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Sybil Rosenfeld

(b Rome, 1750; d Ramsgate, 1795). Italian architect and scene designer . He was in England by 1772 and was first employed at Drury Lane in 1777. He was scene painter and machinist at the King’s Theatre between 1781 and 1785, in 1782 reconstructing Vanbrugh’s original theatre, converting the auditorium to a horseshoe shape. At the King’s he designed scenery for operas, comic operas and ballets mostly by Noverre. He was scenographer for at least 12 composers including Bertoni, Anfossi and Rauzzini, and was also responsible for Cimarosa’s Il pittore parigino (1785) and Cherubini’s Demetrio (1785). In 1785–6 he was succeeded by Marinari but, after the fire at the King’s in 1789, he was employed on rebuilding the theatre. He returned to the King’s as painter and machinist for Paisiello’s L’amor contrastato (1794), though on the British Library playbill his name is deleted....


Curtis Price

(fl 1789–93). Irish impresario. Of obscure origin, he reputedly trained as a law clerk in London in the mid-1780s and was employed by a lawyer representing Giovanni Gallini in his struggle to acquire control of the King’s Theatre in the Haymarket. After the fire that destroyed the theatre on 17 June 1789, Gallini was issued a licence to mount a season of Italian opera at the Little Haymarket Theatre, and in early September he sent O’Reilly to Italy to recruit singers. With the help of Gallini’s contact in Florence, Lord Cowper, O’Reilly assembled a fine company which included the castrato Luigi Marchesi, Anna Storace as prima buffa and Gertrud Elisabeth Mara as prima donna seria.

In early 1790 two competing schemes were launched to re-establish an Italian opera house in London. William Taylor and Michael Novosielski started to rebuild on the site of the old King’s Theatre. In the meantime, the Earl of Salisbury and the Duke of Bedford, with the approbation of the Prince of Wales, planned a grand opera house in Leicester Square. Because Salisbury was also Lord Chamberlain and thus controlled the licensing of public theatres, a front-man had to be found to conceal his conflict of interest. For reasons that remain unknown, O’Reilly was the ostensible proprietor. Borrowing ideas from the French theatre architect Victor Louis and consulting Sir John Soane in London, he designed a lavish opera house for Leicester Square. When the Lord Chancellor refused him a royal patent on the grounds that natural justice favoured creditors of the old Haymarket theatre, O’Reilly leased the Pantheon in Oxford Street in summer ...


Marita P. McClymonds

( fl Turin, 1776–92). Italian poet . He wrote librettos for the Teatro Regio, Turin, between 1776 and 1792, though his principal occupations were that of lawyer and public official. He is credited with only five works, but he may have been the author of a number of unattributed librettos for operas produced in Turin during the late 18th century. In Cleopatra, he avoided a staged double suicide: Mark Antony’s body is discovered on stage, and Cleopatra departs to die during the final scene. His exotic libretto Sicotencal, set in Yucatan, enjoyed some success in Italy both in the original three-act version, which Colla set for Pavia in 1776, and in a two-act version entitled Zulima, produced in Florence in 1777 with Rutini’s music and reset by Bianchi for Naples in 1782. This opera, together with Cigna-Santi’s Alcina e Ruggiero (1775), initiated a trend in Turin towards operas with chorus, sizable ensemble finales, shorter third acts, more elaborate accompanying ballets and less emphasis on military battles and display. The two ...


Saskia Willaert

[Angiola, Maria Angiosa ]

(b Florence, fl 1741–73). Italian soprano . Director of buffo companies. She entered the opera circuit in the early 1740s, singing in the comic hits of the day at the principal buffo theatres in northern Italy, alongside heavyweight buffi such as Filippo Laschi, Francesco Baglioni, and Pietro Pertici. From 1744 onwards she was offered prima buffa roles in Venice. Her husband Carlo joined her on the stage in 1745, and together they headed comic companies and directed buffo productions in Venice, Padua, Pisa, and Florence. While their contracts at the Pergola Theatre in Florence and the Ducale Theatre in Milan may have been the most significant concerning fees and prestige, their performances at the San Moisè in Venice during autumn 1748 and the Carnival of 1749 were artistically perhaps the most important. Here they met Goldoni, who was on the brink of a career that would make him the most prominent comic librettist of the era. Goldoni wrote the principal parts of his new comic pieces ...


Stephen McClatchie

(fl 1775–1805). Italian librettist. He was described in contemporary sources as being ‘of the counts of Manupello’, a title that connects him with the Orsini family. He wrote librettos for three opere serie, a comic opera, and a number of occasional pieces dedicated to Ferdinand IV of Naples. His considerable cultivation of the componimento drammatico after the suppression of the short-lived Neapolitan republic in 1799 attests to the reactionary nature of the Bourbon monarchy; his recourse to the licenza in his last two opere serie suggests a similar ideological framework – an attempt to stem the revolutionary tide by royalist propaganda. His first opera seria libretto, Creso in Media, is constructed almost entirely of exit arias, with only single examples of duet, trio and chorus. This typical 18th-century pattern gave way in both Laconte and Ifigenia in Aulide to a more flexible form, in which the ensemble plays a larger part. The ensembles in ...


Bryan Martin

(b Naples, Dec 20, 1705; d Naples, 1769). Italian librettist , uncle of Giuseppe Palomba. A lawyer by profession, he wrote more than 50 comic librettos in Neapolitan dialect. His earliest known libretto, L’amor costante (1734), was a minor success; in 1737 his career took off with the immensely popular Orazio, which soon joined the legion of works falsely attributed to Pergolesi. In 1749 he was maestro al cembalo at the Teatro della Pace. From 1756 to 1761 his new works were presented with some frequency outside Naples (although to music by composers associated with that city). Critical assessment of Palomba’s work has been harsh. Scherillo dismissed him as a scribbler – ‘his comedies are colourless, inconsequential, improbable and completely artificial’ – and only Cimaglia has offered enthusiastic praise. He is remembered chiefly for his association with such composers as Jommelli, Piccinni and Paisiello.

See also Orazio .

comic operas unless otherwise stated...


Ethyl L. Will

revised by Elisabeth Cook

(b Châlons-sur-Marne, Feb 18, 1725; d Paris, July 7, 1794). French administrator . He was the son of Pierre Papillon, president-treasurer of France ‘de la généralité de Champagne’ at Châlons-sur-Marne. In the mid-1740s Papillon moved to Paris, where he completed his law studies. He bought the three official positions of intendant-contrôler de l’argenterie (1756), menus-plaisirs (1762) and affaires de la chambre du roi (1762). Until 1760 the intendant had no control over the two Comédies, but Papillon obtained management of the Comédie-Italienne in 1760 and of the Comédie-Française in 1762. In 1773 he was appointed intendant de l’Ordre royal et militaire de St Louis. At the king’s request Papillon assisted in the reorganization of the Opéra in 1776. Although this position lasted only one year, his efforts were so successful that he obtained the supervisory direction of the Opéra (1780–90), as well as direction of the Ecole Royale de Chant (the forerunner of the Paris Conservatoire) from its establishment in ...


Jon Bagüés

[Munibe e Idiaquez, Xavier María ]

(b Azcoitia, Guipúzcoa, Oct 23, 1729; d Vergara, Guipúzcoa, Jan 12, 1785). Basque composer . Of noble birth, he was educated at the Jesuit school in Toulouse. One of the principal figures behind the introduction of Enlightenment thinking to the Basque country, in 1764 he founded the Real Sociedad Bascongada de los Amigos del País, the first of the Spanish economic societies whose concerns included music, especially musical theatre as exemplified by French comic opera. His works were written to his own librettos, and privately performed. His comic opera El borracho burlado, performed in Azcoitia in 1764, consisted of 35 scenes divided into two acts; it was the first opera in which the text was sung in Basque, though the spoken parts were in Spanish. In 1781 he wrote El amo querido, a comic opera for the students at the Real Seminario Patriótico Bascongado in Vergara. He died while he was composing ...


Colin Timms

(b ?Siena; fl 1743–64). Italian singer . Her place of birth is suggested by the librettos of two of the four operas in which she performed in Naples in 1743–7 where she is described as ‘la Senesina’ and ‘Sanesina’. The bulk of her career appears to have been centred on Venice, where she sang in over 20 operas in ...


John A. Rice

(b Venice, Oct 1, 1757; d Florence, Dec 12, 1796). Italian playwright and librettist . His Lettera ad un uomo ragionevole sul melodramma detto serio, published in 1789 as a preface to Meleagro, is an outspoken essay of some 50 pages criticizing the state of Italian opera seria. By linking a reformist tract with a sample libretto Pepoli imitated Algarotti, who had published an illustrative Ifigenia in Aulide along with his Saggio sopra l’opera in musica of 1755. Pepoli blamed the defects of opera seria on the pervasive and pernicious influence of Metastasio, and argued for a restoration to the genre of the grandeur and nobility of ancient Greek drama by integrating the ballets and choruses and omitting secondary characters and amorous intrigues. He cited Calzabigi’s librettos as worthy examples, calling his Alceste equal if not superior to Euripides’ play.

Three years after publishing the essay Pepoli was commissioned, with Paisiello, to produce the inaugural opera for the new Teatro La Fenice in Venice (Ascension ...


Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

(fl 1746–82). Italian contralto castrato. After appearing at Venice in 1746 he performed in many continental opera houses. He made his English début in the title role of Arne’s Artaxerxes (February 1762) and continued to sing at Covent Garden until the 1763–4 season, when he also appeared with the Italian opera company at the King’s Theatre. For the next two seasons he sang in Dublin in Italian operas and the Irish premières of Artaxerxes and The Royal Shepherd. He taught singing in Dublin until at least 1782. One of his pupils was Michael Kelly, who appeared with him in Italian comic operas at Fishamble Street in 1777–8 and wrote of him: ‘He had a fine contre alto voice, and possessed the true portamento so little known in the present day’.

BDA LS SartoriL M. Kelly: Reminiscences of the King’s Theatre (London, 1826, 2/1826); ed. R. Fiske...


Dennis Libby and John Rosselli

(Maria) [‘La Parruchierra’]

(b ?Bologna; fl 1728–56). Italian soprano. Her nickname means ‘wig dresser’. She made her début at Bologna at Carnival 1728, singing as seconda donna until 1733, then as prima donna in leading houses, including the S Carlo, Naples, in its inaugural season (1737–8). From 1739 she was in Farinelli’s company in Spain. After returning to Italy in ...


Mary Hunter

(b Nov 29, 1727; d after 1797). Italian librettist. He worked in Rome, where he was secretary to Prince Giustiniani and a member of several Arcadian academies. As a librettist he worked with the most illustrious composers of opera buffa in the late 18th century – Piccinni, Galuppi, Anfossi, Guglielmi, Salieri and Cimarosa, among others. He wrote opere buffe almost exclusively, and was responsible for some of the most successful texts of the period: L’incognita perseguitata (Piccinni, 1764; Anfossi, 1773), Il pittore parigino (Cimarosa, 1781) and – though some doubt has been cast on his authorship because it was initially anonymous – Il barbiere di Siviglia (Paisiello, 1782). He was one of the post-Goldonian generation of opera buffa librettists along with such figures as Giovanni Bertati, who worked primarily in Venice, Caterino Mazzolà in Dresden and Vienna, and Lorenzo da Ponte in Vienna. Like them, Petrosellini was primarily interested in expanding the scope of the Goldonian plot, while reducing the number of arias, increasing the number of ensembles and expanding the finales. In keeping with current practice, most of his librettos have two acts. He tended to write comedies of disguise and intrigue rather than sentimental comedies; ...


Franco Piperno

[Geronimo, Giommo, Gelormo]

(b Naples, fl 1726–52). Italian bass. He was heir to a tradition of interpretation that originated with G. B. Cavana and Gioacchino Corrado, and until 1749 he appeared almost exclusively in dialect comedy roles at the Nuovo and Fiorentini theatres in Naples. He sang in important operas such as Pergolesi’s Lo frate ’nnamorato and Flaminio and Latilla’s Gismondo and Orazio, the last two becoming widely successful. In 1738 he appeared at the Teatro S Carlo on the only occasion when a commedia per musica was performed there (Auletta’s La locandiera). In 1745–6 he was in Palermo, but his first true round of performances was in 1751, when he went to Venice to create the roles of Giacinto in Galuppi’s Il mondo alla roversa, and Roccaforte in Le donne vendicate and Beltrame in La mascherata, both by Cocchi.

P. Weiss: ‘La diffusione del repertorio operistico nell’Italia del settecento: il caso dell’opera buffa’, ...


Philip Weller

(b Escout, Basses-Pyrénées, Feb 16, 1733; d after 1789). French haute-contre . He was recruited for the Paris Opéra in about 1755 as a replacement for Jélyotte. His début was as Adonis in Mouret’s Les amours des dieux in 1757, after which he sang in revivals of Rameau”s Hippolyte et Aricie...


[Giovacchino ]

(b Rome, 1716; d Rome, Sept 8, 1790). Italian librettist . A cleric, he served as secretary to Cardinal M. A. Colonna and was a protégé of Pope Clement XIV. He was admitted to the Arcadian Academy during the custodianship of Francesco Lorenzini (1728–43), with the Arcadian name Nivildo Amarinzio. He was procustode under Giuseppe Brogi (1766–72) and was elected custode generale in 1772. His aim was to revitalize the Academy, and he advocated a rejection of pastoral simplicity in favour of a more enlightened approach, incorporating philosophy and science, but being careful not to offend the disciples of Metastasio.

Pizzi wrote only a few opera librettos, similar in structure to those of Metastasio. The bulk of his dramatic works were oratorios and componimenti drammatici (probably serenatas).

See also Creso .

Eumene (os), Aurisicchio, 1754; Creso (os), Jommelli, 1757 (Abos and A. Cocchi, 1758; Sacchini, 1765, rev. 1781 as Euriso; Cafaro, 1768; Alessandri, 1774; Borghi, 1777; Anfossi, 1787; ...


Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

[Mrs Vernon, Mrs Thompson]

(b London, June 8, 1736; d after 1788). English soprano and dancer. As a child she appeared as a dancer and at the age of 14 she sang a minor role in the opera La Forza d’amore by Pietro Domenico Paradies with an Italian opera company at the Haymarket Theatre. Three years later, in May 1754, she sang the Genius of England in Thomas Arne's Eliza. She generally played spirited second-woman roles, singing Lucy in The Beggar’s Opera almost every season and creating the parts of Dorcas in Arne’s Thomas and Sally (1760) and Fanny the gypsy in The Maid of the Mill (1765). In 1762 her immodest costume while dancing shocked the party in the royal box and in Thespis she was called ‘the liveliest baggage on the modern stage’. Her Savoy Chapel marriage to the tenor Vernon in 1755 was declared invalid; she sang again as Miss Poitier from ...


Elisabeth Cook

[Poisson, Jeanne Antoinette ]

(b Paris, Dec 29, 1721; d Versailles, April 16, 1764). French patron . She married Guillaume Lenormand, Seigneur d’Etioles, in 1741 and established a popular salon frequented by such leading literary figures as Pompeo magno Voltaire, C.-L. de Secondat, Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu and Fontenelle. In 1745 she became Louis XV’s mistress and was granted the title ‘Marquise de Pompadour’. In this capacity she was able to encourage many more artists, including the composers François Rebel, Mion and La Garde and the librettists Pierre Laujon, Moncrif and P.-C. Nivelle de La Chaussée. In 1747 she formed her own amateur théâtre at Versailles, the Theatre des Petits Cabinets, which moved to Bellevue; in 1752. During the next seven years some 33 operatic works, mainly in the pastoral genre, were performed, with Mme de Pompadour often taking the leading role. The Duke of Luynes judged her voice small but pleasant. She was, moreover, an excellent musician and an attractive, competent actress....


David Greenslade

(b Parma, 1704; d Parma, Feb 20, 1782). Italian composer . A pupil of G. M. Capelli, he was vice-maestro di cappella at Parma Cathedral from 1733 and maestro from 1736, then became the first maestro di cappella at the Bourbon court established in Parma in 1749 (until 1766). He directed the comic opera company at Colorno from 1752 and the Regio Scuola di Canto at Parma, 1769–73. None of his operas survives.

DEUMM EitnerQ GerberNL StiegerO J. S. Sainsbury: A Dictionary of Musicians (London, 1824, repr. 1825) C. Alcari: Parma nella musica (Parma, 1931) P. E. Ferrari...


Mary Hunter

(fl 1770–after 1790). Italian librettist. He is remembered as Joseph Haydn’s collaborator at Eszterháza between 1781 and 1790. His chief job there was to adapt librettos and write texts for insertion arias; he seems also to have served as a music copyist. His talents lay chiefly in the adaptation of already extant texts rather than in the creation of original ones. The Orlando paladino set by Haydn, for example, is an adaptation of Porta’s 1777 libretto for music possibly by P. A. Guglielmi (no score survives), which was in turn an adaptation of C. F. Badini’s libretto on the same subject. Even the apparently new parts of Haydn’s Orlando paladino were frequently taken from other operas performed at Eszterháza.

Il convitato di pietra (dramma tragicomico), Righini, 1776; Orlando paladino (dramma eroicomico), ? P. A. Guglielmi, 1777 (Haydn, 1782); L’americana in Olanda, Anfossi, 1778; I contrattempi, Sarti, 1778; Armida, Haydn, 1784; ...