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date: 09 April 2020

Venus and Adonis(i)locked

  • Curtis Price


Tragic opera in a prologue and three acts by John Blow; London or Windsor, court, c1683.

One of the early manuscript scores describes Venus and Adonis as ‘A Masque for the entertainment of the King’, that is, Charles II. It was presumably mounted privately at court, though there is no record of the venue and the identity of the librettist remains unknown; the suggestion that, because of its feminist overtones, the poem might have been written by Aphra Behn, with whom Blow later collaborated on a play, is intriguing but unproven. The same early manuscript also records that the actress-singer Mary (Moll) Davies, the king’s former mistress, took the part of Venus, while their illegitimate daughter, Lady Mary Tudor (about ten years old at the time), sang the part of Cupid. This unusual casting tends to confirm the private nature of the first production. The opera is to some extent a satire on the liberal sexual mores of King Charles’s court, and the fact that from ...

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