Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 2Wilkinson, Robert
The King's Theatre, or the Italian Opera, Haymarket.
At the beginning of the last century, the company of players with the celebrated Betterton at their head, having refitted the Tennis Court in Little , performed there with considerable success for a few seasons; but finding the house too small, and that the company were more attractive than themselves, by possessing a more convenient and spacious theatre, and backed by the Kit-cat club, joined in a proposition made them by Sir , to build for their use a stately theatre in the which, as being nearer the court than the neighbourhood of , might be more likely to succeed than any other part of the metropolis. To commence the building of this Theatre, Sir John began with raising a subscription of from persons of quality, at each; in consideration whereof every subscriber, for his own life, was to be admitted to whatever entertainments should be publicly performed there, without farther payment for his entrance. The plan succeeded to Sir John's wish, the money was raised, and the building begun under Sir John's inspection, who was himself the sole architect, as well as projector. Of this Theatre informs us, he saw the stone laid, in ; "on which was inscribed , in honour to a lady of extraordinary beauty, then the celebrated toast, and pride of that party." A satirical writer says, "The Kit Cat club is now grown famous and notorious all over the kingdom, and they have built a Temple for their Dagon, the new play-house in the . The foundation was laid with great solemnity, by a noble babe of grace;[*] and over or under the foundation stone is a plate of silver, on which is graven KIT CAT on the side, and LITTLE WHIG on the other. This is , that after ages may know by what worthy hands, and for what good ends, this stately fabric was erected. And there was such zeal showed,[*] and all purses open to carry on the work, that it was almost as soon finished as begun." In the year , when this house was finished, and his copartners dissolved their own agreement, and threw themselves under the direction of , who had obtained a grant from Queen Anne, and , who had joined himself with Sir John in the management; the players thinking that such eminent authors might give a prosperous turn to their condition; that the plays, it would now be their interest to write for them, would attract the whole town, and be an advantage that no other company could hope for; and in the interim till such plays could be written, the grandeur of their house, as it was a spectacle, might allure the public by its novelty and striking appearance to support them. In this golden dream they however found themselves miserably deceived and disappointed; as, on the opening of this grand and superb structure, it was immediately discovered, that almost every quality and convenience of a good theatre had been sacrificed and neglected, to show the spectator a vast triumphal piece of architecture! and that the best play was less capable of delighting the auditor here, than it would be in the plain and unadorned house they had just come from; for, what with their vast columns, their gilded cornices, and immoderately high roof, scarce word in could be distinctly heard. The extraordinary and superfluous space occasioned such an undulation from the voice of every actor, that generally, what they said sounded like the gabbling of so many people in the lofty isles of a cathedral. The tone of a trumpet, or the swell of a musical voice, might be sweetened by it; but the articulate sounds of a speaking voice were drowned by the hollow reverberations of word upon another. 'Tis true, the spectators were struck with surprise and wonder at the magnificent appearance the house displayed on every way they turned their eyes. The ceiling over the orchestra was a semi-oval arch, that sprung feet higher from above the cornice. The ceiling over the pit, too, was still more raised; being level line from the highest back part of the upper gallery, to the front of the stage. The front boxes were a continued semicircle to the bare walls of the house on each side, and the effect altogether truly surprising. In the course of or years the ceilings over both the orchestra and pit were lowered; and instead of the semi-oval arch, that over the orchestra was made a flat, which greatly improved the hearing. Not long before, the Italian Opera began to steal into England; but in as rude a disguise, and unlike itself as possible, in a lame, hobbling translation into our own language; with false quantities, or metre out of measure, to its original notes; sung by our own unskilful voices, with graces misapplied to almost every sentiment, and with action lifeless and unmeaning through every character. The performer that made any distinguished figure in it, was , a true sensible singer at that time, but of a throat too weak to sustain those melodious warblings for which the fairer sex have since idolized his successors. To strike in, therefore, with this prevailing novelty, and opened their new , on Easter Monday, ; with Signor Giacomo Greber's Loves of Ergasto, set to Italian music; a prologue by Mrs. Bracegirdle, written by Garth: and plays commenced by the company under Betterton, who had closed the latter theatre, with the Virtuoso and Acis and Galatea, on . They acted every evening till ; but their short career evidently wanted attraction. On the , , and , Love for Love was acted wholly by women. The company returned to , and performed there during July, and closed the season on the . The Triumph of Love was acted about nights, by foreigners, without success; and plays were then performed, the new piece being the Conquest of Spain. The following Oct. re-opened by Vanbrugh only, with a new comedy by him, called the Confederacy; in the company were Betterton, Leigh, Booth, Pinkethman, Dogget, Pack, Mrs. Porter, Mrs. Bracegirdle, &c. They closed . with the London Cuckolds. Several new plays produced.
. Betterton's company opened with the Spanish Friar, . The temporary popularity and favouritism for this house is shown by the circumstance, that at the Dorset Gardens Theatre the opening for the season was announced, as "By the of the Theatre Royal; at the Queen's Theatre in Dorset Gardens, on Thursday next, the , will be acted a comedy called the Recruiting Officer: in which they pray there may be singing by Mrs. Tofts, in English and Italian, and some dancing, &c." And the prologue, spoken by Mrs. Babb, her appearance there, commences,
The company from Dorset Garden Theatre commenced at the , with the play of the Recruiting Officer, which was played same night at this house, Kite by Mr. Pack; while their rivals announced in the bills, 'Note. The true Serjeant Kite is performed at the Theatre Royal, ."[*] Whatever appearances were, the patronage of the public was not very lucrative. As early in the following year as the , there was acted Julius Cæsar by subscription: "For the encouragement of the comedians acting at the , and to enable them to keep the diversion of plays under a separate interest from operas." To boxes and pit only subscribers admitted. gallery ; the upper This performance repeated , and other subscription nights followed. The name of Mrs. Bracegirdle does not appear in the bills after . Season closed d, .—Opened ; closed with the tragedy of Macbeth, for the benefit of Mr. Wilks, ; when the company at the Queen's Theatre and united. Operas were attempted, part in Italian and part in English; tickets were issued at to pit and boxes, the gallery upper gallery They commenced , and plays acted twice a week: dancing was sometimes added. MSwiney was the manager. Concludes .—Operas recommenced twice a week , when Nicolini made his appearance in England. He sung in Italian, the others in English. The prices varied; boxes and ; pit ; gallery upper gallery Season ended .—. Betterton's company returned here, and opened with Othello, ; and as an auxiliary attraction, Mr. Higgins, the posture-man from Holland, exhibited between the acts.[*] The season closed , with the Careless Husband. Operas were performed twice a week, under the proprietorship of Aaron Hill, who rented the Theatre at a year. Among the new productions was the opera of , conducted by the newly arrived Swiss Count (John James Heidegger), who by that production alone was "a gainer of guineas." Almahide was the regular opera "consisting of songs, both in Italian and English, adapted to Italian airs; the latter (says Sir J. Hawkins) were sung by Doggett the Comedian." In July and August the summer company performed plays for a few nights. It opened for the winter season , with Recruiting Officer, under the management of MSwiney. Performers: Messieurs Wilks, Booth, Cibber, Estcourt, Mills, Gibbs, Bullock, Pinkethman; Mesdames Oldfield, Porter, Rogers, and Bicknell. This company, on following removed to . The operas commenced , with Hydaspes, under the direction of A. Hill, and ended , with Rinaldo, set by Handel, and of superior merit "over every representation of this nature (says Hawkins), that till then had
|been exhibited in England."[*] The Italian Opera, properly so called (says the same authority), was established in the year , when Rinaldo was performed at the .[*] Playhouses were not then open on Wednesdays or Saturdays. The winter season commenced , with Almahide, the character of Almanzor by Mrs. Barbier. Hour of performance o'clock. The same manager assisted by Heidegger Boxes Pit Galleries and The season ended , with Calypso and Telemachus.—Recommenced , with the Triumphs of Love, and continued Wednesdays and Saturdays through the season. On the was produced the Faithful Shepherd, with music by Handel. The principal performers were Signor Car. Valeriano Pellengrini ( appearance), Signor Valentino Urbani, Signora Pilotta Schiavonetti, Signora Margarita Del' Epine, Mrs. Barbier, and Mr. Leveridge; who all sung in Italian. The scenes were new, representing Arcadia; but the habits were old. It was a short opera, and on representation the boxes, were raised to half a guinea. An opera called Dorinda was next produced; but neither that, nor the Faithful Shepherd, had sufficient attraction to obtain full houses. On the , was performed a tragic opera, with heroic habits, new scenes, and other costly decorations, called Theseus, with music by Handel. MSwiney the manager, having ineffectually tried to obtain a subscription for nights, gave out tickets for nights only; laying the boxes and pit into ; and the house was very full at each performance. After the night MSwiney absented himself without paying the singers' salaries, and leaving the habits and the scenes unpaid for. This circumstance created considerable confusion among the singers, who finally resolved to go on with the opera on their own account, dividing the gain amongst them, under the superintendence of Monsieur John James Heidegger. On , Theseus repeated at the usual prices, and house much fuller than on preceding night. A subscription for nights of guineas, entitling the subscriber to tickets for each night, the whole number limited to a night, was raised for a new opera called Ernelinda.[*] It is probable, in this opera appeared la Signora Vittoria Albergotti, an admired Romana. The performance was on the , and to a crowded house during the subscription nights; the Duc d'Aumont, the French Ambassador being present at each representation. On Wednesday the , the opera of Theseus was obliged to be deferred from the want of sufficient support, and performed on the Saturday following, to only a very thin house. The regular season closed , with Theseus, for the benefit of Mr. Handel as the composer.—The next season commenced, , with Dorinda; and on the was produced a new opera called Cresus, in which (we speak on the authority of a contemporary manuscript), there appeared on the stage the celebrated Mrs. Anastasia Robinson, afterwards Countess of Peterborough. Boxes and pit half a guinea, and house full. During Lent, the opera performed on a Thursday, in consequence of Queen Anne usually having a withdrawing-room and playing basset every Tuesday evening. Performances concluded with Ernelinda, at the request of the Duchess of Shrewsbury, lately arrived from Ireland.—The following season commenced with the opera of Arminius, and, as by command, the performance to begin at o'clock. It was also advertised: "Whereas, "by the frequent calling for the songs over again, the operas have been too tedious; therefore the singers are forbid to sing any song above once, "and it is hoped nobody will call for 'em, or take it ill when not obeyed." Some new performers had been obtained, who met with little encouragement, and the presence of the Prince and Princess of Wales not sufficient to fill the house. In December an auxiliary attraction was adopted, in introducing dancing by Mrs. Santlow. On , the opera of Hydaspes, the King present, terminated the season, in consequence, it was said, of the Rebellion.—The state of public affairs is supposed to have had considerable influence over public amusements, and the nights of the opera were in consequence very irregular; however, we believe operas were performed early in December: and on the , by command of the King, Lucius Verus. The principal singer was Signor Nicolini Grimaldi, returned from Italy. On the , Amadis produced, in which Mrs. Robinson took a part; and season ended with same performance, on following. —The next season commenced , with Cleartes, and dancing by Monsieur Salle and Mademoiselle Salle, the children time on this stage; and ended the [*] , with Titus Manlius. Servants were then allowed to keep places in the boxes.—Several balls and masquerades given during the winter of -;[*] and a concert for the benefit of Mrs. Robinson . This season no operas performed.—. Balls continued under the direction of Heidegger.—. During the early months of this year, French comedians, under Royal patronage, performed about nights, their last performance the , Prices of admission: Stage Boxes Pit Gall. Operas commenced on the ; and the French company recommenced on the . Both companies played respectively nights a week, the French company closing the , and the opera the . On the , to the opera of Numitor, it was announced, "To be admitted on the stage, guinea." In this year was subscribed by the nobility (according to Sir John Hawkins) to establish the opera, of which sum His Majesty George I. gave Handel was appointed director, and the performance styled The Royal Academy of Music. Governor, the Duke of Newcastle; deputy-governor, Lord Bingley; the Dukes of Portland and Queensbury, and other noblemen and gentlemen, directors. Handel went to Italy to engage performers, and Signora Durastant appeared in the summer months of this year. The winter season commenced with Astartus, in which appeared Signor Francesco Bernardi, better known as Senesino, who was engaged to supply the want of Nicolini. Another popular opera, this season, was Arsaces; and public intimation was given, that if the company in the gallery did not behave better, it would be shut up.—Next season commenced, Wednesday , with the opera of Arsace. Advertisement adds: "Pit and Boxes to be put together, and no person to be "admitted without tickets, which will be delivered this day at Mrs. White's chocolate house, in , at half a guinea each. N.B. tickets will be delivered; and after they are disposed of, no person whatever will be admitted for money."—. The winter season commenced, , with Mutius Scævola, and the notice renewed, "that if any further disturbance in the footman's "gallery takes place, it will be shut up."[*] Towards the close of the year appeared in Ottone the celebrated Signora Francesca Cuzzoni, who was universally admired. Durastanti, Senesino, and Mrs. Robinson, also sang in the same opera. The season ended with Flavius, . During this season ridottos were given, which, from the opposition of the magistrates, were not further repeated. There was announced guinea admission to the practices of the opera. And in January was advertised: "By order of several persons of quality: at the long room "at the Opera House in the , the , will be , with agreeable entertainments for ladies and gentlemen. "Tickets to be had at the said long room, at each." In December the house opened with Il Vespasiano, the manager still retaining the same powerful singers, and continued to , when the season ended with Aquilius; and Durastanti took formal leave. on her return to Italy. With Tamerlano, supported by Cuzzoni and Senesino, the following season commenced , when the number of subscribers appears not to have exceeded . The opera of Rodalinda, music by Handel; and short opera of Elpidia produced in , music by Signor Leonardo Vicini; were both well received, and season closed with the last on the . Elpida was also performed on opening the following, for the season, which ended with Alessandro on the , when Senesino returned to Italy. Tickets, however sold only at White's chocolate-house, were to be had at the office of the theatre. A military guard was appointed to prevent irregularity and disorder happening at the balls. On house opened with an Italian company of comedians, as by His Majesty's command, with indifferent success, performing about nights during September and October. Price, and —On , season commenced with Lucius Verus. Senesino then returned, and Faustini and Cuzzoni still engaged. The opera of Admetus, music by Handel, performed , and repeated above nights, the house being fuller each night than was ever known before for so long a period. House closed .[**]|
|with Astyanax. About the middle of September following again opened, the singers continuing, and their Majesties often there. In November was produced K. Richard I. and in , Siroes, both new operas composed by Handel. At the close of the season, Faustini, Cuzzoni, and Senesino, went to Italy, by which no operas were performed during the following winter and spring of -. Some balls and assemblies as usual.—In , the house opened with a new company, the chief singer Signora Strada del Po. Before the commencement of the season, we believe, the Academy of Music, and all its engagements, were dissolved, and Handel remained sole conductor of the opera.—. d, the opera of Scipio performed, and continued for nights, their Majesties present at each performance. Senesino then returned. Ended Saturday, .—Next season commenced in November with Porus; and in was produced Sosarmes, music by Handel, which brought crowded houses.—On d, the oratorio of Esther;[*] and , the serenata of Acis and Galatea. These performances were in English by the Italian performers, who appeared in a kind of gallery. The public were to expect "no action on the stage, but the scene (in the latter piece) to represent, in a picturesque manner, a rural prospect, with rocks, groves, fountains and grottos: amongst which to be disposed a chorus of nymphs and shepherds; habits and every other decoration suited to the subject." The performance repeated nights to very full houses, pit and boxes put together, and no person admitted without tickets at each. Gall. A pastoral entertainment, on , for the benefit of Signor Bonancini, when the Queen and of the Princesses were present, we believe, ended that season. The serious opera of Cato was performed Saturday, following, by command of their Majesties, wherein Signora Celeste Gismonda appeared to a full house.|
In , was produced Orlando Furioso, music by Handel. This was got up with particular magnificence; dresses and scenery being all new. Season ended in June.—On Tuesday, , being the King's birthday, the house opened with Semiramis, in which, we believe, Durastanti appeared on her return to England.—The new opera of Ariadne in Crete was produced in , in which Signor Carestino sung surprisingly well. On the Pastor Fido performed, composed by Handel, who, in consequence of his refusing to compose for Senesino, had this and following seasons to contend with the nobility and gentry who patronized and wished to support his rival[*] .—-. During these years, operas under the direction of Handel; and balls, of Heidegger. Italian operas were also given at , in part of the seasons, instead of plays.—-. The winter season commenced with oratorios by Handel. About given, and prices and Balls as usual.—-. No opera at this house during these years. Balls, assemblies, and benefit concert. Italian operas were performed at the Little Theatre, ; and theatre was occasionally opened by Handel with Alexander's Feast, &c. &c.
. Operas again commenced in October by Lord Middlesex, who acted as sole director, supported by noblemen. Dancing formed a part of each evening's amusement. Admission and This continued during the season without the auxiliary balls.—. Opened in November with balls only, during this season.—. Open as before. Balls, and oratorios in Passion Week of .—Opened in November following with oratorios by Handel for nights by subscription, to be performed on Saturday nights till Lent, and then Wednesdays and Fridays. For want of patronage, only took place. Balls occasionally.—About or operas at the Little Theatre, , under the conduct of Geminiani.
. The house opened with operas in January. Balls as usual.—. In this season the opera was supported by subscription of nights each.—-. Operas on Saturdays only till February, with balls occasionally.—. Opened in November with a comic opera, supposed the Italian ever exhibited: Dr. Crosa conductor. and —. Season continued with balls as usual.—. Open fo operas from January to Easter only.—. Opened in January; but, after performances, operas were removed to the Little Theatre opposite —. During the winter only balls.—. In this season concerts and balls. Opened with operas, under Vanneschi as director, in November. Price and Half-price Balls occasionally. No servants admitted in footman's gallery but those attending their masters and mistresses.—. Opened in November under the same direction, with balls as usual.—. Opened in November with like entertainments.— -. In this season the opera and balls were conducted by Signora Mingotti, assisted by Giardini. A strong appeal was made to the nobility by Signora Mingotti for subscriptions in support of the opera.—. Opened with Demetrio. Continued by Vanneschi. Closed with the same opera.—. Opened with Demetrio: Tenducci appeared. Closed with Farnace the following —Opened with Vologeso, and season ended with Erginda on .—. In August Signora Mattei, who, under the gracious auspices of the nobility and gentry, had undertaken the direction of the serious operas and burlettas, announced her ability to keep promise, having engaged "for the serious operas, Signora Mattei; Signor Philippo Elisi, Signor Gaetana Quilice, "tenor; Signora Angiola Calori, woman; Signor Giovanni Sorbelloni, man; a new singer for the lowest character. For the "burlettas: Signora Paganini, Signor Gaetano Quilice, man; Signora "Eleardi, woman; Signor Paganini, man; Signor N. N. man. (Signora Angiola Calori, Signor Giovanni Serbelloni, to "perform the serious parts in the burlettas.) Dancers: Mademoiselle Asselin, woman dancer; Monsieur Gherardi dancer (of the men), "and ballet-master; famous (both in serious and comic) as well for his invention, as for execution in dancing.—There will also be other comic "dancers, and figurers both for the serious operas and burlettas." The house opened in November, and on the d of that month was produced Il Mondo nella Luna, by Signor Galluppi. The season closed with Arianne e Teseo on the .—In September the season commenced with serenatas by Signor Cocchi, given in honour of the royal nuptials of our late venerated Sovereign and Queen.—. Commenced with Alessandro , and concluded with Arianne e Teseo the .—Opened again with Il Tutore la Pupilla, by command of their Majesties, and closed in , with the opera Zanaida. In May it was announced, "As Signora Mattei leaves England at the end of this season, and Mr. Crawford intends to quit the management, all the dresses and other articles belonging to him and Signora Mattei will be sold."—Opened with Cleonice, , under the management of Signora Giardini, and closed with Enea e Lavinia on .—Opened with Ezio and closed with Solimano on d , under the management of Messrs. Crawford, Vincent, and Gordon.—Opened with Eumenes d Nov. and closed with Pelopida .[*] During the summer, Mr. Foote having strengthened his company with the addition of Mr. Barry, Mr. Lee, and Mrs. Dancer, acted plays here for nights, between and .—Opened, , with Tigrane, same firm as last year; and closed . On , a splendid masquerade, given by the King of Denmark, when the brilliancy of the dresses and profusion of diamonds worn by the nobility exceeded in magnificence all contemporary entertainments. The stage is said to have been lined with crimson velvet, with rooms appropriated for supper, where a profusion of plate appeared. On the , the serious opera of Arianne e Teseo, performed by desire of the King of Denmark, and occasional performance until the season commenced on . Vincent and Gordon the directors.—-. During these seasons the opera appears to have been conducted under the same management, but conjointly with Mr. Crawford, as Messrs. Crawford and Co.—. Opened in November with operas. In , the whole under management of Messrs. Yates and Brookes, who purchased at the sum of ; expecting to obtain permission to act plays with operas alternately. This scheme refused by the Lord Chamberlain.—. Opened. , with an exordium by the manager Yates, and Lucio Verio dancer.—-. Messrs. Yates and Co. conductors.—At Midsummer , Mr. Sheridan and Mr. Harris became joint purchasers of the Opera House, at the price of subject to the yearly rent of This high appreciation of the property is supposed to have been given in expectation of the possibility of acting English pieces under the authority of the dormant patent in the possession of Mr. Harris. The house opened as usual with an opera, , under the direction of Mons. Le Texier.—At the end of the season -, in consequence of a very alarming balance appearing against the property, Mr. Harris became desirous of parting with his share, and assigned the same to Mr. Sheridan, upon his personal request, in preference to
|Mr. Gallini, who was also desirous to become a purchaser, and offered to pay down a sum exceeding the original price. Mr. Sheridan shortly afterwards disposed of the whole concern to Mr. Taylor. On , advertised that Mons. Le Texier was discharged, and Mr. Crawford (assisted by a gentleman who was manager years) appointed.|
Opened . Director as before.—. Opened . renters' shares created for years, at guineas each, and also free admissions offered at a year each.—. Opened d November. The theatre altered by Novosielski, who shaped the flat sides to form a horseshoe, the boxes increased to , the upper gallery in front only, but the crown gallery all round; with rows of boxes. , the theatre closed on account of the state of its affairs, Mr. Taylor (the manager's) creditors called together, and the whole property put up, under the authority of the sheriff, for sale. Some concerts afterwards, and the Pantheon opened for the benefit of the performers, whose salaries had not been paid.—In June Gallini and Harris took possession under the sheriff for , Crawford appointed manager and treasurer under trustees. d, Gallini advertised that he was sole proprietor and director. d, advertised that Gallini was only mortgagee for —Opened again d December. In , trustees advertised that Crawford was appointed manager by the Court of King's Bench. No opera after Easter, except a few benefits.—. , receiver appointed by Court of Chancery. , Gallini's demand settled by Court of Chancery, and paid off by trustees. , opened for the season. , advertisement from Lord Chamberlain's office, that the opera having been improperly conducted, refuses to put it into other hands, and intends to have it under his direction.—Operas at the , the profits to discharge the debts of the opera concerns. , all disputes settled; Gallini again manager.—d, no license to be granted by the Chamberlain until he was satisfied the performers, &c. would be paid.—. Opened d January; Gallini manager. The following season opened d December.—. Opened , under the same manager, for season of -.—Opened ; Gallini manager, and Mr. Taylor proprietor. The theatre burnt , between and in the evening. The standing rent was An advertisement from Gallini offered reward to discover supposed person who set fire to the Opera House. Another stated accident not from fireworks, as reported. The damages computed at Vanbrugh's relatives received a year. His late Majesty interfered to prevent the Opera House from being rebuilt on another spot of ground, as intended.—On , operas commenced for a few nights at Covent Garden, at opera prices.
Operas commenced at the Little Theatre, , . Particular newspapers at this period contained most plausible statements and minute description of an intended Opera House, as to be erected by R. B. O'Reilly, who had obtained an interest, it was considered, by purchase of the claim of the family of Vanbrugh, by Leicester Fields, about the old site of the Prince of Wales's palace, afterwards the repository of Sir Ashton Lever's museum. , O'Reilly advertised he had obtained a patent for a new opera in , and no other patent in existence. Operas closed at the ; recommenced at Covent Garden , and continued till . —, O'Reilly obtained the Lord Chamberlain's license; and on he advertised to open the Pantheon as an Opera House early after Christmas. In the meantime, by the exertion of Mr. Taylor, on d , foundation-stone of the new theatre laid by the Earl of Buckinghamshire [*] —, rehearsal for the subscribers announced; previous to this several pro and con statements from Taylor and O'Reilly published in daily papers.—The Pantheon opened in February with operas, and was called the King's Theatre. Taylor was announced as proprietor of Opera House, and Novosielski the architect. A license could not be obtained to open the new house; and on application to the Lord Chamberlain, whether it could not be opened on Harris's dormant patent, the Lord Chamberlain briefly remarked, it was not in his province to answer that question. After several rehearsals, Taylor advertised, that all applications for a license having been refused by the Lord Chamberlain, he having granted another, the opera could not open; the theatre cost and that only was insured; and the house had been established years, on ground leased by the Crown.—, the Opera House opened with music and dancing, and continued such diversions on the regular opera nights till .—The company opened this theatre , and closed . Operas at the Pantheon until it was burnt down ; and company removed to the Little Theatre, .
. , company commenced a season here until ; when, on the , operas commenced under the management of Mr. Kelly and Signor Storace. Performed nights a week, on which nights the company opened the Little Theatre.—. Commenced ; Kelly and Storace managers.—Opened again . In Lent following oratorios for night, and then repeated in Concert Room, which was supposed the largest in England.—Commenced ; Kelly manager; and in this season part of the walls of the theatre blown down.—Concerts in the Great Room, for guineas.—Opened ; Kelly manager.—The boxes at the back of the pit altered, previously called the Resurrection boxes.—Opened ; and in ,[*] Mr. Taylor (by his counsel, Mr. Leach) stated before the Privy Council, when discussing the application for a theatre, that he, Taylor, became (on obtaining the license in ) responsible for O'Reilly's debts of incurred at the Pantheon. Had agreed with the and Covent Garden proprietors for they should not act Italian operas; and to purchase Killigrew's dormant patent for N. B. This was never fulfilled, as company have Killigrew's patent, which they purchased when they rebuilt the present theatre.[*] —. The opera was announced to open on , but put off, a difficulty arising about the license, and opened on the .—Opened ; and again, . Mr. Kelly superintended the musical department.—Opened ; acting manager Kelly; whole under direction of jewell. , Hilligsberg took leave; she died at Calais, on her way to her mother, in August.—, William Taylor, sole owner, sold to Francis Goold, Esq. a for Goold to be sole conductor and manager. Mrs. Billington engaged this season, and her brother Weichsell leader of the band. Kelly returned from Italy with chorusses. Jewell director.—. Season commenced . The acting manager Mr. Kelly, under direction of Mr. Jewell. By an indenture, dated , Taylor conveyed to Goold, in consideration of sixteenths of the whole property; and by another indenture, dated the following day and having a mortgage proviso for redemption, Taylor assigned to Goold sixteenths for which included the above —. Opened ; Degville ballet-master. In June a riot, in consequence of part of the ballet being omitted from the lateness of the hour, being Saturday evening. The riot continued till half past on Sunday morning, and the damage alleged to amount to The military were called in. From that period the curtain dropped on a Saturday night at o'clock, by order of the Bishop of London.—Opened . Billington, Storace, Braham, &c. engaged. Leader of the band, Weichsell; stage manager, Kelly; treasurer, Jewell.—. Opened . Jewell, treasurer; Kelly, stage-manager, who officially stated that Madame Catalani and her husband were not objects of suspicion to Government.—. , Mr. Francis Goold, the principal proprietor and mortgagee died, having married a few days before Kelly's neice.—The subscription this season stated to be and the receipt at the doors On the death of Mr. Goold the management resumed by Mr. Taylor.[*] —. Opened d January; J. H. Degville, stage-manager. The theatre newly decorated.—, Mr. Waters advertised, he would not be responsible for any debts contracted by Taylor, as Mr. Goold's executor.—-. These seasons were well conducted, principally under the influence or guidance of Mr. Waters.—. , the sheriffs sold part of property to raise —. , the Lord Chancellor ordered the whole of Goold's property to be sold, and that Taylor should not interfere in the management.—. , Mr. Waters, as proprietor, advertised the opera would not open until a manager was appointed by the Lord Chancellor.—, Mr. Waters, advertised he was legally appointed sole manager, and house would open as soon as possible. Opened . , Goold's share in the Opera House put up for sale, and Mr. Waters the highest bidder for the sixteenths at he still having a mortgage lien on it of —. , opened under the efficient management of Mr. Waters, and the same following season.—. . In consequence of a further decree of the Lord Chancellor, the former sale was rescinded, and the whole property purchased this day by Mr. Waters for who continued the management to the end of the season -.—. Mr. John Ebers, of , bookseller, commenced the winter season tenant of the Opera House, and the performances continue to be conducted under his entire management. We understand that Mr. Waters has lately disposed the whole of his interest in the theatre on very advantageous terms.
There remains only to add, that the interior of the theatre, appropriated for the accommodation of the audience, consists of principal tiers of boxes, a very large area or pit, and gallery. In each of the tiers of boxes are boxes, making altogether boxes. Of that number, there are in the pit tier eighteen; on the ground tier ; on the pair ; and on the pair boxes; making in the whole boxes; all private and distinct property till the year .[*]
[*] The "Babe of Grace" or "Little Whig;" was the beautiful Lady Sunderland, second Daughter of the Duke of Marlborough. There are some lines, On the Lady Sunderland's laying the first Stone of Her Majesty's Theatre, in the Haymarket. What pompous scenes and lofty columns rise, That strike with artful stroke our wond'ring eyes, And seize the raptur'd soul with sweet surprise: O! what a stately doom w' admiring view, Whose chief foundation's owing still to you, &c.
[*] The Rehearsal of Observator, No. 41. May 5-12, 1705.
[*] The original cast of the characters was, Plume, Wilks; Brazen, Cibber; Kite, Estcourt; Melinda, Mrs. Rogers; and Silvia, Mrs. Oldfield.
[*] "Advertisement. The surprising Mr. Higgins, posture-master, that lately performed in the Queen's Theatre Royal, in the Haymarket, now performs at the Rummer, over against Bow-lane-end in Cheapside, the same, with several other wonderful postures, that he had not time to perform between the acts; beginning exactly at six every evening during his short stay in the City. Price eighteen pence the first seats, and twelve pence the back seats."—Bagford's Papers. Another demi-advertisement exhibits a curious specimen of the nuisance of the footmen in the gallery during the performance. "Dropt near the playhouse in the Haymarket a bundle of horsewhips, designed to belabour the footmen in the upper gallery; who almost every night this winter have made such an intolerable disturbance, that the players could not be heard, and their masters were forced to hiss 'em into silence. Whoever has taken up the said whips. is desired to leave 'em with my lord Rake's porter, several noblemen resolving to exercise 'em on their backs, the next frosty morning."—Female Tattler, 9th December, 1709.
[*] Hawkins's Hist. of Music, vol. v. p. 142.
[*] Ibid, vol. v. p. 171.
[*] The opera of Ernelinda, performed during the season of 1713, has a dedication prefixed from "John James Heidegger," to Richard, Viscount Lonsdale, Baron Lowther, imploring his protection "at a time when we labour under so many unhappy circumstances." It was also hoped "there are many who will concur with your Lordship's sentiments, and think themselves concerned to promote so noble a diversion, a diversion which most foreign states think it their interest to support. By these means [it is added] we may retrieve the reputation of our affairs, and in a short time rival the stage of Italy."
[*] A strong effort was made this season at Lincoln's Inn Fields theatre to establish English operas. The opera of Camilla, by McSwiney, first performed at Drury Lane, 20th March 1706, was revived in January 1717, for that purpose, and acted twice a week, for seven times, to the most productive houses of that season. On the 26th January it was dismissed. by reason of Mrs. Barbier being sick; but repeated occasionally afterwards. Camilla was again revived 19th November, 1726, pit and boxes at 5s. each, and receipt at first night 163l. 3s. 6d. Other lucrative nights same season, which contradicts Sir J. Hawkins, who says, it "did not succeed." Thomyris was not, as he supposes, performed.
[*] The promptness of Mr. Heidegger in providing amusement for the nobility and gentry is well known. The following is a description of a subscription masquerade at the Opera House, "allowed to be more magnificent than has been known in Italy, Venice, or any other countries." "The room (says the writer) is exceedingly large, beautifully adorned and illuminated with 500 wax lights; on the sides are divers beaufets, over which is written the several wines therein contained, as Canary, Burgundy, Champaign, Rhenish, &c. each most excellent in its kind; of which all are at liberty to drink what they please; with large services of all sorts of sweetmeats. There are also two sets of music, at due distance from each other, performed by very good hands. By the vast variety of dresses (many of them very rich) you would fancy it a congress of the principal persons of all nations in the world, as Turks, Italians, Indians, Polanders, Spaniards, Venetians, &c. There is an absolute freedom of speech, without the least offence given thereby; while all appear better bred than to offer at any thing profane, rude, or immodest, but wit incesantly flashes about in repartees, honour and good humour, and all kinds of pleasantry. There was also the groom porter's office, where all play that please, while heaps of guineas pass about with so little concern in the losers, that they are not to be distinguished from the winners. Nor does it add a little to the beauty of the entertainment, to see the generality of the masqueraders behave themselvs agreeable to their several habits. The number, when I was there on Tuesday, last week, was computed at 700, with some files of musquetiers at hand, for the preventing any disturbance which might happen by quarrels, &c. so frequent in Venice, Italy, and other countries, on such entertainments. At eleven o'clock a person gives notice that supper is ready, when the company pass into another large room, where a noble cold entertainment is prepared, suitable to all the rest; the whole diversion continuing from nine o'clock till seven next morning. In short, the whole ball was sufficiently illustrious, in every article of it for the greatest prince to give on the most extraordinary occasion."—Mist's Weekly Journal, Feb. 15, 1718.
[*] At commencement of this season it appears, that the common number of 400 tickets, usually issued each night, was reduced to 350.
[**] About this period arose the long, violent, but petty and ridiculous altercation, between the rival heroines Cuzzoni and Faustini, and their respective fashionable supporters, for the useless right of precedence. It was said, by a writer in the Craftsman, "the adherents on both sides are very numerous; Faustini's are the most powerful, but Cuzzoni's the most judicious." The same writer remarks: "The case it seems, stands thus. The right of possession is certainly in Cuzzoni, which she hath enjoyed, without molestation, for some years, and is confirmed to her by divers treaties between her and the Academy. Faustina, on the other hand, jusists that Cuzzoni hath consented and promised to yield up that right to her, by a secret stipulation under her own hand, which she is ready to produce. Cuzzoni seems to prevaricate a little in this affair; for, as she cannot well deny her own hand-writing, she would persuade the world that it is only a sort of promise; or, as she terms it amongst her friends, an artful finesse and expedient to make Faustina easy for the present." Sir John Hawkins tells us, "The directors, greatly troubled with this dispute, and foreseeing the probable consequences of it, fell upon an odd expedient to determine it. The time for a new contract with each of these singers was at hand, and they agreed among themselves to give a salary to Faustini, one guinea a year more than to her rival. Lady Pembroke and some others, the friends of Cuzzoni, hearing this, made her swear upon the Holy Gospels never to take less than Faustini, and the directors continuing firm in their resoluion not to give her quite so much, Cuzzoni found herself ensnared by her oath, into the necessity of quitting the kingdom. This she did at the end of the following season, when her engagement probably terminated, and Faustini, as well as Senesino, also quitted England at the same period." Etiquette and precedence in the opera establishment, is allowed to an absurd extent. We write in 1822, and know if Signora A. anounces to the manager she is ill (or fancies so), and cannot (or will not) perform, and he obtains a substitute in Signora B.; after that preliminary is arranged, the express permission of Signora A. must be got, to permit Signora B.'s appearance, by the manager, before he dare venture to announce the alteration.
[*] Their Majesties, the Prince of Wales, and the three elder Princesses, were present on the first night of Esther. It was announced for the following Saturday, with notice, "That if there are any tickets which could not be made use of on Tuesday last, the money will either be returned for the same, on sending them to the office in the Haymarket next Saturday, or they will be exchanged for other tickets for that day."
[*] The house in Portugal Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, then belonging to Messrs. J. and C. M. Rich, was opened 29th December 1733, with the Italian opera of Ariadne in Naxus, music by Porpora. The company principally consisted of Signor Senesino, Signor Montagna; and Signoras Cuzzoni, Celeste, Bertolli, and Sagatti. The performance was nearly regular twice a week, for fifty-five nights, ending the season, on 15th June 1734, with Aeneas, by command of His Majesty.
[*] June 20, 1767. In January of that year, the oratorio of Saul, with music by Arnold, was performed here, of which it was said, that "nothing since Mr. Handel's time had appeared in that species of composition equal to it."
[*] On one side the stone was inscribed: "The King's Theatre in the Haymarket, first built in the year, A. D. 1703." On the other side: "But unfortunately destroyed by fire, A.D. 1789."—On another side: "Prevalebit Justitia." And upon the top: "This is the first stone of the new Opera House. Laid on the 3d of April, A. D. 1790. By the Right Honourable John Hobart, Earl of Buckinghamshire. Auctor pretiosa facit." A singular pamphlet, published in 1818, as a Review of this Theatre, from the Period described by the Enterpriser, has the following motto, allusive to this period: "When I stood upon the reeking ruins, and laid the foundation-stone, I had nothing in my pockets but both my hands, and I would have given the world for one guinea." It was advertised in July, as reduced "to a certainty its being completely fit for public representation at Christmas next."
[*] 1792. Aug. Leases transferred to Mr. Taylor.—1777. Leases granted for 21 and 26 years.
[*] The N. W. view is given in this work after a drawing by Wichelo.
[*] In a short period after Mr. Goold's death, his executor, Mr. Waters, was forced to file a Bill in Chancery against Mr. Taylor. The suit has lasted half as long again as the siege of Troy; and what second Homer will find legal numbers to tell its history?
[*] The names of modern performers and modern performances have been intentionally omitted, as the above sketch of the History of the Opera House already exceeds the common proportion of Letter-press, as usually allotted to our articles. Indeed, we the more readily submit to be thus brief as recent events being well remembered, when dilated upon, sometimes become as wearisome as a tale twice told.
Title page of Vol. 2 reads: Theatrum illustrata. Graphic and historic memorials of ancient playhouses, modern theatres and other places of public amusement in the cities and suburbs of London & Westminster with scenic and incidental illustrations from the time of Shakspear to the present period.