Personalities | Stephen Storace | Classical Era | Opera

1762–96, English

The English composer Stephen Storace wrote his first two operas – Gli sposi malcontenti (‘The Discontented Newlyweds’, 1785) and Gli equivoci (‘The Misunderstandings’, 1786) – for Vienna. His next two works, written for London after 1787, were not particularly successful, and subsequently Storace concentrated on English dialogue operas, either full-length or in the form of short afterpieces. Storace’s normal practice was to borrow music from other operas and sometimes from his own. Another of his methods was to rework operas written by other composers. This is what he did with, for example, Doktor und Apotheker (‘Doctor and Apothecary’, 1788) by Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739–99).

Success arrived at last with Storace’s full-length opera The Haunted Tower (1789), which packed Drury Lane with enthusiastic audiences and counted among the most popular operas staged during the entire eighteenth century. This opera alone earned Storace a reputation as a leading theatre composer and the standard-bearer for a practice he considered vital to the success of an opera: close collaboration between composer and librettist. This, though, was no democratic arrangement: as Storace’s own opera The Pirates (1792) indicates, the effect in practice was to increase the importance of the music, while the words were of lesser standing.

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