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date: 26 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter shows how selections from English operas composed between the 1730s and the 1790s—chiefly by Thomas Arne, Charles Dibdin, William Shield, and Stephen Storace—became standard repertory in concerts throughout the nineteenth century. Such pieces were performed at benefit concerts organized by individual musicians and at events given by local ensembles that blended songs with virtuoso pieces and orchestral numbers. Critical commentary on such songs justified their aesthetic legitimacy as groups separate from pieces deemed part of classical music. By 1900, songs by Arne, Storace, and even Dibdin were often sung in recitals along with German lieder and pieces from seventeenth- or eighteenth-century Italy or France. The solidity of this tradition contributed to the revival of the operas themselves from the 1920s, most often Arne’s Artaxerxes (1762). This chapter is paired with Rutger Helmers’s “National and international canons of opera in tsarist Russia.”

Keywords: national canon, national identity, English opera, Thomas Arne, Charles Dibdin, William Shield, Stephen Storace, music criticism

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