Images of musical theater in english painting of the XVIII century

Yulia I. Agisheva


The article shows some examples from British painting and caricature of the 18th century which reflects the world of music theater of the age form different points of view. Using works by W. Hogarth, J. Reynolds, J. Gillray, T. Rowlandson and others the article considers the main ingredients of operatic life: characters, performances, contests, culture of music-making, audience, Italian opera and its parody. This is the glance from the backstage and from the pit stalls. 

William Hogarth whose pictures are always densely crowded depicts not alone sketches of everyday London which was heard 24-hours a day but also illustrates some scenes from “The Beggar’s Opera” – the megahit of the time. There is Farinelli, a composer looked like Handel and other celebrities of operatic world in Hogarth’s pictures. Opera permanently was caught in the eyeshot of caricaturists who had had mercy neither upon artists’ pretentious manners and passion nor upon the audience’s rusticity and exaltation. Caricature is highly popular in Great Britain then and now. The leading caricaturists Thomas Rowlandson and James Gillray show us the attitude to fashionable Italian opera of connoisseurs and newcomers, glitterati at opera night at Vauxhall, desire for music-making, competitive battles and even wars between operatic companies.

Pictures which are considered in the article are only some strokes of paint-brush in a visual scene of the 18-th century music theatre. Painting is like a historical reporter becomes invaluable resource about that period in the chronicle of music and theater.

Key words: Еnglish painting, English caricature, 18th century, opera,
contest, music theatre, singers  


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