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Patricia Lewy Gidwitz

(Rossi )

( fl late 18th century). Italian librettist . He was the house poet of the Teatro Nuovo in Naples, his surviving librettos (which bear his signature or the stamp G.M.D.) belonging to the period 1786–98. His association with Cimarosa (for whom he wrote over two-thirds of his extant texts) established him as a leading librettist of the period. His other major association was with the Neapolitan Giacomo Tritto. Several of his librettos achieved considerable success: Il credulo and Le trame deluse, both set by Cimarosa in 1786, were performed in major Italian centres, though the success of the latter must be attributed to the music if we are to believe Count Zinzendorf, who was unsparing in his treatment of Diodati’s contribution. On the other hand, Goethe so admired L’impresario in angustie that he translated it into German and arranged both text and music for performance (with musical additions of his own) in Weimar in ...

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Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

[Evans, John ]

(d New York, Aug 6, 1793). English tenor and actor . After appearing in Norwich and briefly at the King’s Theatre he was taken on by John Beard at Covent Garden, making his début there as Young Meadows in Love in a Village (November 1766). A handsome man, he was admired more for his singing than his acting. For nine seasons after Beard’s retirement in 1767 he shared the tenor parts in English operas and afterpieces with George Mattocks, generally taking the subordinate role. He was the first Antonio in The Duenna and played Hastings in the première of She Stoops to Conquer. He sang in Haymarket summer seasons, appeared in burlettas at Marylebone Gardens (1774) and worked in Ireland and the provinces. From 1780 to 1782 he was at Drury Lane, where his last new role was Summers in the comic opera The Fair American...

Article

Laurie Shulman

[Pierre-Auguste]

(b ?Paris, 1796; d Paris, June 1874). French tenor. After graduating from the Paris Conservatoire in 1818, he began a career as a concert singer. He was engaged by the Opéra-Comique from 1821 to 1823, making his début as Azor in Grétry’s Zémire et Azor. Following a trip to Italy for further vocal training, he sang at the Opéra in 1826 as Pylades in Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride; for the next 14 years he enjoyed great success there. Auber composed the role of Alphonse in La muette de Portici for him. Dupont sang in the premières of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell and Halévy’s La Juive, and in the infamous Castil-Blaze revival of Don Giovanni (1834). According to Charles Hervey (The Theatres of Paris, Paris, 1846), his ‘sweet but delicate’ voice suffered against the power of the Opéra orchestra. He retired from opera in 1840, but continued to sing in public until ...

Article

Jack Sage

[Duran, José ]

(b ? Barcelona; d ?Barcelona, after 1791). Catalan composer . He was music master to the Marquéz de los Vélez from about 1755 and probably also maestro de capilla of Barcelona Cathedral. He studied in Naples, and possibly became a maestro di cappella there. His unashamed preference for Italian styles over Catalan or Spanish in his operas and church music precipitated a celebrated polemic about Spanish traditions, notably with the maestro de capilla of Toledo Cathedral, Jaime Casellas. In 1760 in Barcelona he gave the first performance of his opera Antígona, followed in 1762 by Temístocles, both to librettos (now in E-Bbc ) by Metastasio.

LaborD E. Cotarelo y Mori: Orígenes y establecimiento de la Ópera en España hasta 1800 (Madrid, 1917), 233, 240–41 J. Subirá: La Ópera en los teatros de Barcelona, 1 (Barcelona, 1946), 30, 37 A. Martín Moreno: Historia de la muśsica española, iv: Siglo XVIII (Madrid, 1985), 94–5, 155–6, 372, 429...

Article

Dale E. Monson

(b ?Fossombrone, c1724; dc1775). Italian soprano. He was trained in Bologna, but began his career in Venice, in Cardena’s Creusa (Ascension 1739); this was followed by appearances in Verona, Padua and a two-year stay in Rome. From 1743 to 1753 he appeared in 14 different Italian cities, and enjoyed great success in Rome and in Naples, which led to engagements in Madrid and Naples up to 1757. He was in northern Italy in 1758–9, and in London, 1760–62; he retreated to Italy until 1765, but returned to London for five months although his voice was in decline. He followed old pathways, first back to Italy (1766–7) and then to Spain, where he appeared in Cádiz (1769). His last known performances were for Rome in the 1771–2 season. Nothing is known of his death. Elisi was one of those castratos who were admired for vocal qualities and emotive expression rather than coloratura. Thomas Gray wrote in ...

Article

(b Neuchâtel, 23orNov 24, 1733; d Paris, July 15, 1815). Swiss writer on music. A journey to Italy in the early 1750s was formative in shaping his taste for Italian opera. He then moved to Paris, where he frequented literary-philosophical circles, and in 1763–5 followed Rousseau to Switzerland. Escherny’s Fragments sur la musique (Paris, 1809), which also appeared as part of a larger work, the Mélanges de littérature (Paris, 1811), contains miscellaneous criticism; much of the writing is anecdotal (albeit vivid and picturesque), but his musical acumen cannot be doubted. Like Chastellux he favoured the principles of bel canto singing; he thought that music for the theatre should set this in proper relief.

Escherny allows Gluck a prodigious gift for powerful and awe-inspiring effects of orchestration and harmony in ‘le genre sombre et terrible’, but denies him that of melody. He claimed to have met Gluck in Vienna as early as ...

Article

Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

[Mrs Kennedy]

(d London, Jan 23, 1793). Irish contralto. In February 1775 she appeared in Arne’s The Sot, a piece designed to display the talents of his pupils. Most of her career was spent at Covent Garden, where she made her last appearance in April 1789 as William in Shield’s Rosina, a part she had created. Since she was tall with a powerful voice she often took male leads, including Macheath, Artaxerxes and roles written for her by the librettist O’Keeffe, such as Patrick in his Irish opera The Poor Soldier. She was also an accomplished oratorio performer; Mrs Papendiek remembered her ‘contralto voice melodiously sweet’ in a Westminster Abbey Handel concert. She sang as Mrs Kennedy from 1779.

BDA LS A. Pasquin [pseud. of J. Williams]: The Children of Thespis, 3 (London, 1788, 13/1792) C. Dibdin: A Complete History of the English Stage, 5 (London, 1800) T. Gilliland: The Dramatic Mirror...

Article

Elizabeth Forbes, Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

(b Westminster, London, Oct 7, 1710; d Greenwich, Jan 24, 1760). English actress and singer . She made her acting début in 1726 at the Haymarket Theatre, London, and sprang to fame in 1728 when she created Polly Peachum in The Beggar’s Opera at Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre. After she had sung the part more than 60 times she retired, becoming mistress of the third Duke of Bolton, who married her immediately after the death of his wife in 1751 – 23 years after taking her off the stage. Hogarth’s contemporary painting of The Beggar’s Opera shows the duke, in a box on stage, staring lovingly at her. The toast of the town by the age of 17, she combined ingenuous sweetness and youthful charm.

BDA DNB LS The Life of Lavinia Beswick, alias Fenton (London, 1728) H. Carey: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1729) C. E. Pearce: Polly Peachum...

Article

David Charlton

[Jacques ]

(b Lyons, 1750; d Paris, May 1836). French composer and singer . He went to Paris, according to Fétis, in 1779 and taught music; from about 1781 to 1785 he published songs and keyboard arrangements. On 1 November 1788, a scène by Foignet was given at the Concert Spirituel. In 1791, when it became a common right in France to open a theatre, he began to compose stage works, initially in collaboration with Louis Victor Simon. These were primarily opéras comiques or vaudevilles and enjoyed much success; most are lost.

From 1798 to 1809 Foignet was (with Simon) one of five joint administrators of the Théâtre Montansier, and in 1801 took over the Théâtre des Jeunes-Artistes, rue de Bondy, where he ran a highly regarded troupe with his son François Foignet, who was chief conductor. Almost nothing is known of Foignet after 1807, when most small theatres were closed by Napoleon....

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(b Pontoise, Sept 20, 1762; d Paris, Oct 10, 1853). French architect and stage designer. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, with Antoine-François Peyre, in whose studio he met Charles Percier (1764–1838). He won a second place in the Prix de Rome for architecture in 1785, and was at the Académie de France in Rome, 1786–92. He joined Percier, who had been asked to take over from Pierre-Adrien Pâris as designer at the Paris Opéra, in December 1792, and they were in partnership there until their resignation in 1796. They returned in 1800 for Bernardo Porta’s Les Horaces and in 1802 for Catel’s Sémiramis. Under the painter Jacques-Louis David, they did work for the revolutionary fêtes (for example, Porta’s Réunion du 10 août). They also worked for the Théâtre Français, the Vaudeville, Opera Buffa and the Opéra-Comique (for whom they designed Grétry’s Elisca...

Article

Marinella Pigozzi

(b Reggio Emilia, Oct 4, 1751; d Reggio Emilia, Oct 8, 1795). Italian scene designer. He studied with the stage designer Gaspare Bazzani (1701–80), the perspective and decorative painter Prospero Zanichelli (1698–1772) and then at the Accademia Clementina in Bologna. As a member of the Accademia degli Ipocondriaci of Reggio he was aware of the most recent European advances in science as well as in literature and art, and he wrote theoretical treatises on painting and architecture.

While Fontanesi continued to work successfully in Reggio as a stage designer and decorative painter, there is also evidence for his presence in theatres in Modena (1781, 1787–95), Florence (1786), Rome (1786–7), Venice (1787–92), Vicenza (1789), Brescia and Livorno (1790), Milan (1792–3) and Pisa. He worked at Barga (1794) and Frankfurt (...

Article

Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

[Mrs Williamson ]

(b London, Aug 31, 1769; d Charleston, SC, Oct 31, 1799). English soprano and actress . She made a successful début as Moggy in Shield’s comic opera The Highland Reel (1788). Her engagement at Covent Garden lasted only a year, for she performed, as the European Magazine put it, with ‘rather too much spirits’. She sang in summer seasons at the Haymarket until 1793, working also in the provinces and Scotland. Burns wrote prologues for her on her benefit nights in Dumfries in 1792 and 1793 and a poem in her praise. She joined an English company in Germany and married its manager; they moved to Boston, and on her first appearance there she acted Desdemona and sang Little Pickle in the afterpiece The Spoiled Child. She also performed in New York and became a favourite with audiences in Charleston, where the theatre closed for two nights after her sudden death....

Article

(b Bologna, fl 1714–58). Italian tenor . Although he began by singing in opera seria (Carasso in an anonymous Radamisto, 1714, Modena), he became a leading performer of opera buffa in the first half of the 18th century. From 1721 he was a member of the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna. He sang in G. M. Buini’s Amor non vuol rispetti in 1724, performed in intermezzos throughout central and northern Italy in company with Anna Maria Faini, Santa Marchesini and others, and from 1737 to 1739 sang with Pietro Mingotti’s company at Graz. From 1743 he enlarged his repertory with new commedie per musica from Rome, Florence and Naples which he learnt in Venice working with a company of singers that included Filippo Laschi, Anna Querzoli, Grazia Mellini and Maria Paganini. In 1745 he toured with Mellini, Paolo Scalabrini and the Mingotti brothers to Hamburg and Copenhagen, where he was appointed ...

Article

Dale E. Monson

[Ageo Liteo ]

(b ?Venice; dc 1780). Italian librettist . Son of Baldassare Galuppi, he is mentioned only in the composer’s will (16 June 1780) where he is named as recently deceased. For a brief period in the 1760s he was active in Venice, writing the librettos for two of Baldassare’s most successful operas, ...

Article

Philip Weller

(b Neuchâtel; fl 1770s). Swiss writer on music. Like Escherny he moved to Paris, where he frequented the literary and intellectual circles of the Encyclopedists and philosophes. In 1772 he published his long Traité du mélodrame; its immediate occasion was the rebuttal of views expressed in François-Jean Marquis de Chastellux’s Essai. The Traité is a sustained apology for the more complex orchestral style of Bohemian instrumental composers as the musical basis for an effective dramaturgy. He appreciated the obvious plastic beauty of Hasse in individual arias (for instance ‘Non ha ragione, ingrato’ in Didone abbandonata) and admired the inventiveness of motifs in Italian opera, but thought that the hedonistic regularity of a pure singing-based style allowed insufficient contrast to sustain interest and maintain dramatic power. He regarded Philidor’s orchestral invention and vivid instrumentation as a model of its kind, and the Traité is in this sense a eulogy of Philidor: Garcin made specific bar-by-bar observations on his style with a precision that inspires confidence in his judgment. The standard of criticism is remarkable, considering the early date; and throughout Garcin shows general musical literacy and a keen dramatic imagination....

Article

Bryan Martin

( fl Rome, 1763–71). Italian librettist . He was admitted to the Arcadian Academy during the custodianship of Morei (1743–66), with the Arcadian name Feresio Niceno; in the records he is referred to as ‘abate’. Since membership was not permitted to those under the age of 24, he must have been born before ...

Article

Philip Weller

(b Prangey, nr Langres, Nov 15, 1726; d after 1779). French bass . He joined the Paris Opéra about 1750, singing Neptune and Polyphemus in the 1752 revival of Lully’s Acis et Galatée. He then created Borée and Eole in Mondonville’s Titon et l’Aurore (1753). He took principal roles after the retirement of Chassé in 1757, but faced stiff competition from Larrivée who rose swiftly to prominence after his début in 1755. Though subordinate, Gélin stood his ground, singing Thoas in the last revival of Desmarets and Campra’s Iphigénie en Tauride in 1762, and creating important roles in Dauvergne’s tragédies lyriques of the early 1760s. For Gluck he sang Calchas to Larrivée’s Agamemnon in the première of Iphigénie en Aulide (1774), the High Priest in Alceste (1776) and Hidraot in Armide (1777); he also created roles for Gossec. He retired in ...

Article

Elizabeth Forbes

(b Venice, 1775; d Milan, May 13, 1835). Italian tenor. He made his début in 1796 at Ascoli Piceno. From 1800 to 1803 he sang in Naples, and between 1812 and 1828 he appeared frequently at La Scala. He created Lindoro in Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri (1813...

Article

Robert Lamar Weaver

(b Florence, April 15, 1759; d Florence, Feb 10, 1830). Italian director and librettist. He wrote spoken tragedies, including La strage degli innocenti (1782), performed at the Borgo Ognissanti theatre in Florence, and Enrico, e Sofia (1783), given at the Cocomero. About 1784 he became director of prose comedies for the Compagnia Nazionale Toscana, resident at the Cocomero; he was also a poet there with the duty of ‘accommodating’ librettos. He wrote at least two melodramas, for which Giuseppe Moneta furnished the music, and two comic intermezzos. He then turned to serious opera, with Ines de Castro, set to music first by Giordaniello, then by Andreozzi and subsequently, as a pasticcio, by several composers. An ardent patriot and supporter of the Habsburg-Lorraine rule, he wrote La felicità in Etruria (which he adjusted to previously composed, anonymous music) in 1799 to celebrate Ferdinando III’s restoration to the grand duchy after the first French occupation in that year. An account book of the Accademia degl’Infuocati refers to Giotti in ...

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Marita P. McClymonds

( fl Florence, 1779–86). Italian librettist . He wrote two important librettos, the first as traditional as the last was revolutionary. His Epponina, apparently written in collaboration with Sertor, was reworked by Giovannini for Sarti and entitled Giulio Sabino to become one of the most successful opere serie of the late 18th century, enjoying some 20 revivals. In the early 1790s Tarchi and Nasolini reset it. Another reworking, Tito nelle Gallie, was less successful. Giovannini’s La vendetta di Nino with music by Prati (which has been wrongly attributed to Moretti, writer of a libretto on the same subject) initiated the return of death and indeed murder to the Italian operatic stage. In Sografi’s reworking of 1791, La morte di Semiramide, the matricide became accidental and thus more acceptable. Leopold II of Austria, who had been ruler of Tuscany, and patron of opera in Florence when the opera was first produced in ...