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Reading Henry Tresham's Theatre Curtain: Metastasio's Apotheosis and the Idea of Opera at London's Pantheon

  • Michael Burden


When London's new Pantheon Opera opened in 1791, the artist Henry Tresham, not long returned from Italy, was paid to paint the ceiling and proscenium of the new auditorium and to provide a drop curtain. The curtain provided a focus for the new institution's aspirations and for the audience's attention on those inspirations when they arrived at the theatre. Its elaborate nature – the zodiac, the music of the spheres, ancient and modern composers, the passions, and with a centrepiece of the apotheosis of Pietro Metastasio – was the subject of a series articles in the press explaining the curtain's allegory. All visual material was thought to be lost, but the recent identification of a preparatory watercolour of the apotheosis has offered an opportunity to re-examine both its place in the context of late eighteenth-century iconography and the place of Metastasio in the late eighteenth-century London opera house.



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Michael Burden, New College, Oxford;



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1 For accounts of the King's Theatre and the Pantheon Opera during the period under discussion, see Price, Curtis, Milhous, Judith and Hume, Robert D., Italian Opera in Late Eighteenth-Century London, vol. 1: The King's Theatre, Haymarket, 1778–1791 (Oxford, 1995); and, from the same authors, The Rebuilding of the King's Theatre, Haymarket, 1789–1791’, Theater Journal 43 (1991), 421–44; Milhous, Judith, Dideriksen, Gabriella and Hume, Robert D., Italian Opera in Late Eighteenth-Century London, vol. 2: The Pantheon Opera and its Aftermath 1789–1795 (Oxford, 2001); and Burden, Michael, ‘Visions of Dance at the King's Theatre: Reconsidering London's “Opera House”’, Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography 36 (2011), 92116; and Regular Meetings: Gallini and Noverre in London 1756–1794’, in The Works of Monsieur Noverre Translated from the French: Noverre, His Circle, and the English ‘Lettres sur la danse’, ed. Burden, Michael and Thorp, Jennifer (Hillsdale, NY, 2014), 137–56. As always, I am indebted to several suggestions from Roger Savage, who read the article in draft. I am also indebted to my two anonymous readers for their input.

2 Pressly, Nancy L., The Fuseli Circle in Rome (New Haven, 1979), 101. See also Sumner, Ann and Smith, Greg, eds., Thomas Jones (1742–1803): An Artist Rediscovered (New Haven, 2003).

3 Egerton, Judy, ‘Tresham, Henry’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. Matthew, Colin and Harrison, B., 60 vols. (Oxford, 2004), LV: 312–13.

4 Burden, Michael, ‘Stage and Costume Designers Working at the Italian Opera in London: The Evidence of the Librettos 1710–1801’, Theatre Notebook 65 (2011), 126–51.

5 Manchester City Art Gallery 1966.334.

6 [Tresham, Henry], Description of the Allegory, Painted for the Curtain of the King's Theatre, Pantheon (London, 1791).

7 Burden, Michael, London Opera Observed 1711–1844, 5 vols. (London, 2013), III: 199203.

8 The Diary or Woodfall's Register, 17 February 1791.

9 See A Brief Memoir of Henry Tresham, Esq. R. A.’, The Monthly Mirror: Reflecting Men and Manners 5 (1809), 196.

10 The Diary or Woodfall's Register, 7 April 1791.

11 See James Adam and Sons, Dublin, Sunday Interiors Auction, 14 May 2014, lot 252, now in a private collection.

12 HENRY TRESHAM RA (1751–1814) An Apotheosis of a Poet. Watercolour and pencil, 10.5 × 7.5cm. Inscribed paper label verso. Provenance: The Loquens Gallery, Stratford-upon-Avon.

13 Graves, Algernon, The Royal Academy of Arts; A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and their Work from its Foundation in 1769 to 1904 (London, 1905–6), 19. Tresham is listed exhibiting regularly at the Royal Academy from 1789 to 1806.

14 Graves, The Royal Academy of Arts, 19. See also the report in The Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 13 September 1791, which suggests possible candidates.

15 For an enlightening contemporary rant against Taylor, see [Anon], Mr. William Taylor of the Opera House’, in The Scourge; or Monthly Expositor, of Imposture and Folly, of Literary, Dramatic, Medical, Political, Theatrical, Religious, Mercantile, Poems 1 (1811), 146–64.

16 This assertion appears in numerous places, but more of the contents appear to have survived than this suggests. A curious report in the Oracle suggests that what was salvaged by a team from the Royal Exchange Insurance Office was passed to the firemen on the following Saturday night in St James's Square, presumably in recompense for their labours. See The Oracle Bell's New World, 22 June 1789. Another report mentions the taking into custody of three members of the Foot-Guards for articles stolen from the theatre during the fire: The Oracle Bell's New World, 23 June 1789.

17 The London Chronicle, 16–18 June 1789.

18 The Oracle Bell's New World, 19 June 1789.

19 Angelo, Henry, Reminiscences of Henry Angelo, 2 vols. (London, 1830), II: 100–1.

20 The General Evening Post, 18–20 June 1789. Gallini offered a reward of £300 for information leading to a conviction of any ‘person or persons’ who set the fire. The World, 22 June 1789.

21 The General Evening Post, 18–20 June 1789; Felix Farley's Bristol Journal, 27 June 1789.

22 Veritas, , Opera House. A Review of this Theatre from the Period Described by this Enterpriser (London, 1818), in Burden, London Opera Observed, IV: 303–4; Milhous, Dideriksen and Hume, The Pantheon Opera, 255, make a good case for William Sheldon as the author of this pamphlet. Other reports as to the cause were varied: these included ‘trial of fireworks’ (The Diary or Woodfall's Register, 18 June 1789); ‘inflamed by a large room full of music papers, and by a large quantity of wines stored in the basement by a German friend of the managers’ (The General Evening Post, 18–20 June 1789); a ‘candle catching turpentine preparation’ (The Star, 18 June 1789); and a carpenter with a candle in flies ‘apparently in a state of intoxication’ (The Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 19 June 1789).

23 The World, 20 June 1789.

24 The Diary or Woodfall's Register, 5 January 1790; The World, 4 January 1790; and Hume, Robert D. and Jacobs, Arthur, ‘London, §II: Institutions, 2: Theatres’, in New Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed. Sadie, Stanley, 4 vols. (London, 1992), III: 33.

25 The World, 26 December 1789.

26 The London Chronicle, 2–5 January 1790.

27 For a detailed discussion of these circumstances see Price, Curtis, Milhous, Judith and Hume, Robert D., ‘A Plan of the Pantheon Opera House (1790–92)’, Cambridge Opera Journal 3 (1991), 213–46.

28 The Oracle Bell's New World, 20 June 1789.

29 Survey of London, vol. 20: Trafalgar Square and Neighbourhood, ed. Gater, George and Godfrey, Walter H. (London, 1940), 9. For further discussion about this scheme and the importance of the position of the Opera House, see Burden, Michael, ‘London's Opera House in the Urban Landscape’, in Operatic Geographies, ed. Aspden, Suzanne (Chicago, 2019), 3956.

30 The Morning Star, 25 June 1789.

31 Survey of London, vols. 33 and 34, St Anne Soho, ed. Shepherd, F.H.W. (London, 1966), XXXIII: 79.

32 Summers, Judith, Empress of Pleasure: The Life and Adventures of Teresa Cornelys - Queen of Masquerades and Casanova's Lover (London, 2003), 210–30; and Howard, Patricia, ‘Guadagni in the Dock: A Crisis in the Career of a Castrato’, Early Music 27 (1999), 8795.

33 Announced as ‘Idees sur l'opera, presentées à Messieurs les Souscripteurs, les Actionnaires, et les Amateurs de ce Spectacle, Londres: De l'imprimerie de Bell’, in The World, 20 March 1790; it also appeared as Ideas on the Opera, Offered to the Subscribers, Creditors, and Amateurs of that Theatre. By Mr. Le Texier. Translated from the French (London, 1790).

34 The Times, 5 April 1790.

35 William Hodges, ‘Leicester Square, with the Design for a Proposed New Opera House: 1790’, Museum of London, A28577; Thomas Sandby, ‘Designs for a Theatre in Leicester Square’, Royal Collection, RCIN 914707; ‘View of Opera House Proposed to be Built on the Site of Leicester House and Garden - Design No. 1’; and ‘Small Perspective View of Design for New Opera House on the Site of Leicester House and Gardens, Designed by the Architect Robert Smirke’, Sir John Soane's Museum P404 and P403. For further discussion of some of the details of these proposals and reproductions of the drawings, see Survey of London, XXXIV: 455–8, and plates 28 and 29.

36 Price, Curtis, Milhous, Judith and Hume, Robert D., ‘A Royal Opera House in Leicester Square (1790)’, Cambridge Opera Journal 2 (1990), 128.

37 ‘He first forms a model of the theatre of Bourdeaux [sic], the most defective structure in Europe - and offers this as his own design for a New Opera House! He next translates a few desultory passages from Count Algarotti, and calls them his “Ideas on the Opera! ”’: English Chronicle or Universal Evening Post, 27–30 March 1790. See also Burden, London Opera Observed, III: 121–44.

38 The Morning Star, 20 June 1789.

39 Survey of London, XXXIV: 452.

40 Milhous, Dideriksen and Hume, The Pantheon Opera, 31.

41 Hume, Robert D., ‘The Stage’, in ‘London (i), §V: Musical life: 1660–1800’, in New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 30 vols., ed. Sadie, Stanley (London, 2003), XXV: 111–19.

42 Price, Milhous and Hume, ‘A Plan of the Pantheon Opera House’, 213–46.

43 Milhous, Dideriksen and Hume, The Pantheon Opera, 16.

44 ‘There is no peace between the opera theatres: The Haymarket rather triumphs. They have opened twice, taking money, in an evasive manner, pretending themselves concerts; the singers are in their own clothes, the dancers dressed, and no recitative – a sort of opera in dishabille.’ Letter to Mary Berry, 31 March 1791, in Horace Walpole's Correspondence, 48 vols. (New Haven and London), vol. 11 (1994), 232. See, for example, the event advertised as ‘The Entertainments of Music and Dancing’ (The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, 26 March 1791, and The Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 29 March 1791).

45 Michael Burden, ‘Italian Opera Librettos in the Larpent Collection’; introductory essay to the Adam Matthews Digital online resource Eighteenth-Century Drama: Censorship, Society and the Stage,

46 The Diary or Woodfall's Register, 1 February 1791.

47 The Diary or Woodfall's Register, 18 February 1791.

48 William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act II scene 2.

49 The Times, 23 February 1791.

50 ‘Another elegant drop scene, by Stanton which is used between the play and the afterpiece, includes the Coliseum, and other remains of classic architecture, with figures, landscapes, &c’. Dibdin, Charles, History and Illustrations of the London Theatres (London, 1826), 63, describing Drury Lane.

51 The Public Advertiser, 12 April 1791.

52 Faber, George Stanley, The Origin of Pagan Idolatry, Ascertained from Historical Testimony and Circumstantial Evidence (London, 1816), 476.

53 The Diary or Woodfall's Register, 17 February 1791.

54 Price, Curtis, ‘Italian Opera and Arson in Late Eighteenth-Century London’, Journal of the American Musicological Society 42 (1989), 63, describes Tresham's explanation as ‘fatuous’.

55 Quotation is from John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 2, l. 266.

56 Weber, William, The Rise of Musical Classics in Eighteenth-Century England: A Study of Canon, Ritual, and Ideology (Oxford, 1992), 65–6, 171.

57 Gillingham, Bryan, ‘Social and Musical Matters Pertaining to J. C. Bach's Third Set of Keyboard Concertos’, Musical Review 42 (1981), 229; he was unsuccessful.

58 Burney, Charles, A General History of Music, 4 vols. (London, 1776–89), vol. 4 (1789): 505; and see, for instance, The Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 17 October 1786.

59 The Passions, an Ode for Music’, in Collins, William, Odes on Several Descriptive and Allegoric Subjects (London, 1747), 51.

60 Finch, Casey, ‘Immediacy in the Odes of William Collins’, Eighteenth-Century Studies 20 (1987), 275–95.

61 The Morning Herald, 8 June 1791; The Diary or Woodfall's Register, 23 June 1791.

62 1797: British Museum 1870,1008.2577.

63 1790: British Museum C,3.74; [no date]: British Museum Banks, 96.1; 1785: ‘La Gara Fra L'Amore e la Musica’, British Museum 1875,0814.135; and 1793: Design for dedication to the Legislature of Great Britain of Robert Bowyer's edition of David Hume's History of England, British Museum 1850,0309.23.

64 Henry Tresham, ‘Music’ Receiving Inspiration, Attended and Crowned by the ‘Loves’, drawing and watercolour. Royal Academy of Arts, London, RA collection 03/1609.

65 Inquiries so far have not located the original; Aleksandra Koltcova has, for example, recently reported that there is nothing answering the description in the State Hermitage in St Petersburg. Private correspondence, 25 January 2018.

66 Stosch, Philipp von, Gemmæ Antiquæ Cælatæ (Amsterdam, 1724). See Quynn, Dorothy MacKay, ‘Philipp von Stosch: Collector, Bibliophile, Spy, Thief (1611–1757)’, The Catholic Historical Review 27 (1941), 332–44, for an overview of Stosch's career; and Mackenzie, Compton, Prince Charlie and his Ladies (New York, 1935), 21, for this oft-quoted and colourful description.

67 Peter Dormann, ‘Aulos’, in New Grove Dictionary of Music, II: 178–9. See also Mathiesen, T.J., Apollo's Lyre: Greek Music and Music Theory in Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Lincoln, NE, and London, 1999).

68 Godwin, Joscelyn, The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance (London, 2002).

69 See Campbell, Thomas P., Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence (New York, 2002), 371–2, for a discussion of the tapestry ‘Apollo with Signs of the Zodiac’ now in the Hermitage, St Petersburg.

70 See Godwin, Joscelyn, trans., Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, the Strife of Love in a Dream, a Modern English Translation, Set in the Poliphilus Typeface (London, 1999).

71 Often attributed to Horace Walpole; see, for example, Heather MacPherson, ‘Garrickomania: Garrick's Image’, and Andrew Lambirth, ‘Man of Many Guises’, The Spectator, 8 November 2003. This bon mot is frequently cited but from sources removed from Walpole, and is of doubtful veracity.

72 For a version of this print see Folger Shakespeare Library, US-Wf ART File G241 no.124. The Folger also holds a single sheet with heads correspondingly numbered. The manuscript sheet is undated, but both items are possibly preparatory work for the advertisement. US-Wf ART Box G241 no.4a–b.

73 Painted by Francis Hayman and engraved by Charles Grignion the Elder, it decorated the title page of Mason's, William Musæus; a Monody to the Memory of Mr. Pope (London, 1747).

74 Prunières, Henry, ‘Le triomphe de Lully aux Champs-Elysées’, Revista Escola de Minas 6 (1925), 92105.

75 Davitt Moroney and Julie Anne Sadie, ‘Apothéose’, in New Grove Dictionary of Music, I: 781–2.

76 There is at least one other version of this piece by Antoine Bauderon de Sénecé, in which ‘Lully presents himself to the gods, who require him to conduct a performance of his music … Afterwards he is made to give an account of his life interrupted by damaging testimony from his former rivals and colleagues, before being exonerated and declared worthy of a monument.’ Sadie, Julie Anne, ‘Paris and Versailles’, in Man & Music: The Late Baroque Era, vol. 4, From the 1680s to 1740, ed. Buelow, George J. (London, 1993), 130.

77 No. 575 in von Erffa, Helmut and Staley, Allen, The Paintings of Benjamin West (New Haven, 1986), 480–1. They list a squared drawing of the three principal figures in the Witt Library at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, and further studies in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

78 The ‘St John’ here is usually identified as John the Baptist; the painting is currently in the Musée du Louvre.

79 The World, 15 March 1791; for an example, see British Museum 1861,0112.133.

80 For some discussion of readings of the Annunciation, including Reni’s earlier version, see Waller, Gary, A Cultural Study of Mary and the Annunciation: From Luke to the Enlightenment (New York, 2015), 127.

81 The Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser, 22 December 1785.

82 O'Keeffe, John, Recollections of the Life of John O'Keeffe, 2 vols. (London, 1826), II: 114.

83 For the importance of facts in staging during this period in general, and in the context of Omai, see Burden, Michael, ‘A Killing in Paradise: The Grand Pantomime Ballet of the Death of Captain Cook’, in Staging History 1740–1840, ed. Burden, Michael, Heller, Wendy, Hicks, Jonathan and Lockhart, Ellen (Oxford, 2016), 138–57.

84 O'Keeffe, Recollections, I: 72; another version can be found in O'Keeffe, John, A Short Account of the New Pantomime called Omai; or, a Trip Round the World (London, 1785), 20.

85 The World, 5 June 1790.

86 Coopersmith, Jacob Maurice, ‘The First Gesamtausgabe: Dr. Arnold's Edition of Handel's Works’, Notes 4 (1946–7), 277–92, 438–49; Hirsch, Paul, ‘Dr. Arnold's Handel Edition’, Music Review 8 (1947), 106–16; and Rogers, Patrick J., ‘A Bibliographic Survey of Arnold's Handel Edition, the First Gesamtausgabe’, in Music in Performance and Society: Essays in Honor of Roland Jackson, ed. Cole, Malcolm S. and Koegel, John (Warren, MI, 1997), 165–75.

87 For more on Rebecca, see Croft-Murray, Edward, Decorative Painting in England, 1537–1837, 2 vols. (London, 1970), vol. 2, The Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries, 258.

88 Von Erffa, Helmut, ‘Benjamin West at the Height of His Career’, The American Art Journal 1 (1969), 21, n6.

89 For an example of the ticket, see British Museum 1977,U.654; this was engraved by John Sherwin. See The London Magazine Enlarged and Improved 4 (1785), 135, and Croft-Murray, Decorative Painting, II: 258.

90 Mackerness, Eric David, A Social History of English Music (London, 1964), 127.

91 Burney, Charles, An Account of the Musical Performances in Westminster Abbey and the Pantheon, May 26th, 27th, 29th; and June the 3rd and 5th, 1784, in Commemoration of Handel (London, 1785).

92 The World and Fashionable Advertiser, 23 January 1787.

93 The World and Fashionable Advertiser, 24 October 1787.

94 The World, 10 January 1788.

95 The World, 19 June 1789.

96 For the role this statue played in the development of Handel's reputation, see Aspden, Suzanne, ‘“Fam'd Handel Breathing, tho’ Transformed to Stone”: The Composer as Monument’, Journal of the American Musicological Society 55 (2002), 3990.

97 Further details on the publication of the prints can be found in Smith, William C., Handel: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Early Editions (Oxford, 1970), 13, which also contains some account of the publication of Handel's Apotheosis and the other plates included in Arnold's edition.

98 Dean, Winton, ‘Scholarship and the Handel Revival, 1935–1985’, in Handel: Tercentenary Collection, ed. Hicks, Anthony and Sadie, Stanley (Basingstoke, 1987), 5.

99 Michael Dobson, ‘Shakespeare and the Idea of National Theatres’, Shakespeare Survey 68: Shakespeare, Origins and Originality (2015), 221–33, 237–8.

100 West, Shearer, The Image of the Actor: Verbal and Visual Representation in the Age of Garrick and Kemble (Basingstoke, 1991), 4.

101 Apotheosis of the French Royal Family, Legion of Honour, Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, 1729.102, Gift of Archer M. Huntington.

102 Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act V scene 1.

103 Tresham, Description of the Allegory, 7–8.

104 Don Neville, ‘Metastasio: Purpose, Philosophy’, in New Grove Dictionary of Opera, III: 353–4.

105senza dubbio il maggiore sforzo delle belle Arti congiunte’; Stefano [Esteban d’] Arteaga, in Arteaga, Vincenzo Manfredini and François Arnaud, Le Rivoluzioni del teatro musicale italiano dalla sua origine fino al presente, 3 vols. (Venice, 1785), I: xxviii, quoted in Tresham, Description of the Allegory, 7.

106 Tresham, Description of the Allegory, 8.

107 Neville, ‘Metastasio’, in New Grove Dictionary of Opera, III: 315.

108 See Michael Burden, ‘Metastasio on the British Stage 1728–1840’, Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle 49 (2007), whole issue, and the database hosted by the University of Oxford, The Italian Opera Aria on the London Stage 1705–1801,, for the sources for these statistics.

109 For the principles at work, see Burden, Michael and Chowrimootoo, Christopher, ‘A Movable Feast: The Aria in the Italian Libretto in London before 1800’, Eighteenth-Century Music 4 (2007), 285–9.

110 See Burden, ‘Metastasio on the British Stage’, and the Italian Opera Aria on the London Stage 1705–1801,

111 This is evident from, for example, the career of Regina Mingotti; Burden, Michael, Impresario and Diva: Regina Mingotti's Years at the King's Theatre, London, Royal Musical Association Monograph 22 (Farnham, 2013), 2830.

112 Burden, Michael, ‘Imaging Mandane: Character, Costume, Monument’, Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography 34 (2009), 107–36; and The Examiner, 20 October 1839.

113 See Burden, ‘Metastasio on the British Stage’, 305–8.

114 ‘a new Serious Opera, called ZENOBIA of ARMENIA, the Poetry by Metastasio, and the Music entirely new, composed by an English Amateur who has obligingly lent Madame Banti the score, and kindly consented to its being represented upon that occasion’; Morning Chronicle, 13 May 1800. See also Mount-Edgcumbe, Richard, Musical Reminiscences of an Old Amateur Chiefly Respecting the Italian Opera in England, from 1773 to 1823, 2nd edn (London, 1827), 85–6.

115 For both the gradual reduction in the number of castrati and their gradual falling out of fashion, see John Rosselli, ‘Castrato’, in New Grove Dictionary of Opera, I: 766–8.

116 St. James's Chronicle or the British Evening Post, 20–23 June 1789.

117 It is also of interest that this first season ended with a surprising flop: the benefit staging of the 1780 Quinto Fabio for the formerly popular castrato Pacchierotti (which had previously been a smash hit for the singer) saw only a single performance. As Milhous, Dideriksen and Hume point out, ‘it was a backward choice and evidently no longer of interest to a London audience’: Milhous, Dideriksen and Hume, The Pantheon Opera, 92.

118 Milhous, Dideriksen and Hume, The Pantheon Opera, 461.

119 Milhous, Dideriksen and Hume, The Pantheon Opera, 92.

120 The Morning Chronicle, 18 February 1792.

121 The Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 19 December 1791.

122 See Price, ‘Italian Opera and Arson’, 55–107; and Milhous, Dideriksen and Hume, The Pantheon Opera, 142–8, and 164–8.

123 See Petty, Frederick C., Italian Opera in London, 1760–1800 (Anne Arbor, 1980), Appendix 3, 376–7, for the figures from the 1790s.

124 Fenner, Theodore, Opera in London: Views of the Press, 1785–1830 (Carbondale, IL, 1994), 191; The Morning Chronicle, 28 November 1796.

125 Bedford Opera Papers (4.D.83), cited in Milhous, Dideriksen and Hume, The Pantheon Opera, 621; The London Chronicle, 10–13 December 1791.

126 The Public Advertiser, 12 April 1791.

127 The Morning Chronicle, 19 February 1791.

128 Smith, John Thomas, Nollekens and His Times: Comprehending Life of that Celebrated Sculptor and Memoirs of Several Contemporary Artists, from the Time of Roubiliac, Hogarth and Reynolds to that of Fuseli, Flaxman and Blake, 2nd edn, 2 vols. (London, 1829), I: 225–6.

129 See also Egerton, ‘Tresham’, 313.

130 Mrs Frederica Lock to Frances Burney, 17 June 1789; The Collected English Letters of Henry Fuseli, ed. Weinglass, David H. (New York, 1982), 40.

131 Bedford Opera Papers (4.D.83), cited in Milhous, Dideriksen and Hume, The Pantheon Opera, 621.

132 Smith, Nollekens and His Times, I: 225–6.

133 Pantheon Scrapbooks, 3 vols., I: 17 (23 February 1791); Mander and Mitchenson Collection, Theatre Collection, University of Bristol; cited in Milhous, Dideriksen and Hume, The Pantheon Opera, 67; see also The Oracle Bell's New World, 22 February 1791.

134 The London Chronicle, 17–20 December 1791.

135 The Evening Mail, 16–19 December 1791.

136 See Milhous, Dideriksen and Hume, The Pantheon Opera, 348–68, for a discussion of Hodges's scenery and the workings of the scene shop, and 56–7 and 367 on his resignation.

137 There is some dispute over the authorship of the figures. They have long been attributed to Johann Zoffany – and still are by Leeds City Art Galleries – but Charles Grieg cites entry 133, ‘A view in the Pantheon in Oxford Road (the figures by Mr Pars, unfinished)’, in Mortimer, John Hamilton and Jones, Thomas, Candid Observations on the Principal Performances now Exhibiting at the New Room of the Society of Artists (London, 1772), in support of Pars. Grieg, Charles, ‘Hodges and Attribution’, in William Hodges 1744–1797: The Art of Exploration, ed. Quilley, Geoff and Bonehill, John (New Haven, 2004), 17, 20.

138 Grieg, ‘Hodges and Attribution’, 16.

139 Milhous, Judith, ‘Painters and Paint at the Pantheon Opera, 1790–1792’, Theatre Research International 24 (1999), 58n23; and The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, 26 November 1791.

140 Rosenfeld, Sybil, Georgian Scene Painters and Scene Painting (Cambridge, 1981), 101; and Croft-Murray, Decorative Painting, II: 243, citing Gilliland, Thomas, The Dramatic Mirror 1 (1808), 160–3.

141 ‘It is a fine composition of Grecian ruins and figures, with a highly-wrought fancy bordering, or frame, highlighted with gold.’ Dibdin, History and Illustrations of the London Theatres, 63, and plate V to ‘Drury Lane Theatre’, records its cost at £700 (and its weight at 800lbs).

142 The London Chronicle, 10–13 December 1791.

143 L., ‘On Sepulchral Monuments’, Whitehall Evening Post, 24–26 May 1791.

144 Cunningham, Allan, The Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, 6 vols. (London, 1829–33), III (1830): 105. I am grateful to Rebecca Senior of the University of York, whose paper given at the Huntington Library in August 2016 drew my attention to Cunningham's views.

145 Craik, George Lillie and Knight, Charles, The Pictorial History of England: Being a History of the People as Well as a History of the Kingdom, a new edition revised and extended, 7 vols. (London: W. and R. Chambers, 1854–8), VI (1858): 875.

146 Burney, , A General History, III (1789): 498.

147 Weber, The Rise of Musical Classics, 93, 102. The placing of Purcell in opposition to Italian opera was a literary phenomenon, one that only became a serious narrative in the nineteenth century; see Luckett, Richard, ‘“Or Rather Our Musical Shakespeare”: Charles Burney's Purcell’, in Music in Eighteenth-Century England: Essays in Memory of Charles Cudworth, ed. Hogwood, Christopher and Luckett, Richard (Cambridge, 1983), 5977, for a discussion of the literary sources.

148 Milhous, Dideriksen and Hume, The Pantheon Opera, 61; the meetings were noted in the press (The Times, 4 January 1791; The Morning Chronicle, 7 January 1791; The London Chronicle, 15–18 January 1791; The Times, 21 January 1791) and took place at Carlton House (The Morning Chronicle, 4 January 1791).

* Michael Burden, New College, Oxford;

Reading Henry Tresham's Theatre Curtain: Metastasio's Apotheosis and the Idea of Opera at London's Pantheon

  • Michael Burden


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