The Beggar's Opera Playing Cards 1730

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The Beggar's Opera with lyrics and dialogue by the poet John Gay (1685-1732) was first performed on 29 January 1728. The music was taken from many popular tunes of' the day, mostly English and Scottish, even some French, and chosen and arranged by John Christopher Pepusch, a German who had settled in England and who was a composer as well as an adapter of' stage musical works. Gay had told Pope that he thought "A Newgate Pastoral might make an odd pretty sort of thing", the inhabitants of that gaol inspiring him to produce verses to be spoken by characters from the lower orders of Londoners, at the same time satirising the society of the day and including a caricature of Sir Robert Walpole who could hardly have been amused. The opera was also intended as a parody of current Italian works. "The Beggar's Opera" is so called because it opens with a dialogue between a ragged beggar, who claims to be the author, and one of the actors. The beggar does not return until the final scene, but meantime the stage is taken over by the more familiar, even notorious characters, whose names are still household words.
Produced by a man called Rich, the opera was an immediate success and ran for sixty-three nights (a record at that time although a revival in 1920 was played nightly for two and a half years); it was said to have made "Rich gay and Gay rich" and temporarily eclipsed interest in Italian opera. A measure of this success must be reflected in the production of this pack of cards which give the tunes and lyrics of the opera.

It was first published in 1728, the year of the first production of the opera, by John Bowles, a member of' the famous London family of mapmakers and printsellers.

Size: 3.9" x 2.5"

The cards are also available with a period wooden holder based on surviving examples. The cards are sandwiched between two wooden panels then fastened in place with string.

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