christine of Lorraine; Pavoni described the enthusiasm of the audience for Isabella's performance of the comedy La pazzia d'Isabella, during which she sang canzonette alla francese. Her talents as an author were also widely praised and she was accepted into the Accademia degli Intenti of Pavia in 1601. Of her nearly 500 lyric poems (two books of which were published in Milan in ...

Article

Tim Carter and Anne MacNeil

[‘La Florinda’ ]

(b Milan, Jan 1, 1583; d Bologna, 1629–30). Italian actor, singer and poet, first wife of G.B. Andreini. When they married in 1601, Virginia and her husband formed the Compagnia del Fedeli, in which she assumed the role of prima donna innamorata. Her stage name derived from her performance in Giovanni Battista’s tragedy La Florinda (1603, Florence). In spring 1608 she replaced Caterina Martinelli as the protagonist of Monteverdi’s Arianna and took part in his Ballo delle ingrate during the wedding celebrations for Prince Francesco Gonzaga and Margherita of Savoy; according to Antonio Costantini (1608), she learnt the part for Arianna in six days. She also sang the title role in G.C. Monteverdi’s opera Il rapimento di Proserpina during the festivities for the birth of the Infanta Margherita Gonzaga in 1611. Contemporary accounts suggest that her performance in Arianna was exceptionally powerful, and her talents as a singer were recalled with praise by Bonini in his ...

Article

Nancy Dersofi

(Ruzante]

(b Padua c1496; d Padua, March 17, 1542). Italian playwright, actor, singer and poet. His plays are remarkable for their innovative use of popular Paduan genres combined with pastoral eclogue and learned comedy in imitation of antiquity. In the plays 52 songs, mentioned or sung, divide scenes or carry the action, as in L’Anconitana, where a Paduan servant named Ruzante holds a song contest with his Venetian master. Speaking the dialect of the Paduan countryside, Ruzante appears in most of Beolco’s plays. The playwright-actor performed Ruzante’s role and adopted his character’s name. Modern critics have identified the author with his character, whose polemics against the rustics’ historical antagonists, whether Venetian merchants, Paduan noblemen or proponents of a Tuscanizing academic culture, inform Ruzante’s theatre. Not least, Ruzante satirizes the country figure he impersonates.

Ruzante was also renowned for his singing voice. In addition to the songs in the plays, nine extant canzoni are attributed to him. Settings by Willaert of ...

Article

Bertil H. van Boer

(b Stockholm, Aug 10, 1757; d Vaxhälla, March 17, 1810). Swedish actor, singer and librettist . He made his début as an actor as Count Almaviva in Beaumarchais’ play Le barbier de Séville in 1785 at the New Swedish Theatre, where he became well known for his comic roles and original opera librettos, mostly written for Carl Stenborg’s comic opera. In 1790 he became an administrator at the Royal Dramatic Theatre, a position he held until after Gustavus III’s assassination in 1792. In 1794 he turned to publishing in the provincial town of Linköping. During his career he supplied the texts for more than 65 one-act comedies with music, including the Singspiels Födelsedagen (‘The Birthday’, 1790), Fricorpsen eller Dalkarlarne (‘The Free Corps or Men from Dalacarlia’, 1788) and Marknaden (‘The Market Place’, 1792), all with music by Kraus. His tenor voice was considered expressive but fairly weak; his main talent as an actor lay in his satirical portrayals of figures such as Abbé Vogler in the first of the operas named above....

Article

Barbara Chmara-Żackiewicz

(b Glinno, nr Poznań, April 9, 1757; d Warsaw, July 23, 1829). Polish impresario, librettist, actor and singer. He was a central figure in the history of the Polish theatre. He studied in Kraków (1770–73), where he attended many theatrical and concert performances organized by Sierakowski, prompting him to change the direction of his career away from the army and towards the theatre. He probably completed his studies at the Piarist school in Warsaw. For a few months during 1778 he studied acting with L. Montbrun, a Warsaw theatrical impresario. Soon afterwards he made his début as an actor in N.T. Barthé’s comedy Zmyślona niewierność (‘Imaginary Infidelity’), and on 11 July 1778 as a singer and librettist in the première of Maciej Kamieński’s opera Poverty made Happy. In 1783 he became the director of the National Theatre in Warsaw, remaining in this position (with some breaks) until ...

Article

Anne Dhu McLucas

(b England, June 19, 1782; d Leeds, June 19, 1822). English actor, composer and arranger. He was active in Philadelphia, New York and Boston from 1805 to 1822. He went to Philadelphia in 1805 as a member of Warren and Reinagle’s theatre company, and also acted in Charleston, New York, Richmond and Baltimore. In 1815 he moved to Boston, where he remained active until the onset of his final illness, when he went back to Leeds.

Most of Bray’s compositions are songs for the stage, patriotic songs and sacred works. His most important work is the ‘Operatic Melo Drame’ The Indian Princess, based on the story of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas; this was issued in 1808 in a vocal score which, besides songs and choruses, included the overture and instrumental background pieces for the scenes in melodrama – an unusually complete publication for the period. Bray’s musical style is less polished than that of his American contemporaries Reinagle, Graupner and Taylor; although his melodies are graceful and full of rhythmic variety, his piano textures often lack clarity....

Article

Charles Warren

(b 1509–10; d Venice, Feb 23, 1571). Italian actor, poet and writer of comedies, active in Venice. Some of his poems were set by Lodovico Agostini in Musica sopra le rime bizzarre di M. Andrea Calmo, & altri autori (1567). More significant are his ‘piacevoli et ingeniosi discorsi in più lettere compresi’ (ed. in Rossi), which include many references to music and musicians. A few of these fanciful letters in dialect are addressed to composers of his day, for example Willaert, whose music, according to Calmo, was alchemically ‘distilled’, ‘purged’ and ‘refined’ to the point where it had reached ‘la condition de l'aurum potabile’ (Rossi, p.199). Calmo was also an able musician in his own right in the tradition of the humanist improvvisatori; according to Alessandro Zilioli (Vite dei poeti italiani) he played the parts of Pantalone and ‘the singer’ for the ‘famous companies of comedians which flourished in Italy at that time’ (see Rossi). He is now regarded as one of the creators (along with ...

Article

Richard Langham Smith

(b Strasbourg, June 22, 1852; d Paris, Dec 12, 1938). French theatre and opera administrator, director, actor and librettist. Carré had studied drama at the Paris Conservatoire and had a successful career as an actor before becoming co-director of various Paris theatres: first the Vaudeville, and later the Théâtre Libre and the Comédie-Française. He soon left the Vaudeville to become director of the theatre in Nancy. Carré’s main contribution to operatic history was made as director of the Opéra-Comique, a post which he held from 1898 to 1914 and where his strong team included André Messager as musical director and Lucien Jusseaume as designer. He worked hard to raise the musical standards of this institution and was responsible for the premières of major operas by French composers: he commissioned Debussy’s Pelléas, Charpentier’s Louise and Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-bleue, and works by Hahn, Bruneau and Hüe. He gave the first French performances of several Italian operas, including ...

Article

William V. Porter

(b Castrocaro, nr Forlì, March 27, 1577; d Florence, Oct 27, 1633). Italian playwright, poet and actor, father of Giacinto Andrea Cicognini. In 1586–7 he was enrolled at the Compagnia di S Antonio da Padova in Florence. By 1600 he had received a diploma in law, from Pisa. From 1601 to 1615 he served various aristocratic patrons in Rome, although he made frequent appearances in Florence during this period. In 1605 he married the Florentine Isabella di Domenico Berti and in 1611 he apparently began his various collaborations with Jacopo Peri, who in that year reported the completion of the music for one of Cicognini's librettos, probably Adone. After a brief period of service for Cardinal Capponi at Bologna in 1614, he apparently lived in Florence until his death by suicide in 1633. In 1618 the Florentine carnival activities included his texts for Andromeda, an elaborate intermedio with music by Domenico Belli. Another of his secular works, ...

Article

Alina Nowak-Romanowicz

revised by Barbara Chmara-Żackiewicz

(b Sokołów, Małopolski, Jan 26, 1789; d Rudna, nr Warsaw, Dec 15, 1852). Polish composer and actor. From 1809 to 1812 he was a clarinettist, trombonist and military bandmaster, and from 1813 a singer and actor, first in Vilnius and then in Warsaw. There he began to compose, writing music for the stage, including 40 comic operas and burlesques, 16 melodramas and three operas. He was a composer without any high artistic aspirations. His output is not of great value, particularly as in his stage works he pandered to popular taste, though there are reminiscences of Mozart and Rossini operas known in Warsaw at the time, as well as folk melodies. His best-known work was the ballet Wesele w Ojcowie (‘The Wedding in Ojców’, 1823), and his Chłop milionowy (‘The Millionaire Peasant’, 1829, based on a play by Raimund), created a sensation in Warsaw; his parody of Meyerbeer's ...

Article

[Heurtaux ]

(b Paris, 1725; d Paris, July 29, 1801). French librettist, dramatist and actor. He failed to make his mark as an actor in Paris, and pursued his career in the provinces (in Rennes, Strasbourg, Bordeaux and Rouen) and on various foreign stages (Bayreuth, Munich, Berlin and Brussels). While in Berlin sometime after 1755 he wrote the libretto of the divertissement Le triple horoscope which was set to music by Gaultier. With the warm recommendation of Favart, Dancourt then joined the French company in Vienna in 1762. During the 1763–4 season he wrote the libretto of La rencontre imprévue, ou Les pèlerins de la Mecque, which was set by Gluck. This work derived from Lesage and D'Orneval's play Les pèlerins de la Mecque, and had its first performance in 1764. Dancourt revived it in Brussels (1765), in Bordeaux (as Ali et Rezia, 1766) and in Paris, with music arranged by Solié (as ...

Article

[Giovan, Gian, Gianleonardo]

(b Naples, c1530; d Naples, Jan 1602). Italian harpist, singer, composer and actor. He was generally known as ‘dell’Arpa’ because of his outstanding playing of the double harp. His improvisatory skills were praised by several Neapolitan writers, among them Giovan Battista del Tufo (Ritratto … della nobilissima città di Napoli, 1588) and Giulio Cesare Cortese (Viaggio di Parnaso, c 1610), Scipione Cerreto (Della prattica musica vocale, et strumentale, 1601) and Giambattista Basile (Le muse napoletane, 1635). In the dedication to his Tempio Armonico (RISM 15996), Giovenale Ancina revealed that Arpa sang laude to harp accompaniment, probably in the oratories of Naples and Rome. A favourite entertainer in aristocratic circles, he attracted the patronage of Giovanna d’Aragona (see Luigi Dentice, Duo Dialoghi della musica, 1552) and her children. As musician-actor he played the role of servant in comedies staged in Neapolitan palaces of the Prince of Salerno (...

Article

Neal Zaslaw

(b Lyons, late 17th century; d Paris, c1752). French singer, theorist, composer and actor. He was the head of a theatrical troupe that played in Lille between 1715 and 1722, at Brussels in 1716 and in Antwerp in 1717. The title-page of his Nouveau système calls him ‘formerly of the Royal Academies of Music of Lyons, Rouen, Marseilles, Lille, Brussels and Antwerp, and maître de musique of the cathedrals of St Omer and Tournai’. In 1730 he was married in Paris to Marie-Marguerite Lecouvreur, younger sister of the playwright. The dedication of Denis’ Nouvelle méthode to the ladies of St Cyr suggests that he may have been involved in the musico-theatrical training offered at that school. In the 1740s and early 1750s, and perhaps earlier, Denis ran a music school in Paris; the school continued after his death under his son-in-law Jouve.

Denis’ treatises enjoyed considerable longevity, one of them remaining in publishers’ catalogues until ...

Article

(b Bayon, Lorraine, c1740; d nr Beauvais, c1810). French composer, singer and actor. According to Fétis he studied music at the archiepiscopal school of Nancy. By 1762 he was a singer and composer in Lyons, where his pastoral La bergère des Alpes was performed in the following year. By 1764 he was a pensionnaire of the Lyons opera. He was on the staff of a small music school in Lyons (1765) and was also a musician at the cathedral. He sang comic parts in Mâcon and by 1770 had become a comédien in Strasbourg. That year he was co-winner of the Parisian Concert Spirituel annual prize for ‘musique latine’. He then moved to Paris and was an actor at the Théâtre Italien from about 1774 to 1778. During these years he also sang in and wrote sacred works for the Concert Spirituel, and in quick succession composed several stage works, including ...

Article

Roger Fiske

revised by Irena Cholij

(b Southampton, bap. March 4, 1745; d London, July 25, 1814). English composer, dramatist, poet, novelist, actor, singer and entertainer. Dibdin was the 12th child of a parish clerk and a sorely tried mother who produced at least 14 children. His own claim to have been educated at Winchester College is not supported by the school records, though he did have lessons from James Kent and Peter Fussell, successive cathedral organists there. As a composer he was self-taught; he himself thought that he had learnt to compose by scoring Corelli’s concertos from the separate parts and from reading Rameau’s Traité de l’harmonie in English, but he must have learnt mainly from his practical experience in the theatre. By the age of 15 he was singing occasionally in such Covent Garden operas as required a chorus, supplementing his income by working for the music publisher John Johnson. The variety of his talents was already astonishing. He was only 18 when he published, more or less in full score, ...

Article

Ferenc Bónis

[Galambos, Benjámin]

(b Sajókazinc [now Kazincbarcika], April 21, 1814; d Pest, July 17, 1851). Hungarian composer, librettist, dramatist, translator and actor. He began his career as a schoolteacher and in 1834 became an actor in Kolozsvár (now Cluj-Napoca, Romania) and Kassa (now Košice, Czech Republic). From 1837 he worked in the newly opened Hungarian Theatre in Pest (renamed the National Theatre in 1840). In 1838 he went on foot to Milan to study singing. About 1840 he returned to Hungary and continued his work in the National Theatre in Pest. He wrote the libretto for Ferenc Erkel's first opera Bátori Mária (1840) and also for Erkel's chief works Hunyadi László (1844) and Bánk bán (1861); while working for the theatre, he translated more than 50 French plays and 19 Italian and French opera librettos into Hungarian.

As a composer Egressy was self-taught, learning the rules of musical notation and harmony through practice. From ...

Article

Eleanor Russell

(fl 1762–73). Spanish composer and actor. Famous first as a comic actor, he was also well known as a composer for the lyric stage by 1762; according to Subirá, he was paid 300 reales for three tonadillas and some incidental pieces, and 600 reales for the music to the comedy ...

Article

(b Berlin, 30 Nov ?1746 [or 1743/4]; d Hanover, May 20, 1796). German actor, manager, dramatist and librettist. While in the Prussian civil service at Danzig he was offered the chance of standing in for a member of Abel Seyler's company at Gotha in 1774; his performance as Riccaut in Lessing's Minna von Barnhelm was much admired and he remained with Seyler's company until 1778, marrying the widowed actress Karoline Flittner soon after joining. In 1778 he established his own company, touring especially in north-west Germany, but having his headquarters at the Elector of Cologne's theatre at Bonn. From 1784 he directed a second company performing at Mainz and Frankfurt (where he had supervised the opening of the new theatre in 1782), while his wife controlled the Bonn theatre. In 1786 he toured again, appearing in Cologne, Hanover, Kassel and elsewhere. His last play, Wer wird sie bekommen?...

Article

Leon Berger

(b London, Dec 9, 1847; d Folkestone, March 1, 1912). English actor, singer, composer and writer, father of George Grossmith. He was a courtroom reporter and comic recitalist, like his father of the same name, before becoming a drawing-room entertainer: he was sometimes called ‘G.G. II’, to distinguish him from his father, or ‘G.G.’. He began a 12-year association with the Gilbert and Sullivan Savoy operas when he made his stage début in the title role of The Sorcerer in 1877. Of slight stature, with excellent diction, dapper footwork and a light comic touch, he created what became known as the patter parts or the ‘Grossmith roles’. In 1889 he resumed his lucrative Humorous and Musical Recitals, touring in England and America.

According to contemporary accounts he was not much of a singer, but his own songs display a wider tessitura than the Gilbert and Sullivan repertory suggests. He was the author of and often a performer in eight operettas, nearly 100 musical sketches and some 400 songs and piano pieces. This prolific song output was mostly in a patter style, with an infectious melody and a syllabic setting for fast delivery: a third of them were published and survive, but his manuscripts along with his performing librettos from the Savoy operas were destroyed in World War II. His songs are couched in quotidian detail: London streets and their surly cab drivers and bus conductors, seedy lodging houses, obstreperous babies, and fashionable dances as in ...