“The Queen’s lov’d presence to each step adds life”: Caroline of Ansbach’s Musical Patronage and Dance’s Theatre

Joncus, Berta. 2014. '“The Queen’s lov’d presence to each step adds life”: Caroline of Ansbach’s Musical Patronage and Dance’s Theatre'. In: Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte & the Shaping of the Modern World. Hampton Court Palace, London, United Kingdom 7 - 9 July 2014. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

Savannah Digiovanni 24 Feb 2017, on the video of the choreography:

"The serious intellectual current is complimented by the theatricality and ceremony of English court. My turn about the gallery is accompanied by the faint tune of a minuet. I find its source in a video projection of two dancers in an ornate hall performing “The Princess’s Passepied,” a dance designed for Queen Caroline. The empty space in front of the screen extends the hall outward, almost inviting the viewer to join in the dance. The couple circles the room with the graceful celerity of ballet dancers and the prim refinement of aristocrats."
Savannah Digiovanni, 'Ladies Not Waiting', Yale News.13 March, 2024, vol. 146

Lecture Abstract (by Berta Joncus)
In the early eighteenth century, high-style secular music in Britain was, uniquely in Europe, partronised both by court circles and by a brisk public commerce. This paper examines how Caroline of Ansbach’s ancien régime musical taste was represented – through subscriptions, dedications and above all dance choreographies – within Britain’s music market.

From 1714 Caroline openly endorsed only genres that had been cultivated in the German courts where she had previously resided: Italian opera, Italian cantata, and la danse noble. The peculiarities of opera production in London limited her opera patronage to gifts to librettists, opera house visits, and court concerts featuring leading cast members. Subscriptions to, and dedications in, collections of Arcadian Italian cantatas flagged her interest in this music to polite British amateurs, and signalled a nostalgia to which Handel actively appealed. Yet while operas and cantatas barely exposed Caroline’s musical tastes, la danse noble let her directly share her musical preferences with, and inform the taste of, British audiences. ‘Birthday Dances’ at ceremonial balls for Caroline and her children were performed at playhouses, where court dance masters were the stars; these created royal representations to which the public had access. Published dances let Caroline’s subjects reproduce choreographies that spoke for her sensibility. The use of Handel’s ‘March in Scipio’ for ‘the Queen Caroline’ march (1728) enriched Caroline’s representation through the associations of the music’s drama, composer and genre. Poets, and the dance master John Essex, celebrated how Caroline advanced la danse noble in England.

From 1736 Caroline’s musical representation was compromised. Two playhouse dance-based productions, John Dryden’s King Arthur and the pantomime The Royal Chace, recreated in their stage sets Caroline’s pet projects, the installations of the Hermitage and Merlin’s Cave at Richmond Gardens. Open to a genteel public, Richmond Gardens was a liminal space where visitors wandered through Caroline’s version of British history, articulated in the installations’ busts and wax effigies. The ‘Merlin’ playhouse productions likewise invited audiences to see Caroline as part of British history, now animated by singers and dancers. But the productions were part of a broader, and elsewhere critical, reception of Merlin’s Cave, and after the pantomime became a hit – spearheaded by occasional court vocalist John Beard – an extended smutty poem finding vaginal parallels in ‘Little Merlin’s Cave’ appeared. Its scurrility highlights the perils of bringing royal representation into the marketplace, where authors may re-work earlier content for their own aims.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)

Additional Information:

With reconstructed choreography danced by Edith Lalonger and Ricardo Borra

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7 July 2014Completed

Event Location:

Hampton Court Palace, London, United Kingdom

Date range:

7 - 9 July 2014

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Date Deposited:

25 Mar 2024 16:01

Last Modified:

25 Mar 2024 18:28



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