Arne, Michael


Son of Doctor Thomas Arne. Very early showed musical ability and was taught singing by his father. He was able to play Handel and Scarlatti at ten years of age and a year or two later began composing, his first work along this line consisting of a collection of songs. In 1763, The Fairy Tale, his first music-drama, appeared, and in 1764, he wrote, with Battishill, the music for the opera, Almena, which was not a success. In 1766, Arne married Elizabeth Wright, a well-known vocalist, and in 1767 wrote the music for Garrick's romance, Cymon. This was his best work and was very successful. Soon after, he gave up his music and devoted himself to the study of chemistry, hoping to discover the philosopher's stone. In this way he ruined himself financially and was obliged to turn again to composition and conducting for the London Theatres. In 1771 he conducted for the production of Handel's Alexander's Feast, at Hamburg, and in 1772 for the first performance of the Messiah, in Germany. Beside operas and dramatic music for plays, Arne wrote many songs, some of which were very melodious and popular. Among his musical dramas were The Fairy Tale; Hymen; The Bell's Stratagem; A Choice of Harlequin; The Fathers; The Positive Man; and Tristram Shandy.