Personalities | William Boyce | Late Baroque | Opera
Boyce trained as a choirboy at St Paul’s Cathedral, and between 1734 and 1768 he held organist posts. He is most regarded for his symphonies, trio sonatas and church anthems. Although the composition of music for the theatre was not a dominant part of his career, Boyce was a skilful composer who was more consistent than Arne and closer to the legacy of Purcell than Handel. His earliest dramatic works were initially conceived as concert works, although The Secular Masque (1746) was performed at Drury Lane in 1750 with contributions by the famous theatre singers Kitty Clive and John Beard, who both sang for Handel. Boyce regularly provided music for the actor David Garrick’s Drury Lane theatre company between 1749 and 1751, including a pastoral masque for Moses Mendez’s The Chaplet (1749) that was his biggest theatrical success. The Rehearsal (1750) was a satire on contemporary opera buffa that featured several fine songs, and Boyce contributed music for Garrick’s production of Romeo and Juliet (1750) that was blatant competition against Arne’s similar production at Covent Garden. Boyce seems to have lost enthusiasm for the theatre during the 1750s, although the song ‘Heart of Oak’ from Garrick’s Harlequin’s Invasion (1759) was a popular hit.
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