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BALLAD OPERAS AND BALLADS 35
of the then fashionable Italian opera, and the plot was of the slightest.
Gay offered the opera to Colley Cibber for Drury Lane, and when the latter refused it took it to John Rich, who brought it out at the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre. It had an immediate and overwhelming success ; after thirty-six performances Rich is said to have netted nearly £4000 and Gay some £700 odd ; from which arose the popular saying that "it had made Gay rich and Rich gay."
The Beggar s Opera revived the old tunes of England. To its success is due the birth of Ballad Operas, operas into which a number of songs were introduced which had nothing to do with the plot, somewhat after the style of our modern musical comedies. These operas had the merit of keeping the old folk tunes alive ; gradually, however, they were replaced by operas in which the music was partly introduced and partly new, and thus became the vehicle for diffusing a quantity of good songs of the popular type among the people, specially written by well-known composers for these operas.
Ballad Operas soon became quite the rage ; they caught the public fancy and held it for a considerable number of years. In a curious old pamphlet, entitled A Dialogue between the celebrated Mrs. Cibber and the no less celebrated