A Burlesque Opera

John Frederick Lampe (1703 - 1751)
Libretto: Henry Carey (c 1689 - 1743)


The comedy sensation of 1737 was written by a bassoonist in Handel's orchestra. A parody of contemporary Italian opera, the ridiculous text in which some very down-to-earth characters face up to the local dragon is combined with grand and elegant music. The Dragon's success ensured that Italian opera quickly became unfashionable. Even Handel thought highly of it, perhaps because much of the music reflects the charm of his own.

Lampe's first operas were serious. However he discovered his true metier, the satire of Italian opera, with
The Opera of Operas; or Tom Thumb the Great, an adaptation of Fielding.

The Dragon of Wantley was first seen on 10 May at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket, and quickly transferred to Covent Garden. The Dragon was played by the bass Thomas Reinhold, and was partly inspired by a ridiculous monster currently appearing at Covent Garden in Handel's Giustino. Thomas Salway played the hero by taking off the great Castrato Farinelli, while Margery and Mauxalinda, rivals for Moore's affections, were played by the sisters Isabella and Esther Young. Isabella, Thomas Arne's sister-in-law, married Lampe in 1738.

Henry Carey's text for the
Dragon is similar to Gay's for The Beggar's Opera in that Italian opera is satirised essentially by transferring its artificial conventions and high-flown sentiments to a down-to-earth English setting.

Carey's text was reprinted fourteen times in little more than a year and the work held the stage until 1782. It was the most popular English comic opera of the century after
The Beggar's Opera.

Directed by Jack Edwards
Musical Director: Peter Holman
Set and Costume Design: Ashley Shairp
Lighting Design: Peter Milne
Photography: Caroline Anderson

Dramatis Personae
A monstrous Dragon
Margery - A Heroine
Gubbins - Her Father
Mauxalinda - A scarlet woman
Moore of Moore Hall, a hero, with his faithful servant.  




The Dragon of Wantley