Magazine article Opera Canada

Opera at Home

Magazine article Opera Canada

Opera at Home

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The London-born Samuel Arnold, who held a DMus from Oxford and was equally skilled as an editor, composer and organist (at Westminster Abbey, no less, where he was buried), made a regular practice of creating reworked editions of scores by his contemporaries and near contemporaries, including a version of Pergolesi's La serva padrona and a stage work of his own after Beaumarchais' Le barbier de Seville.

In the case of Polly, Arnold breathed new life into John Gay's 1729 ballad opera to music by Johann Christoph Pepusch by composing an overture and several beguiling new airs and duets (some from Scottish folksong sources), while enriching the overall orchestration. The result is a work of some 65 minutes' duration, including an entr'acte ("Dances of the Pirates," incorporating a pair of hornpipes) and mini suite titled "Dances of the Indians." A sequel to the hugely popular The Beggar's Opera by Gay and Pepusch (1728), Polly was a victim of the government crackdown that resulted from the earlier work's satirizing Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, the first British PM to take up residence at 10 Downing St. Until reworked by Arnold, Polly was never staged, although the original text reportedly sold well.

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Polly tells a melodramatic tale reuniting Polly Peachum and Macheath in the West Indies and ending in Polly's marriage to the Indian prince, Cawwawkee. …

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