Michael Arne (c. 1740 –14 January 1786) was an English composer, harpsichordist, organist, singer, and actor. He was the son of the composer Thomas Arne and the soprano Cecilia Young, a member of the famous Young family of musicians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Like his father, Arne worked primarily as a composer of stage music and vocal art song, contributing little to other genres of music. He wrote several songs for London's pleasure gardens, the most famous of which is Lass with the Delicate Air (1762). A moderately prolific composer, Arne wrote nine operas and collaborated on at least 15 others. His most successful opera, Cymon (1767), enjoyed several revivals during his lifetime and into the early nineteenth century.
Michael Arne was born most likely in 1740 in the Covent Garden area of London. Music historian Charles Burney, a close friend of the Arne family, indicates that he was Thomas Arne's natural son but there is some speculation among modern scholars that he may have been adopted.There is no record for Michael Arne at St Paul's, Covent Garden, where most of the Arne family were christened. His father, Thomas Arne, was the most important English theatrical composer of the eighteenth century and is considered the catalyst for the revival of English opera in the early 1730s. His mother, Cecilia Young, was one of the greatest English sopranos of the century and part of the famous Young family of musicians. Both Michael's grandfather, Charles Young, and his great-uncle, Anthony Young, were well known organists and minor composers. His Aunt Isabella was a successful soprano and the wife of composer John Frederick Lampe. His other aunt, Esther Young, was a contralto and the wife of music publisher Charles Jones. His cousins, Isabella, Elizabeth, and Polly, were all successful singers in their own right.
After 1745 Michael spent the majority of his childhood in the care of his aunt and celebrated actress Susannah Maria Cibber due to his mother's frequent illnesses and his father's busy career. It is likely that he received his earliest musical training from his aunt.It was also under her mentorship that he made his stage début as the Page in Thomas Otway’s tragedy The Orphan in the late 1740s. He began his musical career as a singer appearing in Francesco Onofrio Manfredini’s concert on 20 February 1750. This was followed by several singing appearances at the Vauxhall Gardens in the summer of 1750 where his father was the resident composer. However, Michael's career as a vocalist and actor was not prolonged for much longer. Charles Burney wrote that Michael's father "tried to make him a singer, but he was naturally idle and not very quick. However, he acquired a powerful hand on the harpsichord". Michael's obvious lack of enthusiasm for singing prevailed and he focused primarily on music composition and organ and harpsichord performance after the summer of 1750. On 5 February 1751 he gave his first solo organ concert, which featured one of his father's organ concertos; he went on to be the principal exponent of his father's organ works for the next thirty years. Arne also showed an early talent as a composer, and his first collection of vocal art songs entitled The Floweret was published in 1750. The collection included the Scottish-style song "The Highland Laddie", which became popular and as late as 1775 was adapted by Thomas Linley the elder in The Duenna .
During the 1750s and 1760s, Arne worked as an organist and harpsichordist and composer to the theatres and pleasure gardens of London. He married in the 1750s to a now unknown woman who died only a few years into their marriage. From 1756 onwards he composed a considerable amount of music for the stage, much in the same vein as his father. He wrote several successful operas, a significant amount of incidental music for plays, and published several song collections. Several of his songs were written for performance in London's pleasure gardens. One of his best-known songs is Lass with the Delicate Air, which premiered in 1762. In 1764 he collaborated with Jonathan Battishill in setting Richard Rolt’s Almena, which was a theatrical flop but praised for its fine music. The previous year he had met soprano Elizabeth Wright after hearing her perform at Ranelagh Gardens. The two became romantically involved and married in 1766. The following year Elizabeth sang the title role in his opera Cymon. The work used a libretto by David Garrick and was the greatest success of his career. Arne's wife sang in several more of his stage works as well as other productions in leading roles at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane throughout the 1760s.
In 1766 Arne built a laboratory at Chelsea in order to pursue his interest in alchemy. His hobby quickly turned into an obsession, and he was soon suffering financially due to the expenses of this pursuit. These financial problems caused a considerable amount of stress and tension in his marriage, and Arne ended up in debtor's prison in early 1769. Elizabeth died on 1 May 1769 while he was in prison, and Charles Burney blamed Arne for his wife's early death due to the overwork and stress he had subjected her to. Somewhat humbled, Arne abandoned his pursuit of alchemy and by the early 1770s was financially stable again.
Up until this point Arne had spent his entire career working in London. However, in 1771–1772 he traveled to Germany, touring the country in a series of concerts with his pupil Ann Venables. He notably conducted the German premiere of Handel's Messiah in Hamburg on 21 May 1772. After returning to England in the Fall of 1772 he married Miss Venables.He also spent some time working in Dublin, Ireland in 1775-1776. His opera The Maid of the Vale premiered at the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin on 12 February 1775, and in December 1776 he was engaged by Thomas Ryder to produce Cymon in Dublin. Both productions featured his wife in leading roles and she became a highly popular attraction to the Dublin community.
While in Ireland, Arne began to pursue alchemy once more and he took a house at Clontarf in the hopes of discovering the philosopher's stone. His pursuits again led him into debt, and he was arrested and confined to a Dublin sponging-house. While there he was assisted by the father of Michael Kelly, later a famous tenor, who provided him with a piano in return for young Kelly's daily lesson. In this way Arne was able to teach students and thereby earn money to pay off his creditors.
The Arnes returned to London in 1777, and Michael was engaged as composer at Covent Garden for several seasons. In 1781 he was notably hired to provide a harpsichord accompaniment for Eidophusikon, a display of moving pictures. In 1784–1785 he worked at the Haymarket Theatre as the director and conductor of the Lenten Oratorios. Upon his father's death in 1778, Michael inherited the majority of his father's assets, which included a number of unpublished manuscripts. Included among these were several organ concertos written in 1750s, and in 1784 Michael announced his intention to publish them. However, Michael died in poverty without having done so, leaving his wife destitute. The organ concertos were preserved and later published in 1787 by John Groombridge.
Michael Arne had a daughter Sarah who was a leading singer at Drury Lane from 1795 to 1800. It is uncertain as to whether she was a daughter from his second or third marriage. Records also indicate that he had a daughter known as Jemima who nursed him while he was ill at the end of his life. It is possible that Jemima and Sarah may be the same person, or that they are indeed two different people.
Arne was a moderately prolific composer. He wrote nine operas, collaborated on at least 15 others, wrote a small amount of incidental music for plays, and published seven song collections. He also wrote a small amount of music for the harpsichord and organ, some of which was published in 1761. Like his father, Arne wrote in the popular galante style of the day and utilized both rudiments of English folk music and Italian opera in his compositions. The following is a complete list of his stage works and published works.
Arne wrote close to two hundred vocal songs during his career, the majority of which were written for performance at London's pleasure gardens. Many of these songs were published in anthologies, but at least some fifty or more songs were never published.
Thomas Augustine Arne was an English composer. He is best known for his patriotic song "Rule, Britannia!", which has become a second national anthem to "God Save the Queen", and the song "A-Hunting We Will Go". Arne was a leading British theatre composer of the 18th century, working at Drury Lane and Covent Garden.
Susannah Maria Cibber, also known as Susannah Maria Arne, was a celebrated English singer and actress. She was the sister of the composer Thomas Arne. Although she began her career as a soprano, her voice lowered in the early part of her career to that of a true contralto. She was universally admired for her ability to move her audiences emotionally both as an actress and vocalist. Possessing a sweet, expressive, and agile singing voice with a wide vocal range, Cibber was an immensely popular singer, even if at times her voice was criticized for a lack of polished technique. Charles Burney wrote of her singing that "by a natural pathos, and perfect conception of the words, she often penetrated the heart, when others, with infinitely greater voice and skill, could only reach the ear." Cibber was particularly admired by Handel, who wrote numerous parts especially for her including the contralto arias in his 1741 oratorio Messiah, the role of Micah in Samson, the role of Lichas in Hercules and the role of David in Saul among others. In the mid-1730s she began appearing in plays in addition to appearing in operas and oratorios. She became the greatest dramatic actress of the eighteenth-century London stage and at the time of her death was the highest-paid actress in England.
Michael Kelly was an Irish singer (tenor), composer and theatrical manager who made an international career of importance in musical history. One of the leading figures in British musical theatre around the turn of the nineteenth century, and a close associate of Richard Sheridan's, he had been a friend of Mozart and Paisiello, and created roles in operas of both. With his friend Nancy Storace, he was one of the first singers in that age from Britain and Ireland to make a front-rank reputation in Italy and Austria. In Italy he was also known as O'Kelly or even Signor Ochelli. Although the primary source for his life is his Reminiscences, it has been said 'Any statement of Kelly's is immediately suspect.'
Jonathan Battishill was an English composer, keyboard player, and concert tenor. He began his career as a composer writing theatre music but later devoted himself to working as an organist and composer for the Church of England. He is considered one of the outstanding 18th century English composers of church music and is best remembered today for his seven-part anthem Call to Remembrance, which has long survived in the repertoires of cathedral choirs.
John Christopher Smith was an English composer who, following in his father's footsteps, became George Frideric Handel's secretary and amanuensis.
Thomas (Tom) Linley the younger was the eldest son of the composer Thomas Linley the elder and his wife Mary Johnson. He was one of the most precocious composers and performers that have been known in England, and became known as the "English Mozart".
Thomas Shaw was an English violinist and composer. His father, also Thomas Shaw, was a leading string player and early 18th-century concert director in Bath, England. Shaw's earliest known performance was in Bath in April 1769, but he was clearly an accomplished player by then, for during the following autumn and spring of 1770 he led the orchestra in Thomas Linley's subscription concerts. He was a member of the theatre band in 1771 and his first known composition, an overture, was performed in a concert at the end of December. By 1772 he was playing his own compositions in Bath and Bristol but difficulties with Thomas Linley made London a more attractive centre for him and his last known performance in Bath was in November 1774. That same year Six Favourite Minuets by Shaw were published by Thomas Whitehead in Bath.
Cecilia Young was one of the greatest English sopranos of the eighteenth century, the wife of composer Thomas Arne, and the mother of composer Michael Arne. According to the music historian Charles Burney, she had "a good natural voice and a fine shake [and] had been so well taught, that her style of singing was infinitely superior to that of any other English woman of her time". She was part of a well-known English family of musicians that included several professional singers and organists. Young enjoyed a large amount of success through her close association with George Frideric Handel. She appeared in several of his oratorios and operas including the premieres of Ariodante (1735), Alcina (1735), Alexander's Feast (1736) and Saul (1739).
Anthony Young was an English organist and composer. He was part of a well-known English family of musicians that included several professional singers and organists during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Elizabeth Young was an English contralto and actress. She was part of a well-known English family of musicians that included several professional singers and organists during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Thomas Lowe was an English tenor and actor. He appeared at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and at Covent Garden, and frequently performed in London's pleasure gardens. He was particularly associated with the works of Thomas Arne and George Frideric Handel.
Isabella Lampe was an English operatic soprano and the wife of composer John Frederick Lampe. She sang primarily in works by her husband and was part of a well-known English family of musicians, the Young family, that included several professional singers and organists during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Esther Young was an English operatic contralto and the wife of music publisher Charles Jones. She was part of a well-known English family of musicians that included several professional.singers and organists during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Polly Young was an English soprano, composer and keyboard player. She was part of a well-known English family of musicians that included several professional singers and organists during the 17th and 18th centuries. Her husband, François-Hippolyte Barthélémon, was a composer and violinist, and their daughter, Cecilia Maria Barthélemon, was also a composer and opera singer.
Charles John Frederick Lampe was an English composer and organist, and the son of composer John Frederick Lampe and the singer Isabella Lampe.
William Michael Rooke, was an Irish violinist and composer.
Henry Condell (1757–1834), was an English violinist and composer.
Charles Dignum was a popular tenor singer, actor and composer of English birth and Irish parentage who was active in recital, concert and theatre stage, mainly in London, for about thirty years.
(Charles) Thomas Carter was an Irish composer and organist with mixed success as an opera composer in London, but with some songs that remained popular beyond his lifetime.
Moses Mendes, or Mendez, died 1758, was a British poet and playwright. It has been suggested that he wrote the anonymous texts for Handel's dramatic English oratorios "Solomon" and "Susanna".