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date: 19 October 2019

Amori di Ergasto, Gli (‘The Loves of Ergasto’)locked

  • Curtis Price

Extract

(‘The Loves of Ergasto’)

Pastoral in a prologue and three acts by Jakob Greber to a libretto after A. Amalteo; London, Queen’s Theatre, Haymarket, 9 April 1705.

Gli amori di Ergasto, the music of which does not survive, was the first Italian opera produced in London in Italian and inaugurated John Vanbrugh’s Haymarket Theatre, the principal opera house in London until 1789. Vanbrugh and his partner William Congreve were planning to open with either a play or perhaps Eccles’s English opera Semele, but the unexpected success of Thomas Clayton’s Arsinoe at the rival Drury Lane Theatre prompted them to opt for an Italian opera. Greber, a German who had studied in Italy before his arrival in England about 1703, evidently composed the score at short notice. In Roscius anglicanus (1708), the prompter John Downes said that Gli amori was performed ‘by a new set of Singers, Arriv’d from Italy; (the worst that e’re came from thence) for it lasted but 5 Days, and they being lik’d but indifferently by the Gentry; they in a little time marcht back to their own Country’. It is, however, unlikely that any singers were specially imported for this opera, which requires only four: Licori (probably doubling as Cupid in the prologue), Phillis, Ergasto and Filandro. Greber was closely associated with Margherita de l’Epine, one of the sopranos in ...

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