Italian Opera in Late Eighteenth-century London: The King's Theatre, Haymarket, 1778-1791

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This interdisciplinary study attempts to make sense of what has long been regarded as a chaotic period in the history of opera in London. In 1778, R.B. Sheridan acquired the King's Theatre and its resident opera company in what we would now call a leveraged buy-out, plunging the opera into escalating debts that were to haunt it into the 1840s. The 1780s and early 1790s were a stormy but exciting era: the company hired some of the foremost singers and dancers in Europe; ballet d'action came to London, with Noverre himself as ballet master; the company employed such composers as Sacchini, Anfossi, Cherubini and ultimately Haydn; it went bankrupt and carried on through years of wrangling in chancery; the King's Theatre burned down in 1789 and was rebuilt and re-opened in defiance of the Lord Chamberlain's refusal to license the new building. Drawing on libretti and scores, ballet scenarios, pamphlets, scattered manuscripts, legal records, architectural drawings, newspapers, and other sources, the authors reconstruct the history of the company and its shifting artistic policies, analyzing opera and ballet repertory, performers, production circumstances, finances, and managerial infighting.

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About the author (1995)

Curtis Price is at King's College, London. Judith Milhous is at City University of New York.

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