THE BIRTH OF ITALIAN OPERA IN LONDON

Songs in the new Opera, call’d Clotilda. The Songs done in Italian and English as they are performed at ye Queens Theatre …

[London] Sold by J: Walsh … & P. Randall … and I. Hare. [1709].

[bound with:]
[PEPUSCH, Johann Christian, arr. MANCINI, Francesco.] Songs in the new Opera, call’d Hydaspes, as they are perform’d at the Queens Theatre. [London] Sold by J: Walsh … & P. Randall … and I. Hare. [1710–1711].
[and with:]
[HEIDEGGER, John Jacob, arr. ARIOSTI, BONONCINI et al.] Songs in the new Opera, call’d Almahide. The Songs done in Italian & English as they are perform’d at ye Queens Theatre. [London] Sold by J: Walsh … & P. Randall … and I. Hare. [1710].

Three works, folio, engraved throughout: Clotilda ff. [3, two title-pages, index], 4, ‘0’, 52; Hydaspes pp. [5, two title-pages, index], 72, [1], erroneously bearing the passe-partout title of The Additional Songs … in Hydaspes (Smith 373), but with the correct supplementary title plate; and Almahide ff. [3, two title-pages, index], 4, 64; each work with a passe-partout title-page with the title on supplementary plate, and an additional illustrative passe-partout title-page (the title of Hydaspes added in manuscript rather than on supplementary plate as usual), some hand-colouring; a fine copy in contemporary panelled calf, gilt, front cover lettered direct, all edges gilt; ownership inscription to title-page of first work of William Cristall, dated 9 January 1730; later armorial bookplate of E[benezer?] Oliphant of Condie.

£2750

Approximately:
US $3479€3250

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Songs in the new Opera, call’d Clotilda. The Songs done in Italian and English as they are performed at ye Queens Theatre …

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First editions of three works from the first years of the Italian Opera at the Queen’s Theatre in Haymarket, including the first two fully Italian operas on the London stage. The theatre had opened in 1705 with a very rocky first season, and was turned over to the performance of opera alone at the end of 1708; but its lasting success was not secure until the arrival of Handel, and his Rinaldo, in early 1711.

Clotilda was first staged on 2 March 1709, the third production in the first season of the new Italian Opera. A pasticcio by Heidegger based on Conti’s original of 1706, it was performed seven times in 1709. ‘This opera was composed by Conti and printed by Walsh, half in English and half in Italian as it was performed. The composition was not contemptible; and yet it seems to have come into the world and gone out of it so quietly as scarcely to have left any memorials of its existence’ (Burney).

Almahide, a pasticcio by Heidegger based on Ariosti’s Amor tra nemici (1708) but with many arias taken from Bononcini, has the distinction of being the first opera in London sung entirely in Italian by Italian singers. The libretto was adapted from Dryden (and then back-translated into the English as printed here). It premiered on 10 January 1710 and ran for fourteen nights, with a cast including three castrati and two women.

Hydaspes followed Alamahide as the second fully Italian opera on the London stage (in fact a more fully monoglot experience, in that it lacked the English intermezzi that were included between the acts of Almahide). It was based by Pepusch on a score brought to London by the celebrated castrato Nicolò Grimaldi (Nicolini), who played the title-role to great acclaim. It was performed twelve times in the first season (its success much stimulated by the sensational scene in which Idaspe, ‘naked’ albeit in a flesh suit, strangles a lion), and the songs published by Walsh. The revival of 1711 marked the London debut of Giuseppe Maria Bosschi (who became a favoured basso to Handel), and a number of new songs were written for him, published as the Additional Songs in … Hydaspes. Our copy of the Songs bears the passe-partout title-page of the Additional Songs (a much shorter selection six arias) in error.

Smith 296, 354, 344; Hunter 53, 69, 64.

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