May 11



Into the STATE of







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Printed for M. COOPER, at the Globe, in

Pater-Noster-Row. Price 6d.


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State of OPERAS



IT has been thought a Taste for Italian

Musick was not general enough in our

Country to support the Expence of an

Opera; and this Entertainment, after many

Struggles, seems now sinking into absolute

Decay from the Prevalence of that Opinion.


’TIS a Question yet to be decided,

whether this be really the Case or not: and

the present Time calls particularly for such

an Explanation. This Entertainment stands [4]

now upon the Verge of a Precipice: and

it must be a tender, as well as resolute Hand,

that is stretch’d out to save it.


’TIS certain the Opera deserves some

Regard, as it is the Entertainment of the highest

Ranks; and as it gives a Variety among

other polite Amusements. If it be true,

as has been pretended, that the Produce of

the best Seasons does not defray the Charge,

it will be in vain to think of restoring it

in England; but if it shall appear on the

contrary, that the Receits [sic] of moderate

Houses, are more than equal to the Expence

of the very best Operas, there will

need only to explain and ascertain this to

the Nobility, who have always been their

Support, to the fixing them upon a

secure and lasting Foundation.


THE determining this Point is the

Purpose of the present Enquiry; and the

Author apprehends he shall be able to shew,

that the Money received for Operas would

have supported them elegantly at all Times;

but that a great Part of it has fallen into

the Hands of Persons who contributed

nothing to the Entertainment; and that a Number

of unnecessary Officers of the House, have [5]

been enrich’d, while the Performers starved.

This has been always the Case; it has been

long a Complaint; and ’tis fit that at length

it should be known.


WHOSOEVER undertakes Operas

enriches the Proprietors of the House, Cloaths

and Scenes; but the Restraints and hard

Conditions under which they are let, render

it nearly impossible any body else should

be Gainers.


WHILE the Nobility were pleased to

honour the Operas with their Direction, the

Representations were elegant in the highest

Degree; and but for this unseen and

unnecessary Charge, they would have found

at that Time, a lasting Establishment.


THE Performers were proud to receive

the Commands of their Patrons; and those

honourable Persons had no Views but for

the Improvement of the Entertainment:

they had Spirit to procure whatsoever was

excellent; and Taste to distinguish where

Excellencies lay.


WHILE the Opera was under this

Regulation, every thing was elegant; every

thing answered, and exceeded the [6]

Expectation, except the Ballance of the Account.

Those who managed became Loosers [sic]; but

all the while the Receits [sic] of the House

were much more than equal to the necessary

Expence. Yet to this we are to attribute the

Decline of Operas in Britain: The

Noblemen were perfect Judges of what was

worthy of their Audience, but they were

kept in the dark as to the real Profits.

They did not condescend to look into the

innumerable lesser Articles of the Account;

and these were in the Hands of Persons

whose Custom was to delude those that

dealt with them. The Noblemen lost,

because they were imposed upon; and they

gave up the Management because they lost.

This is the short History.


SINCE that Period Operas have declined.

Interested Persons have been entrusted with

the Management of them: the Performers

have been ill treated; and at the same time

ill paid: so ill indeed, that there are now

several of them begging their Bread among

us. The Name of our Country has been

thus brought into Disgrace; and good

Singers will not come over, unless to serve a

different Sort of Masters; worse and

worse will therefore be employed, and the

Entertainment itself must in the End

certainly cease. [7]


OPERAS are now frequented by few,

except the Subscribers and their Friends;

and on half the Nights not even by those:

It cannot be supposed those great Personages

who slight them now, will contribute

to them again under the same Management:

We see, perhaps, this Winter the

last that will be perform’d in England,

unless the Conduct be entirely alter’d.


THERE seems, however, an easy

Method to restore their Credit; and it is the

Purpose of the present Pamphlet to propose

it. Candour will excuse Mistakes, if there

be such, since it has at least this Merit, to

be written by a Person wholly unconcern’d;

one who has no Motive but his Regard for

the Entertainment, and his Apprehensions

of its absolute Destruction.


THE Opera is not capable of a lasting

Restoration in this Country, unless it will

support its own Expence. Whether this

be the Case, is the first necessary Question;

and the more strictly we enquire, the more

we shall be convinced it will; tho’ the

Case has not hitherto been rightly

understood. [8]


WHEN the Performers undertook the

Opera for themselves they lost, because,

being Foreigners, they were imposed upon:

but in all this Time, and under both those

Managements, its [sic] is easy to be proved, that

Profits were obtain’d; tho’ not by those

who deserved them. Estates were got by

the Opera, while the Noblemen were

fleeced, and the Performers starved.


THIS depends on Calculation, and may

be proved from Facts which cannot be



IF we set the Expence of Operas at the

highest, twenty good Houses with a moderate

Subscription will pay the Charge of

a Season; there remain thirty therefore,

reasonably computing, for Advantage:

Perhaps there never was a Year in which the

Opera did not produce enough to pay

itself, tho’ the Money fell into wrong Hands:

Four Thousand Pounds has been frequently

the Profit of a Season; and it is easy to see

much more than this may be got every

Winter under a fair and rational

Management. [9]


THE Care will be comprised in two

Articles; to engage the best Performers, for they

will bring good Houses; and to retrench

unnecessary Expence.


A BANKER will be the proper Treasurer

of the Cash; nor can it be needful to keep

an Army of Carpenters in Pay: it will be

enough to employ them when they are

wanted. It is ridiculous, even to Absurdity,

that a Man should have a large Salary for

an Office, to which he appoints himself at

the letting of the House. Three Pounds

a Week for a Carpenter to be ready for fear

he should be wanted, and who, if he is

wanted, is paid for his Work beside, is

an Extravagance and Folly so barefaced,

that one could scarce believe it real; nor is

there any Reason the Managers should be

obliged to pay an exorbitant Sum nightly

for lighting the House, when reputable

Tradesmen offer to do it twice as well,

for a fifth less Expence.


THESE are a few Instances; and the

rest are like them. Where then is the

Possibility that Money should be gain’d by

Operas, except by these Persons; if one [10]

Man shall make such Demands, and

another order their Payment, independent of

those who are at the Expence of the

Entertainment; ’tis certain who must gain,

and who be ruin’d.


TO the Support of Operas in an elegant

Manner, no more Money in Advance will be

required than for the Rent of the House

and a Security to the principal Performers;

for which a very moderate Sum will

answer; and this is the Time when it can

be most conveniently undertaken: but it

will be, for many Reasons, a great

Advantage, if the House be taken for three



                  THIS will encourage Performers:

because their Employment will be of so much

Continuance; and will make it worth the

Subscribers while to be at some Expence in

Improvements of the Scenes and Decorations,

&c. because there will be so many

Seasons to reap the Advantages. It has

been usual to take the House under sad

Limitations, with dirty Scenes, and

without a Sight of the Wardrobe, and with a

certain Profit to those who give no

Pleasure to the Audience. This is proposed

thus to be avoided. [11]


A BOARD of six or eight of the

Subscribers might order all the Business, by

sitting but two Hours in a Week; and as

a Person of Reputation, and Knowledge in

Accounts, is necessary to act as Treasurer

at the Theatre, he may likewise serve as a

Deputy to the Board of Directors, may

receive their Orders, take off all the

Trouble, and prevent all Imposition.


IF this should appear agreeable to those

great Personages who have distinguish’d

themselves as Patrons of the Opera, the rest

is easy. The House, together with the

Scenes and Wardrobe, should be taken for

three Years; every Article being deliver’d

to the Board by Inventory, for which they

are to be accountable: the House to remain

the Property of the Owner for Assemblies

or Masquerades, but at all other Times to

be in the Power of the Board of Subscribers

only; who having the Choice of employing

what Persons they please, would escape the

former Snares; and having the Command

of the Wardrobe, would be able to dress

every Performance to the best Advantage.


THE Nobility of England will not

conceive the Direction of these Performances [12]

beneath their Notice; since they are

sensible that in other Nations this Care is

usually taken by Persons of the highest

Rank purposely to keep it out of mercenary

Hands, in which it could not prosper.


AT Dresden, Count Bruhl had the Opera

under his Direction: at Turin four of the

first Personages in the Kingdom always

conduct this Entertainment, and Count

Perron at this Time distinguishes himself among

these by his Taste and Spirit: at Milan

the four Questori have the Charge; who are

always Personages of the highest Rank: at

Venice many noble Venetians in their Turn,

honour’d the Care of them with their

Attention; and at Naples the Charge devolves

upon the Auditore, one of the high Offices

of State.


THE Success of Operas under such

Direction is natural, because they will deserve

it; and it will be the same in every Country

where they shall have that Honour.

The Qualifications for the conducting of

such an Entertainment, are the natural

Qualities and Accomplishments of Persons

of great Rank; Taste, Spirit, and a Dignity

accompanied with Politeness; to give [13]

Weight to the Commands, and at the same

Time make them pleasing.


IN the Deputy there would be required

some Skill in the Italian Language, and a

perfect Knowledge of our own; with a

little Taste in Poetry: He should be

qualified to judge of the Sense; and to

translate the Opera without rendering it

ridiculous. These are Talents which might be

easily found: but if those who have

managed Operas, have been of a Rank

too mean for such moderate Accomplishments,

much less could we expect in them

the higher Requisites.


PERHAPS upon a fair and candid

Enquiry, it will be found, that the Want of

Success has been owing solely to

Incapacity in the Conductors, joined with a

mercenary Spirit: and if it appear so, the

Cause is easily removed. The Ignorance of

such a Person may lead him to prefer the

meanest Writers, when Metastasio is as

readily before him; and in that opinionated

Obstinacy which always accompanies

Ignorance, he may cut out so much of

those which are better, as to reduce all to

one Level. If the Singer adds what he [14]

likes, when such a Manager has cut out

what displeases him, the Performance must

become one great Absurdity.


I AM grieved to say the English have

been content to admit such Managers, and

to receive such Operas: but ’tis hoped it

will be so no more.


A MANAGER, thus destitute of

Knowledge, and influenced by mercenary Views,

would select the most indifferent Performers

because they would come cheaper;

and we should be sure to see the best

unemployed, because they were too good for

his Service.


INDEED, we see it now. Persons are

suffered at the Opera who would be rejected

at the meanest Theatres abroad: no capital

Performer of any King appears, and yet

the Nobility pay the same Price, as when

they had the best Representations.


OF late two Incidents have occurr’d at the

Opera-House, which seem to threaten the

finishing Stroke to that Entertainment: the

Introduction of Italian Shades, a larger Kind

of magick Lanthorn, an Expedient so low [15]

that it would disgrace a Puppet-shew; and

Proposals for a smaller Subscription for a less

Number of Operas in the Season. The

first was 12 Guineas without Dancers, 15

with; so the greater Part of the Audience

must have been called out till the

Dancing was over. This second is 14

Guineas with Dancers, &c. and is equally

absurd with the former: Will the

Proprietor let the House for thirty Nights

cheaper than if they had Fifty? Will

the principal Singers and Dancers take

less for their Performances? or, what is

very material, will the Owner of the

Scenes and Cloaths let them out to Hire

for less Money, or give better Dresses and

Decorations than at present? These are

Questions that may be worthy the Considerations

of those, who mean to support the Dignity

of an Opera. Having a smaller Number of

Representations can not lessen the Expence

of the principal Performers, for they must

live the Winter, whether they sing two

and thirty times, or fifty; and sufficient

Care is always taken to prevent their

singing any where else. ’Tis evident therefore,

we can have no capital Performer upon

such Terms; and there requires little

Knowledge to find out that an Opera without [16]

capital Performers is ridiculous. If Benefits

are given them instead of more Pay, it is a

second Tax on the Subscribers: but perhaps

this may be a new Method in the Place

of those imaginary Agreements which were

shewn to the Nobility to procure a large

Subscription, though the Money was

never intended to be paid to the Performers.


IF the Nobility will please to take the

Opera out of this Kind of Management,

it will be easy to make it flourish.


IT cannot subsist upon these Terms;

nor is there any Reason those who subscribe

so largely to the Support of that Entertainment,

should submit to them: there are

Performers to be had, and they would

come joyfully; for to all Foreigners

England is Elyzium.





[1] Shakespeare Folger Library, shelfmark 168-203q; advertised in The Public Advertiser, no. 7647, Friday 11 May 1759, [1].