We continue last chapters musical theme by looking at a piece of music in the folio I acquired. It comes from an opera called #TheDuenna originally composed in 1775. Compiled as a three act opera by composers #ThomasLinley the elder and Thomas Linley the younger to a libretto by #RichardBrinsleySheridan.The Duenna was considered the most popular opera of it’s day. It was admired by Samuel Johnson, William Hazlitt and Lord Byron – who called claimed it ‘the best opera ever written’. In London alone, it had some 256 performances in 25 years to 1800 and another 196 up to 1851.
The piece in my folio is a setting of Byron’s poem #MyNativeLandGoodNight which comes from “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’, Canto the First, IV. The Pilgrimage was published between 1812 to 1818. This means that this sheet music comes from around then. I have also found that Mr. Sinclair was certainly involved with the performance of the opera from 1820 on and possibly before 1820. What I have not found is a score in which this song appears. It was not in the original opera but then it was a pastiche and might have been modified as to the personnel available. It might also be one of the reasons that Byron was so effusive in his praise. I have found this poem set to music by a Miss Fowler but other than this setting none from the correct era. There is no credit given to the composer of the song other than that it was adapted to this ‘beautiful air’. A number of old Scottish and Welsh airs were used in the opera. If anybody recognises it, please let me know.
The music of this air (often known today as Grammachree Molly or The Harp that once through Tara’s Halls) was selected by Sheridan, who wrote verses starting “Had I a heart for falsehood framed?” for it. It was performed from the first performance, in 1775. Sheridan certainly controlled what music went into the opera, but it was more than “compiled”: about half the music was original, composed by the two Linleys.