“Zealous partisans of both, I think, must have applauded”: Kitty Clive, Regina Mingotti and Mimic Italian Song

Joncus, Berta. 2022. '“Zealous partisans of both, I think, must have applauded”: Kitty Clive, Regina Mingotti and Mimic Italian Song'. In: Nach der Norm: Musikwissenschaft. 21. Jahrhundert. Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für Musikforschung, Berlin, 2022. Humboldt University, Germany 28 September - 1 October 2022. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

In London playhouses, attacking Italian opera was a big business. Once dramma per musica had burst upon London stages, native antagonism towards it inspired a host of entertainments, from entr’actes to burlesques to ballad operas. Starting in 1742, Drury Lane’s top singer-actress Kitty Clive tapped this playhouse legacy to invent a novel type of celebrity satire. She improvised the 'taking off' – that is, mimicking – of prima donnas to both mock and evoke the foreign star, recognition of whom was essential for the effect to work. Clive’s ‘Mimic Italian Airs’ eventually became so popular that they earned separate billing.

This paper explores the creative practices that underpinned Clive’s mimicry, which I in part extrapolate from Francis Brooke’s eye-witness account of Clive taking off Regina Mingotti’s performance of one of Niccolò Jommelli’s Four Songs in the Opera call’d Il Demofoonte. Brooke’s description, combined with our knowledge of Clive’s outstanding vocal technique in delivering serious English song, helps us understand how ‘Favourite Songs’ of Italian opera might be re-invented in a London playhouse to appeal simultaneously to anti-Italian bias and opera connoisseurship.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


mimic song, Catherine Clive, Regina Mingotti, celebrity, voice, 18th century

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



29 September 2022Completed

Event Location:

Humboldt University, Germany

Date range:

28 September - 1 October 2022

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

22 Mar 2024 17:22

Last Modified:

23 Mar 2024 00:11



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