“The Dragon of Wantley” is a ballad opera composed by John Frederick Lampe with a libretto by Henry Carey. It was first performed in 1737 at the Haymarket Theatre in London. The opera is a comedic and satirical work that parodies the popular operatic conventions of the time. Gilbert Blin will stage this opera for the Boston Early Music Festival Chamber Opera Series.
Louis-Jean Desprez, La Chimère, Collection Gilbert Blin
NEC’s Jordan Hall, Boston
November 25, 2023
Paul O’Dette, Musical Director
Stephen Stubbs, Musical Director
Gilbert Blin, Stage Director
Robert Mealy, Concertmaster
Melinda Sullivan, Choreography
Jason McStoots, Assistant Stage Director
The story revolves around the fictional character of Moore of Moore Hall, who is tasked with defending the town of Wantley from a fearsome dragon. The dragon, named Asparagus, has been terrorizing the town and devouring its inhabitants. Moore, aided by his trusty sidekick, Margery, takes on the challenge of slaying the dragon and saving the townspeople.
“The Dragon of Wantley” combines elements of English folklore, mythology, and social commentary. It uses witty dialogue, lively music, and humorous situations to entertain the audience. The opera was well-received during its initial run and remained popular throughout the 18th century.
Lampe’s composition for “The Dragon of Wantley” features a blend of traditional English folk tunes and Italian opera styles, reflecting the influence of both genres on 18th-century English musical theater. The opera’s success contributed to the growing popularity of ballad opera, a genre that incorporated popular songs and spoken dialogue.
While the fame of “The Dragon of Wantley” has diminished over time, it remains a notable work within the history of English ballad opera. Its humorous and light-hearted nature, combined with Lampe’s musical talent, continues to make it an intriguing piece of entertainment from the 18th century.