Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Thomas L. Riis

Second Advisor

Steven Bruns

Third Advisor

Elissa Guralnick

Fourth Advisor

Jay Keister

Fifth Advisor

Oliver Gerland


The English comic opera Inkle and Yarico (dramatist George Colman the Younger and composer Samuel Arnold) was based on a century-old tale widely known in Europe and America. Transported to America less than two years after its London premiere, it was performed in both countries well into the nineteenth century. In the past few decades, Inkle and Yarico has received significant scholarly attention, largely because of its uniquely multifaceted commentary on late eighteenth-century attitudes toward race, class, and gender, and their relations to imperialism and slavery. Missing from the conversation, however, has been consideration of its music.

The present study reveals the music's vital functions and contributions to the English comic opera genre in general and to this work in particular, demonstrating that consideration of the music is crucial to our understanding of the work. Chapter 2 describes London's theatrical climate, comic opera traditions, the creators who collaborated on the work, and the opera's relationship to contemporary anti-slavery concerns. An analysis of Colman's libretto in Chapter 3 reveals both superficial and deeper allusions to cultural attitudes about race, class, gender, and slavery. Chapter 4 provides an overview of the music in Inkle and Yarico, while Chapters 5 and 6 analyze and describe in some depth the specific functions of Arnold's music as published in the 1787 piano-vocal score (as well as later additions), particularly music features that provide meaning beyond the libretto. Chapter 7 focuses upon the music of Inkle and Yarico in America, especially how the borrowed tunes would have resonated with audiences. Publications of Arnold's songs are examined, including specific music additions and song interpolations that have come to light through fragmentary evidence. Beginning with its first performance in New York, Chapter 8 traces the performances of Inkle and Yarico in America, including what can be gleaned from contemporaneous accounts about its reception history and performance characteristics. Chapter 9 summarizes the significance of music in Inkle and Yarico and describes recent literary versions and revival efforts. Implications for analysis of the music of other English comic operas are addressed, including challenges and benefits of such research.