Music sheet cover
'The Brigand's Ritornella' from Auber's opera Masaniello
Written by F. W. N. Bayley, lithography by Maxim Gauci, printed by W. Wybrow
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This music sheet was for 'The Brigand's Ritornella', a song with words by F.W.N. Bayley, a journalist who became the first editor of The Illustrated London News. His words were adapted to fit a tune from the opera Masaniello by the French composer Auber, which was first staged in Paris in 1828. The image shows the singer Madam Vestris on a balcony, being serenaded by her lover below. Music sheet publishers realised that images of star performers made their music more attractive and saleable. Madam Vestris was a hugely popular star of burlesque at the Olympic Theatre which she managed in the 1830s. It was at the Olympic that she became known for her 'breeches' roles when she dressed as a man in knee-length trousers and showed her legs - a daring thing for a woman in the early 19th century. The illustration is a lithograph by Maxim Gauci an important figure in the history of early music sheet illustration. Nicknamed 'the father of music hall artists', he produced many early engraved and hand-coloured sheets.