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