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A view of Rhodes, designed by Inigo Jones' pupil John Webb, to be painted on a backshutter for the first performance of Davenant's opera The Siege of Rhodes "in recitative music" in May 1656, at Rutland House.

The Siege of Rhodes is an opera written to a text by the impresario William Davenant. [1] The score is by five composers, the vocal music by Henry Lawes, Matthew Locke, and Captain Henry Cooke, and instrumental music by Charles Coleman and George Hudson.[2] It is considered to be the first English opera.

Part 1 of The Siege of Rhodes was first performed in a small private theatre constructed at Davenant's home Rutland House in 1656. Special permission had to be obtained from the Puritan government of Oliver Cromwell as dramatic performances were outlawed and all public theatres closed. Davenant managed to obtain permission by calling the production "recitative music", music being still permissible within the law. When it was published in 1656, it was under the equivocating title The siege of Rhodes made a representation by the art of prospective in scenes, and the story sung in recitative musick, at the back part of Rutland-House in the upper end of Aldersgate-Street, London. The 1659 reprinting gives the location at the Cock-pit in Drury Lane, a well-known theatre frequented by Samuel Pepys after the Restoration (1660). The Rutland House production also included England's first professional actress, Mrs. Coleman. [3]

Part 2 of The Siege of Rhodes followed in the 1657–59 era, and was first published in 1663.[4]

The plot was based on the 1522 siege of Rhodes, when the island was besieged by the Ottoman fleet of Suleiman the Magnificent. The score of the opera is believed to be lost. However, the original sketches by John Webb for the stage sets, themselves an innovation of the day, are extant.

See also


  1. ^ Sir William Davenant (1606 - 1668)
  2. ^ Roger Parker, The Oxford Illustrated History of Opera, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1994; pp. 39-40.
  3. ^ Diary of Samuel Pepys — Volume 09: January/February/March 1660-61 by Pepys - Project Gutenberg
  4. ^ Terence P. Logan and Denzell S. Smith, eds., The Later Jacobean and Caroline Dramatists: A Survey and Bibliography of Recent Studies in English Renaissance Drama, Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska Press, 1978; pp. 203-4.


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