Celebrity Songster v. Justice Woodcock: Love in a Village (1762), or Sexual Predators on Trial

Joncus, Berta. 2021. 'Celebrity Songster v. Justice Woodcock: Love in a Village (1762), or Sexual Predators on Trial'. In: The 51st Annual Meeting of the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies. Toronto, Canada 7 - 11 April 2021. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

Love in a Village (1762) was the most successful comic opera of 18th-century London, and its publication (2020) is the first-ever hybrid critical edition of an English musical work. It combines a hard-copy score, published by Bärenreiter, with an electronic platform on Edirom that allows users to compare digitised primary sources against editorial commentary. As a pastiche, the opera’s score derives from earlier music, so understanding the associations of that music in its own, tune-literate day is central to understanding the opera’s attractions. This edition makes explicit the provenance of its music and the history and authorship of its source documents, revealing Love in a Village as a work of many hands, devised chiefly to promote its players. The opera was also expected to be morally uplifting. The lesson of Love in a Village is that women ought to defend themselves against sexual predators. As his name suggests, Justice Woodcock is a man whose profession cloaks and facilitates sexual predation. His target, the heroine Rossetta, defends herself with music. Sung by star soprano Charlotte Brent, Rossetta exposes Woodcock’s hypocrisy and gross appetites, ridiculing him in sprightly numbers before dazzling in a revelatory finale. Brent helped make Love in a Village a stage staple, and Rossetta became a coveted role among next-generation sopranos. Her success helps explain why London audiences favoured pastiches: by recycling arias that were familiar and therefore rich in associations, they superimposed qualities on a star singer that her own voice then made seem authentic.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



10 April 2021Completed

Event Location:

Toronto, Canada

Date range:

7 - 11 April 2021

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

25 Mar 2024 16:05

Last Modified:

25 Mar 2024 18:11



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