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William Shield (born Swalwell, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 5 March 1748; died London, 25 January 1829).


Francis Moore Brooke.


Comedy Les moissonneurs by Charles-Simon Favart.



First Performance: London (Covent Garden), 31 December 1782.

First Performance in Scotland: to be confirmed.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



William Shield was the son of a musician, but trained first as a boat-builder before studying music under Charles Avison, perhaps the leading musician of his day in the north of England. In spite of this unusual start, Shield rose to be appointed Master of the King's Music in 1817, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Sheild directed theatre bands in Scarborough and then Durham before moving to London in 1771. His principal income came from his work in the King's Theatre band over many years. His second opera, The Flitch of Bacon was an immediate success. Rosina followed soon after. They were both described as comic operas, rather than the musical farces he was also producing. However, as was common at the time, Shield did not compose all the music, but took songs by other contemporaries, as well as popular folk music. Indeed one tune that appears in Rosina was later indelibly attached to some verses by Burns - 'Auld Lang Syne'. Shield's own compositions could be more complex, and two pieces, 'When William at Eve' and 'Light as Thistledown' are attractive arias which were recorded by Joan Sutherland.

In spite of that sign of interest, Rosina has rather slipped below the radar during the last century, though some performances were given at the 1973 York Festival. There seems to have been little interest in it since then.


Main Characters

Rosina, an orphan (soprano).

Mr Belville, the squire (tenor).

Captain Belville, his brother (tenor).

Phoebe, a gleaner (soprano).

William, a rustic (mezzo-soprano).

Two Irishmen.


Plot Summary

Rosina is an orphan of respectable birth. She earns her keep as a gleaner during the harvest, where she befriends one of her colleagues, Phoebe. The squire loves her, but is too shy to make advances, and is unaware that Rosina loves him. Phoebe, meantime, loves and is loved by William. Matters are brought to a head when the squire's brother returns from sea and is instantly attracted to Rosina. She rejects him, and when he tries to abduct her she is only rescued in the nick of time by a pair of passing Irishmen. The squire discovers the truth, proposes to Rosina, and is accepted.

The Cast

 the squire
Captain Belville
 the squire's younger brother
First Irishman
 a gleaner
 an orphan
Second Irishman
 a rustic

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