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Hey, I Can Follow This!

A history of English in the opera house.

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ca. 1682
John Blow composes Venus and Adonis, considered the first English-language opera, for King Charles II’s court.

1695
England’s champion of serious opera, Henry Purcell, dies at 36. The Italians will reign for the next 200 years.


Henry Purcell  

1730
London premiere of the first American-composed opera, The Fashionable Lady, by James Ralph, friend of Ben Franklin.

1875
Gilbert and Sullivan begin their collaboration on ingenious opera spoofs including The Mikado and The Pirates of Penzance.

1910
The Met, already 27 years old, produces its first English-language opera: The Pipe of Desire, by F.S. Converse.

1946
Benjamin Britten co-founds the English Opera Group, which produces some twenty new British operas, eleven by Britten.


1976
Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach kick-starts an American golden age carried on by John Adams, Jake Heggie, and Tobias Picker.

1983
The Canadian Opera Company introduces “surtitles” for its January production of Elektra using a slide projector.

1995
After eighteen months and $2.7 million in R&D, the Met introduces its seat-back titles with Verdi’s Otello.


2005
Premiere of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, about Oppenheimer and the making of the A-bomb. At the Met this October.


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