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date: 13 November 2019

Betterton, Thomaslocked

  • Curtis Price
  • , revised by Margaret Laurie

Extract

(b London, 1635; d London, April 28, 1710). English actor, manager and opera director. Generally regarded as the greatest English actor before Garrick, he played a key role in the invention of Semi-opera. In 1668 he became co-manager of the Duke's Company, which was already featuring plays with musical interludes, many of them set by Matthew Locke. In 1671 the troupe moved into the new Dorset Garden Theatre, specially equipped with the machines necessary for opera. Betterton visited Paris to study stagecraft and may have seen the famed comédies-ballets of Lully and Molière. He then produced a series of musical extravaganzas, or semi-operas: adaptations of Shakespeare's Macbeth (1673, music by Locke) and The Tempest (1674, music by Locke, Humfrey and others), Thomas Shadwell's Psyche (1675, music by Locke) and Charles Davenant's Circe (1677, music by John Banister (i)). In addition to coordinating the production and devising the scenery, Betterton often acted the protagonists, roles that never required singing....

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