The Beggar’s Opera: Britain’s most successful musical show
John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera became London’s longest-running theatrical hit when first produced in 1728, and it was on the stage every year for the rest of the 18th century. The work set out as a deliberate contrast to the Italian operas by Handel and others that had dominated musical theatre in London for nearly twenty years. The popularity of The Beggar’s Opera continued for much of the 19th century, and a revival at the Lyric Hammersmith in 1920 again broke theatrical records, running for nearly 1,500 performances. The Beggar’s Opera inspired several adaptations internationally, most famously the Brecht/Weill Die Dreigroschenoper (Threepenny Opera). The lecture examines the show’s appeal and influence over the centuries.
Jeremy Barlow arranged the music of The Beggar’s Opera for the BBC TV production directed by Jonathan Miller. He has made an edition of the music (Oxford University Press) and directed a complete recording for (Hyperion Records, CDA 66591/2). The recording won an Edison Award.
The Legend of Orpheus in Music and Art
Orpheus. The first musical superstar; a man of such prodigious gifts that he could tame beasts and animate trees or rocks. So stricken was he by the death of his wife Eurydice, that he was permitted to lead her back to earth as long as he didn’t check that she was following. But at the last moment he had to look round, and Eurydice vanished. Two thousand years later, Renaissance musicians and scholars in Italy took the Orpheus legend as a basis for recreating the sung drama of ancient Greece. What they actually did was to invent opera, with experiments that culminated in Monteverdi’s Orfeo.
Jeremy Barlow’s essay ‘The Revival of Monteverdi’s Operas in the 20th Century’ appears in The Operas of Monteverdi (ENO Opera Guide 45, John Calder Ltd).
Both lectures given with digital slides and high quality recorded music