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date: 17 November 2019


  • Nicholas Temperley


A type of English operatic comedy that flourished in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The term was one of several used for Italian comic operas of the light intermezzo variety: for instance Pergolesi’s La serva padrona was so described at its first London performance in 1750. Several Italian burlettas were played at Dublin with great success in the 1750s, and Lord Mornington commissioned Kane O’Hara to write an English imitation of one. The result was Midas, the first English burletta, performed privately near Belfast in 1760, and publicly at Dublin in 1762 and at Covent Garden in 1764. It was a burlesque on classical mythology; the music was a pasticcio, partly folksongs and partly tunes from Italian and English operas, with recitative. Its compiler is unknown.

Midas was a great success and was imitated both in Dublin and in the London patent theatres. These early burlettas, in verse throughout and all-sung, satirized the mythological and historical conventions of ...

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R. Fiske: English Theatre Music in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1973, 2/1986)
A. Nicoll: The History of English Drama, 1660-1900 (Cambridge, 1952-9)