Italian Opera in Late Eighteenth-century London: The Pantheon Opera and its aftermath, 1789-1795
Clarendon Press, 2001 - Music - 883 pages
Following on from the volume on the King's Theatre, Haymarket (published by OUP in 1995), this interdisciplinary study of opera and ballet now turns to London's Pantheon Opera during the period 1789-98. The discovery of six cartons of previously unknown manuscripts in the possession of theDuke of Bedford makes possible the rewriting of a hitherto dark and little understood chapter in the history of opera in London. The King's Theatre, Haymarket, burnt down in 1789. To replace it, the fifth Duke of Bedford and the Marquis of Salisbury secretly backed a new opera company, to be housedin the Pantheon, an elegant exhibition hall hastily converted to house the venture. Part 1 of this book tells a tale of intrigue, blackmail, bankruptcy, arson, and high-society infighting against a background of exalted artistic aspirations and genuine love of opera. The Pantheon tried to engage Mozart to compete against Haydn, and hired some of the most notable singers anddancers in Europe. Mismanagement led to huge losses, and the theatre burnt in highly suspicious circumstances in 1792. The backers tried to impose an artistic vision and financial controls on the management of the rebuilt King's Theatre, Haymarket, when opera returned there in 1793, but by 1795their failure was evident. The second part of the book is a detailed analysis of the opera and ballet repertoire, personnel, management, costumes, staging practices, and finances of the company, based on the Bedford archive and a wealth of hitherto unused sources. What emerges is the fullest operational analysis everpublished of any pre-nineteenth-century English theatre or opera company.
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