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With the participation of: Richard Edgar-Wilson, Philippa Hyde, Ciara Hendrick
Johann Christoph Pepusch’s English-language masque Venus and Adonis premiered at London’s Theatre Royal on 12 March 1715. Inspired by the operas of composers like Giovanni Battista Bononcini and Alessandro Scarlatti, it was the most substantial effort of the period to ‘reconcile Musick to the English Tongue.’
As part of the battle for supremacy amongst London’s theatres, Pepusch recruited ‘a select Band of the best Masters of Instrumental Musick’ and two of the city’s leading singers, the ‘Italian lady’ Margarita de L’Epine en travesti as Adonis and the contralto Jane Barbier as Venus. The work bristles with Italian virtuosity and dynamism and unlike most English-language dramatic music at the time, Venus and Adonis makes ample use of dramatic recitative. A clear model for Handel’s later Acis and Galatea, this world-premiere recording of Pepusch’s wonderful masque reestablishes the work as a milestone in the history of English opera.