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Account of the introduction of the Mufical Drama into England, together with fome Strictures on Mr Addifon's cenfure on the Italian Opera.-By Dr Burney.


HE word Opera feems to have been familiar to our poets and countrymen, during the chief part of the last century. Stilo recitativo was talked of by Ben Johnfon, fo early as the year 1617, when it was a recent innovation even in Italy, After this it was used in other mafques, particularly fcenes of plays, and in cantatas, before a reguar drama, wholly fet to mufic, was attempted.

But the high favour to which operas had amounted in France by the united abilities of Quinault and Lulli, feems to have given birth to several attempts at Dramatic Music in England.

Sir William D'Avenant dying in 1663, while his new theatre in Dorfet Gardens was building, the patent, and management, devolved on his widow, Lady D'Avenant, and his fon Mr Charles, afterwards Dr D'A

This fenfual fupply of fight and found,' continues he, "coming in to "the affiftance of the weaker party, it was no wonder they should grow too hard for fenfe and fimple nature, when it is confidered how many more people there are, who

can fee and hear, than can think and judge.'

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Thus men without taste or ears for Mufic ever comfort themselves with imagining that their contempt for what they neither feel nor underftand is a mark of fuperior wisdom, and that every lover of Mufic is a fool. This is the language of almoft all writers on the, fubject. The ingenious author of the Biographia Dramatica tells us, that the preference given to D'Avenant's theatre, on account of its fcenery and decorations, alarmed thofe belonging to the rival houfe. To ftop the progrefs of the public taite, and divert it towards themfelves, they endeavoured to ridi'cule the performances which were fo much followed. The perfon ' employed for this purpofe was Tho


mas Duffet,' (a writer of miferable farces) who parodied the Tempest,

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venant, well known as a political wri-Macbeth, and Pfyche; thefe efforts ter and civilian, who purfued Sir William's plans. The new houfe was opened in 1671; but the public ftill more inclining to favour the King's company at Drury-lane than this, obliged Mr D'Avenant to have recourse to a new fpecies of entertainments, which were afterwards called Dramatic Operas, and of which kind were the Tempeft, Macbeth, Pfyche, Circe, and fome others, all fet off,' fays Cibber, with the most expenfive decorations of fcenes and habits, and with the beft voices and dancers.'

were, however, ineffectual.' This is fair and hiftorical; but after faying that the Duke's theatre continued to be frequented; when he adds, the victory of found and fhew over fenfe and reafon was as complete in the theatre at this period, as it has ' often been fince, it feems as if fenfe and reafon had for a moment quitted this agreeable, and, in general, accurate and candid writer. Opera is an alien that is obliged filently to bear the infults of the natives, or elfe the might courteously retort, that nonfenfe without Mufic is as frequently heard on the English ftage, as with it on the Italian; indeed, when Metaflafio is the poet, who will venture to fay that either good sense or good poetry is banished from the ftage?

But it does not clearly appear, becaufe

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caufe Mufic and decorations were added to Shakespear's Tempeft and Macbeth, that one theatre was in greater want of fenfe at this time than another. I have seen the dramas as they were altered by Shad well and Sir William D'Avenant, and in the latter find that little was curtailed from the original play, or fung, but what is ftill fung, and to the fame Mufic fet by Matthew Lock, of which the rude and wild excellence cannot be furpaffed. In the Operas, as they were called, on account of the Mufic, dancing, and fplendid fcenes with which they were decorated, none of the fine Speeches were made into fongs, nor

early in 1673. And in February of the fame year, Pfyche. This last was a clofe imitation of a mufical drama witten in French by Moliere, and fet by Lulli in 1672, in the manner of the Italian operas which Cardinal Mizarine had had performed to Louis XIV. during his minority. The Mufic of Pfyche, as performed in London, was not printed till 1675, when it was published with the following title: The English

Opera; or the vocal Musick in PSYCHE, with the inftrumental therein intermix'd. To which is adjoyned the inftrumental Mufic in the TEMPEST. By Matthew Lock, compofer in ordinary to his


was the dialogue carried on in reci-Majefty, and Organist to the


The Tempest, the first of thefe femi-operas, was given to the public

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tative, which was never attempted on our itage during the last century, throughout a whole piece. Indeed, it never fully fucceeded in this, if we except the Artaxerxes of the late Dr Arne; whofe Mufic, being of a fuperior kind to what our ftage had been accustomed, and better fang, found an English audience that could even tolerate recitative. In the cenfure of thefe mufical dramas, which has been retailed from one writer to another, ever fince the middle of Charles the Second's reign to the prefent time, the fubject seems never to have been candidly and fairly examined; and, indeed, it appears as if there had been no great caufe of complaint against the public tafte for frequenting fuch reprefentations,

Queen. This publication is dedicated to James duke of Monmouth. There is a preface of some length by the Compofer, Matthew Lock, which, like his Mufic, is rough and nervous, exactly correfponding with the idea which is generated of his privatė character, by the perufal of his controverfy with Salmon, and the fight of his picture in the mufic-fchool, at Oxford. It is written with that natural petulance which probably gave birth to moft of the quarrels in which he was involved. He begins with a complaint of the tendency of his brother muficians to peck and carp at other men's conceptions, how mean foever may be their own, And expecting to fall under the lafh of fome foft-headed or hard



fpeare, in which the principal characters were performed by Mr and Mrs Betterton, as was the cafe in Macbeth, though Mufic, machinery, and dancing, were profufely added to the treat *.

particularly thofe written by Shake-hearted compofer,' he fets about removing the few blocks at which they may take occafion to stumble,' with a degree of indignation that implies an irafcible fpirit under no great governance. The first objection which he thinks likely to be made, is to the word Opera, to which he anfwers, that it is a word borrow Y 2 ed

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* Of Betterton's merit as an actor every one has heard and read; but Mrs Betterton, according to Cibber, was at once tremendous and delightful,' in the part of Lady Macbeth. See his Life, chap. v.

ed from the Italian, who by it diftinguished this kind of drama from their comedies, which, after a plan is laid, are fpoken extempore; whereas this is not only defigned, but written with art and industry; and afterwards fet to fuitable Mufic. In which idea he has produced the following compofitions, which, for the most part, are in their nature foft, eafie, and, as far as his abilities could ♦ reach, agreeable to the defign of the poet. For in them there is ballad to fingle air, counterpoint, recitative, fugue, canon, and chro matick Mufick, which variety, without vanity be it faid, was never in court or theatre, till now prefented, in this nation. He confeffes, however, that fomething had been attempted before in this way of compofition, but more by himself than any other. And adds, that the author of the drama prudently confidering, that though Italy was and is the great academy of the world for Mufic and this fpecies of entertainment, yet as this piece was to be performed in England, which is entitled to no fuch praise, he mixed it with interlocutor, as more proper to our genius.'



He concludes his peevish preface by confefling, that the inftrumental Mufick before and between the acts, and the entries in the acts of PSYCHE, were omitted by the confent of the author, Signor Gio Baptifta Draghi; and that the tunes of the entries and dances in the TEMPEST (the dances being changed) were omitted for the fame reafon.


Here we have a short history of thefe early attempts at Dramatic Mufic on our ftage, in which, as in the most fuccefsful reprefentations of this kind in later times, the chief part of the dialogue was fpoken; and recitative, or mufical declamation, which feems to be the


true criterion and characteristic of Italian operas, but seldom used, unlefs merely to introduce fome parti cular airs and choruses: as in thẹ modern Comus, the air, On ev'ry

hill, in ev'ry dale,' is preceded by the fhort recitative, How gentle was my Damon's air.'



Upon examining this Mufic, it ap pears to have been very much compofed on Iulli's model. The melody is neither recitative nor air, but partaking of both, with a change of meafure as frequent as in any old ferious French opera I ever faw. Lock had genius and abilities in harmony fufficient to have furpaffed his model, or to have caft his movements in a mould of his own making; but fuch was the paffion of Charles II. and confequently of his court at this time, for every thing French, that in all probability Lock was inftructed to imitate Cambert and Lulli. His Mufic for the Witches in Macbeth, which when produced in 1674 was as fmooth and airy as any of the time, has now obtained, by age, that wild and favage, caft which is admirably fuitable to the diabolical characters that are fuppofed to perform it.

The first mufical drama that was wholly performed after the Italian manner, in recitative for the dialogue or narrative parts, and meafured melody for the airs, was Arfinoe Queen of Cyprus, tranflated from an Italian opera of the fame name, writ ten by Stanzani of Bologna, for that theatre, in 1677, and revived at Venice 1678. The English verfion of this opera was fet to Music by Thomas Clayton, one of the Royal-band in the reign of King William and Queen Mary, who having been in Italy, had not only perfuaded himself, but had the addrefs to perfuade others, that he was equal to the talk of reforming our taste in Music, and eftablishing operas in our own lan guage

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Indeed, the English muft have hungered and thirfted extremely after dramatic Mufic at this time, to be attracted and amufed by fuch trash. It is fcarce credible, that in the courfe of the first year this miferable performance, which neither deferved the name of a drama by its poetry, nor an opera by its Mufic, hould fuftain twenty-four reprefentations, and the fecond year eleven!

The opera of Camilla, written, or rather tranflated from the Italian of Silvio Stampiglio, by Owen Mac Swiney, and performed by the fame English fingers as Arfinoe, appeared at Drury-lane by fubfcription, April 30th, 1706, with a prologue written by Mr Mainwaring. It was reprefented nine times before the gth of July, when the Drury-lane company removed to her Majefty's theatre in Dorfet-gardens, where Camilla and Arfinoe were again performed.

1707. Camilla, which had been performed in English and by Englith fingers at Drury-lane fixteen times in the courfe of the preceding year, continued to be acted in the Tame manner this year.

Indeed, operas, notwithstanding their deficiencies in poetry, Mufic, and performance, for as yet no fo


reign compofer or captivating finger was arrived, became fo formidable to our own actors, that a fubfcription was opened the beginning of this year, for the encouragement of the comedians acting in the Hay-market, and to enable them to keep the diverfion of plays under a feparate intereft from operas.? Daily Courant, January 14th, Cibber gives a circumitantial account of this humiliating tranfaction, and fpeaks of its fuccefs with confiderable triumph.

But fuch was now the paffion for this exotic fpecies of amulement, even in its lifping infant state, that the perfpicacious critic and zealous patriot, Mr Addison, condefcended to write an opera for the fame Englifh fingers as were now employed in the performance of Camilla and Arfinoe at Drury-lane. And after ten reprefentations of the former, and three of the latter, this long expect ed drama, .for the performance of which a fubfcription was opened, appeared March 4th, 1707. Mr Addifon, tho' he had visited Italy, and was always ambitious of being thought a judge of Mufic, difcovers, whenever he mentions the subject, a total want of fenfibility as well as know. ledge in the art. But this admirable writer and respectable critic in topics within his competence, never manifefted a greater want of taste and intelligence in Mufic than when he employed Clayton to fet his opera of Rofamond. Indeed, it feems as if nothing but the groffeft ignorance, or defect of ear, could be impofed upon by the pretenfions of fo fhallow and contemptible a compofer. But, to judges of Mufic, nothing more need be faid of Mr Additon's abili ties to decide concerning the comparative degrees of national excellence in the art, and the merit of particular masters, than his predifection for the productions of Clayton, and infenfibility to the force and originality of Handel's compofitions

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In the year 1733 this English drama was fet, as a coup d'effai. by Mr Thomas Aug. Arne, afterwards Dr Arne, and performed at the little theatre in the Haymarket; in which his fifter Mifs Arne, afterwards Mrs Cibber, performed the part of Rofamond, that admirable actress appearing firft on the ftage in this character as a finger. The three following airs were admirably fet, and remained long in favour; No, no, 'tis decreed-Was ever nymph like Rosamond-and, Rife glory,



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