Kitty Clive (1711-1785), star of the 18th-century London stage, was born Catherine Raftor to ‘politically compromised’ parents in London. Her meteoric rise to famed singer and actor began around 1728 when she auditioned, while still in her teens, for Drury Lane’s veteran manager Colley Cibber. Bowled over, he immediately put her on the payroll at 20 shillings a week. “Never,” effused a co-worker, “any Person of her Age flew to Perfection with such Rapidity… like a Bullet in the Air, there was no distinguishing Track, till it came to its utmost Execution.”

Kitty Clive book

Clive was possessed of an incredible instrument, ‘a protean voice’ that enabled her to excel in wildly different genres, “dazzling audiences equally in exquisite airs and raw ballads”. Despite this, Clive’s acting has received far more critical attention than her singing, which has been largely overlooked, argues Berta Joncus, Senior Lecturer in Music at Goldsmiths, University of London. In this new and meticulously detailed study, Joncus examines the reasons for this and mounts a compelling case for a reassessment of Clive as an actor and...

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