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Nicholas Temperley

Nicholas Temperley

Opera does not have deep roots in Britain. Only in the last hundred years has a flourishing tradition of English-language opera, in the fullest, continental, sense, existed. Most writers have been tempted to treat the earlier history in a teleological fashion: as a series of faltering steps towards the presumed goal, reached perhaps with Peter Grimes in 1945. They have singled out the rare examples of all-sung opera in English before 1900 as brave attempts at ‘progress’, generally followed by a deplorable relapse, which then has to be explained by some combination of prejudices and hostile forces.

Yet this mainstream opera towards which the English are supposed to have been feebly groping was, after all, a problematic and often unsatisfying form, in which music’s tendency to run away with the show was a matter for reproach and periodic adjustment. The inventors of opera, and its reformers in each era, set out to tame music – to keep it subservient to drama. They had very limited success. So it should not cause surprise that a nation with a powerful school of drama, where music enjoyed an established but subordinate place, tended to resist encroachments from a form in which it seemed that dramatic truth was so readily sacrificed to musical ends. Foreign opera was welcomed in elite circles, and many of its individual features were absorbed into English musical theatre. But an English opera was often felt by critics, probably speaking for the majority of theatregoers, to be a malformed hybrid, aping foreign musical achievements at too great a cost to English theatrical virtues....

Article

Desmond Shawe-Taylor

For a long while successive periods in the history of the gramophone (or phonograph) tended to follow one another at approximately 25-year intervals. The invention itself dates from 1877, the year in which the Frenchman Charles Cros (1842–88) deposited with the Académie des Sciences a paper containing proposals for the reproduction of sound, without putting his theories to a practical test, and in which an American, Thomas Edison (1847–1931), independently began to study sound recording and reproduction as part of his wider researches into telegraphy, and was soon able to recite Mary had a Little Lamb into a crude recording horn and to hear his words immediately and recognizably played back.

Thereafter, nothing very momentous happened until the last decade of the century. The early death of Cros and Edison’s lack of interest in the musical possibilities of his invention left the field open for a while to the apparently extensive and important but somewhat shadowy achievements of an Italian cavalry officer, Lt Gianni Bettini, who indulged in activities of considerable scope and value, and actually recorded the voice of Pope Leo XIII in his 93rd year. With the exception of an undoubtedly genuine recording of the great Polish soprano, Marcella Sembrich, which was romantically discovered in the attic of a New Zealand hotel, scrupulously dubbed and made generally available in ...

Article

Member of Lloyd-Webber family

(b London, March 22, 1948). Composer and producer, son of William Lloyd Webber.

He was educated at Westminster School and the RCM. From an early age he wrote incidental music for shows with his toy theatre; at Westminster he wrote music for school revues. In the April of 1965 he met the lyricist Tim(othy Miles Bindon) Rice with whom he wrote the unperformed musical The Likes of Us and some pop songs. Their first success came with the commission to write a choral work for Colet Court School; the resulting pop cantata, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, was gradually extended to a full-length show and has become a constant of both amateur and professional repertories. They released the concept album for Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), which became one of the bestselling albums of that time in both the UK and USA; it was then developed for stage and opened in New York (...