- Peter Walls
A French word meaning ‘again’, cried out by English audiences (not French ones, who use bis) to demand the repetition of a piece just heard or an extra item. This use of the word goes back at least to February 1712, when it attracted satirical comment in the Spectator: ‘I observe it’s become a custom, that whenever any gentlemen are particularly pleased with a song, at their crying out encore or altro volto, the performer is so obliging as to sing it over again’. In this period, the word had a fashionable status. Pope (1742) has the ‘harlot form’ of Opera telling Dullness (‘in quaint Recitativo’):
To the same notes thy sons shall hum or snore
And all thy growing daughters cry encore. (The Dunciad, iv. 59).
In both concerts and operas the progress of a work was freely interrupted for the repetition of arias or movements....