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date: 21 January 2020

London (opera)locked

  • Robert D. Hume
  •  and Arthur Jacobs


Capital of Great Britain, and by far the largest city in Europe. It has ancient musical traditions, deriving from its many ecclesiastical institutions, its importance as a court and centre of government and its commercial prosperity, and has been a magnet for musicians from Europe since the 17th century (and more recently from the rest of the world, especially the British Commonwealth and the USA). From the 18th century onwards leading opera composers, among them Handel, Bononcini, Gluck, J. C. Bach, Sacchini, Weber, Verdi and Henze, have settled in or visited London to compose for the rich and appreciative audiences. Alongside this cosmopolitan tradition, a vernacular one has maintained an existence at varying levels of success and at a slightly different level of sophistication. The city has always attracted singers and also, since the later years of the 19th century, conductors and directors.

The early history of opera in London encompasses a double tradition. In ‘English’ form, opera finds its origins in the Stuart court masque and its first flowering in the half-sung, half-spoken ‘semi-opera’ that reached its zenith in the work of Henry Purcell in the early 1690s. By ...

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