Not currently on display at the V&A

Riot at Covent Garden Theatre

Print
early 19th century (printed)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Traditionally people could come for half price towards the end of an evening show, to see the second act or the short after-pieces that followed the main play. In March 1763 the management of Covent Garden theatre announced on the playbills that only full price tickets would be available. The response was an organised riot which destroyed the interior of the theatre and forced the reinstitution of the half price concession.

The opera being performed on this night was Artaxerxes, an English opera composed by Thomas Arne with a libretto adapted from the Italian poet Metastasio’s Artaserse. This is the only known attempt to adapt one of Metasatio’s opera seria into the English language. The singers in the print are dressed in conventional opera costume of the period, with the men wearing generically 'Eastern' rather than historically correct costume, while the female singer wears a version of fashionable 18th century dress.

Arne was more successful writing light opera, and his most famous and enduring work was setting the poem of Rule Britannia! to his music.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Engraved print
Brief Description
Print, showing a riot at Covent Garden, 1763, 'in consequence of the Managers refusing to admit half-price in the Opera of Artaxerxes.' Members of the audience climbing on stage during a performance
Physical Description
Monochrome engraved print of a scene inside Covent Garden Theatre, showing members of the audience clambering on stage, over the orchestra pit, while performers on stage look confused.
Dimensions
  • Height: 20.3cm
  • Width: 26cm
Production typeMass produced
Marks and Inscriptions
Riot at Covent Garden Theatre in 1763 in consequence of the Managers refusing / to admit half price in the Opera of Artaxerxes.
Gallery Label
Riot at Covent Garden Theatre 1763 The riot was a protest against the theatre management’s decision not to sell half-price tickets for the short after-pieces that followed the main performance. It destroyed the interior of the theatre and forced the reinstitution of the half-price concession – an early instance of the customer always being right. Engraving Harry R. Beard Collection, given by Isobel Beard Museum no. S.50-2008
Credit line
Harry R. Beard Collection, given by Isobel Beard
Summary
Traditionally people could come for half price towards the end of an evening show, to see the second act or the short after-pieces that followed the main play. In March 1763 the management of Covent Garden theatre announced on the playbills that only full price tickets would be available. The response was an organised riot which destroyed the interior of the theatre and forced the reinstitution of the half price concession.



The opera being performed on this night was Artaxerxes, an English opera composed by Thomas Arne with a libretto adapted from the Italian poet Metastasio’s Artaserse. This is the only known attempt to adapt one of Metasatio’s opera seria into the English language. The singers in the print are dressed in conventional opera costume of the period, with the men wearing generically 'Eastern' rather than historically correct costume, while the female singer wears a version of fashionable 18th century dress.



Arne was more successful writing light opera, and his most famous and enduring work was setting the poem of Rule Britannia! to his music.
Collection
Accession Number
S.50-2008

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record createdJuly 3, 2008
Record URL