BURLESQUE AND BALLAD OPERA

The Dramatick Works …

London: Printed by S. Gilbert, 1743.

4to., pp. [16], 254, [2]; engraved armorial head piece on the dedication-leaf; woodcut head- and tail-piecess; some occasional foxing but a good copy in recent dark calf.

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First collected edition, published in the year of Carey’s death, with his final revisions, ‘not only free from the errors of false and spurious editions, published without my knowledge and consent, but (upon this occasion) revised and improv’d, even from my own original copies’.

Carey’s dramatic oeuvre emcompasses the burlesque operas for which he is rightly famous, The Dragon of Wantley (1737) and its sequel, Margery, or, A Worse Plague than the Dragon (1738) (here The Dragoness); Chrononhotonthologos (1734), a satire on operatic bombast; a ballad-opera The Honest Yorkshireman, and the two serious English operas Amelia and Teraminta, that he selected to open his Dramatick Works. All are in the revised versions of the text. The Contrivances (1715), was his first play, and was a flop until its transformation into a ballad opera in 1729 – it is the latter version that is present here. Carey’s contemporaries branded him a mere ‘ballad-maker’, though it was his gift for an easy tune that led to his later recognition.

The Dragon of Wantley, ‘based on a traditional English ballad story, … parodied Italian opera by debasing familiar operatic traits (such as a quasi-mythological plot and a pair of rival divas) and employed sophisticated music. Its initial run of sixty-nine performances eclipsed even The Beggar’s Opera’ (Oxford DNB).

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