On Sunday 25 September 2011, at the Foundling Museum in London, joint editors Berta Joncus and Jeremy Barlow launched the first book devoted to eighteenth-century theatre manager John Rich. As well as staging The Beggar’s Opera in 1728 – the theatrical hit of the century – Rich had great commercial success with his pantomimes, in which he often played Harlequin under the name of Lun. The money he made enabled him to build the first theatre on the site of what is now the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
The Stage’s Glory draws together papers from the highly successful conference on Rich in 2008, held at the Royal College of Surgeons (the site of Rich’s first theatre at Lincoln’s Inn Fields). The volume corrects historical misconceptions of Rich as a commedia buffoon himself, illiterate and full of malapropisms in his speech.
The Foundling Museum, which houses the Gerald Coke Handel Collection, proved an apt choice for the launch; Rich helped Handel hugely during the 1730s by allowing him to stage operas at Covent Garden, when a rival opera company had taken over Handel’s previous home at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket. Furthermore, Berta Joncus was able to announce the inauguration of a new musical partnership between the Museum and her own institution, Goldsmith’s, University of London.
“The Stage’s Glory”: John Rich, 1692-1761, ed. Berta Joncus and Jeremy Barlow (University of Delaware Press, 2011). £44.95. ISBN 978-1-61149-032-9. For further details visit the website www.johnrich.org.uk.