Michael Kelly

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Kelly, Michael, distinguished as a musician and vocalist, was born in Dublin about 1764.[250] He early showed decided musical talents, and when but eleven was able to play the most difficult sonatas on the piano. Rauzzini, who was then singing at the Rotunda, gave the lad some lessons, and advised his father to send him to Italy to perfect his musical education. Accordingly he set out provided with a letter of introduction to Sir William Hamilton, who procured an entrance for him to the Conservatory of Music at Naples. There he made the acquaintance of Aprile, then the foremost singing master in Naples, and was soon qualified to make his debut as first tenor at Leghorn and at Florence. This success procured him engagements at Venice and other places in Italy, and ultimately at Vienna, where he became a favourite with the Emperor Joseph II. Mozart wrote for him the part of "Basilio" in Nozzi di Figaro.

Having obtained leave of absence from the Emperor, he went to London in 1787 with the cantatrice Storace, and in April appeared at Drury-lane in English opera. He decided not to return to Italy, and continued as first tenor at Drury-lane, and afterwards as musical director, singing occasionally at the Italian Opera, at the Haymarket, and at royal state concerts. He composed or adapted upwards of sixty pieces of music. In his latter days he appears to have reverted to his father's business of wine merchant, and Sheridan facetiously proposed that his sign should be: "Michael Kelly, composer of wine, and importer of music."

A writer in the Imperial Dictionary of Biography remarks: "Kelly, though a shallow musician, had a highly cultivated taste. His own airs, though slight, are always elegant; and his knowledge of the Italian and German schools, not very general among the English musicians of his day, enabled him to enrich his pieces with many gems of foreign art. The popularity, therefore, of Kelly's numerous pieces had a very favourable influence on the taste of the public. As a singer, his powers were by no means great; but his intelligence, experience, and knowledge of the stage rendered him very useful." He died at Margate, 9th October 1826. His Reminiscences of the King's Theatre and Theatre Royal, Drury-lane, was published posthumously in 1826, in 2 Vols. 8vo.

Sources

39. Biographical Dictionary, Imperial: Edited by John F. Waller. 3 vols. London, N.D.

250. Musiciens, Biographie Universelle des: F. J. Fetis. 8 vols. Paris, 1860-'5.

338. Walker's Hibernian Magazine (1807). Dublin, 1771-1811.
Walker, Joseph C, see Nos. 20, 108.

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