Song sheet cover
Composed by J. P. Clarke, lithography by R. J. Hamerton
Astley's Amphitheatre, London
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This song sheet cover is from a cantata by Michael William Balfe telling the story of Mazeppa, the Polish nobleman who is tied to the back of a wild horse by his enemies. A cantata is a drama set to music, but not, as with an opera, intended to be acted. In 1861, the actress Adah Isaacs Menken caused a sensation in the role, playing a man, and appearing on the horse wearing little more than a flesh-coloured body stocking. She became so synonymous with the part that the cover to this 1865 edition of Michael Balfe's music features a picture of her in the part. The first performance of Balfe's Mazeppa was sung at Exeter Hall in June 1862. The episode with the horse was represented instrumentally, accompanied by the 'suffering accents' of Mazeppa. All the music was mysteriously stolen after that performance, never to be recovered.