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Thomas Arne was born in London in 1710. Discouraged from an early age by his father to become a musician, Arne left Eton to follow a career in law. However, after much persuasion from his friend and composer, Michael Festing, his father agreed that Arne should follow a career in music. He became a prolific composer of operas, which were frequently performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, masques and Shakespeare song settings. His first composition of importance, ‘Rosamund’, took place in Lincoln’s Inn and was a great success, being repeated ten times. Three very successful masques followed in succession, the first, Comus’, which was performed at the Drury Lane Theatre, the second, ‘The Judgement of Paris’, performed at Cliveden in front of the Prince of Wales to celebrate the birthday of his daughter, and the third, The Masque of Althred’ which concludes with his well-known masterpiece ‘Rule Britannia’. In 1740 Arne composed the music for the first in a series of Shakespeare plays, ‘As you Like It’, ‘Twelfth Night’, ‘The Merchant of Venice’, ‘The Tempest’ and ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’. Some of his greatest successes include his opera ‘Artaxerxes the Great’, at Covent Garden, and the masque ‘The Arcadian Nuptials’, written to celebrate the marriage of Princess Augusta. His hugely successful ‘Colin and Phoebe’ established him as a leading composer at the London pleasure gardens for over twenty years. Arne was one of the most prolific composer’s of his day and, during his own lifetime, his works enjoyed greater success and popularity than any previous English composer, including Purcell. He was awarded a Doctorate in Music at Oxford University.
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