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Gabriella Biagi Ravenni

(b Lucca, Feb 5, 1742; d after 1798). Italian librettist, dancer and choreographer. A brother of Luigi Boccherini, he made his début as a dancer in Venice in 1757, but his major successes were achieved in Vienna between 1759 and 1767 (for example, Noverre’s revived Médée et Jason) and from 1769 to 1771. He used this success to begin a career as a librettist; he was a member of the Accademia dell’Arcadia (with the name of Argindo Bolimeo) and published a collection of sonnets. His libretto Turno, re dei Rutoli, a dramma tragico (Vienna, 1767), was never set to music, but reveals a progressive approach to drama; its commendation by Calzabigi, appended to the libretto, led to contact with Salieri, who set to music most of Boccherini’s subsequent librettos. These reveal a talent for pantomime and choreography, and handle theatrical conventions with ease. From 1772 to 1775...

Article

Kate Van Winkle Keller

(b Paris, France, c1762; d Washington, DC, April 11, 1841). American dancing master, choreographer, and composer of dance music. He was born into a family named Landrin with close connections to the court of Louis XVI. He was a pupil of Maximilien Gardel (1741–87), and for six years he was dancing master for the Paris Opéra. He left Paris three days after the fall of the Bastille in 1789 and arrived in Philadelphia in mid-1790. He changed his name, placing advertisements for his dancing schools as Mr. De Duport. Chiefly a choreographer and teacher of social dancing, Duport blended amateur and professional dancing with theatrical standards of content and performance. He wrote music and created hornpipes and other solo dances for his students, as well as duos such as figured minuets, allemandes, and waltzes; group dances, including complex French contredanses, cotillions, and English country dances; and ballets for his classes to perform at recitals. A music copybook in Duport’s hand traces his creative career from ...

Article

Kate Van Winkle Keller

(fl. 1784–1800). American dancing master and choreographer. Griffiths was the earliest-known choreographer to publish his work in the United States. He issued a collection of country dances and cotillions (Providence, 1788), and an expanded collection with instructions for polite deportment (Northampton, 1794). The whole or partial contents of these books were reprinted by several rural New England and New York publishers over the next 15 years. A broadside of the deportment rules was printed separately. Griffiths based his activities in New York (1784–7, 1796–9?) and Boston (1788–94), and taught in smaller towns in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and upstate New York. In 1800 he moved to Charleston, South Carolina, perhaps via Philadelphia. Through his publications and itinerant teaching, Griffiths strongly influenced the repertory of social dancing and behavior in New York and New England ballrooms in the early Federal period. Some of his choreographies, notably “Fisher’s Hornpipe,” are still danced today. Griffiths may have composed several tunes for use in his classes, such as “Griffiths Whim,” “Griffiths Fancy,” and “Duo Minuet.” And he may have been related to one of the Griffiths families active on the English stage during the second half of the 18th century....

Article

Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

(d Kensington, London, bur. Aug 28, 1784). English soprano, actress and dancer. The daughter of a Jewish merchant (or tavern keeper) she made her début as Polly in The Beggar’s Opera at the newly opened Covent Garden Theatre in December 1732, with a run of 20 nights in succession. She played Deidamia in Gay’s posthumous ...

Article

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 ...

Article

[Francesco ]

(d Lisbon, Jan 18, 1775). French choreographer and dancer . His name first appears as ‘Mons. Soutter’, ballet-master for the 1738–9 opera season at the S Giovanni Grisostomo, Venice: his first opera was Rinaldo di Capua’s Farnace. Except for a three-year period in Stuttgart (1758–61), where he immediately preceded Noverre and choreographed three Jommelli operas, Sauveterre worked in Italy until 1766, creating ballets for operas in Padua (1740), Turin (1740–41, 1749–50), Florence (1743–4, 1746–7), Milan (1746, 1748, 1752–3, 1755–6, 1763, 1765), Reggio Emilia (1741, 1750–51, 1753, 1755), Naples (1742, Leo’s Andromaca), Rome (1749), Bologna (1756) and Venice (1749, 1740–51, 1763–6). Sacchini, Paisiello and Guglielmi are among the composers with whom he worked. In 1766 Sauveterre accompanied his student, Pietro Colonna, to Lisbon, and was recommended as dancing-master to the prince and choreographer for the court theatres, replacing Andrea Alberti, ‘Il Tedeschino’; there he choreographed many operas by Jommelli, as well as works by Perez, Piccinni and others. A contemporary writer in Florence described his ballets as superb. He emphasized dramatic and mimetic content in the style of ...

Article

[Jean Antoine ]

( fl 1755–92). French choreographer and dancer . His activities were concentrated in Venice, where he produced ballets for more than three dozen operas between 1755 and 1792. Much of his work was for the Teatro S Moisè during the 1770s and 80s, in operas by Traetta, Guglielmi, Bertoni, Astarita and Anfossi, among others, but he also created ballets for the S Samuele (1755–6, 1760, 1780–81), S Benedetto (1760, 1768–9), S Cassiano (1765, 1791–2), and S Salvatore (1767) theatres. In addition he worked as a dancer and choreographer in a number of other Italian cities, including Pistoia (1755, 1767), Rome (1757, 1761, 1778), Parma (1761), Reggio Emilia (1763), Milan (1766) and Turin (1778–9). About 1760 he married the ballerina Anna Conti-Nadi de Sales (detta la Russiene), and apparently adopted her son Federico Nadi. Federico worked at opera houses in Italy from the mid-1760s to the early 90s, often in productions with his parents; in ...