Bickerstaff, Isaac (John)
- Linda Troost
(b ?Dublin, Sept 26, 1733; d ?1808). English playwright of Irish birth. He served in the army before moving to London and drew on his military experience in his libretto for the patriotic afterpiece Thomas and Sally (1760). His successful Covent Garden piece Love in a Village (1762) started a new fashion in opera, as The Beggar’s Opera had done decades earlier. He combined a witty, romantic plot in spoken dialogue with sophisticated music drawn from continental comic opera. The pasticcio score is derived mostly from Italian opera, from oratorio, and from the songs of Thomas Arne, but uses little traditional English music, which Bickerstaff despised. As in ballad opera, the songs help to advance the action, but they also demand well-trained singers and full orchestral accompaniment.
Bickerstaff’s innovation spread quickly in the London theatre. He continued to vary the form: The Maid of the Mill...