Dictionary of London Immigrants |||

1702-1746 - Suffolk Street (Soho)

Soprano Margherita de L’Epine was born in Italy around 1680. After performing at Venice between 1698 and 1700, she arrived at London in 1702 as the mistress of German composer Jakob Greber. The couple settled at Suffolk Street, Soho. On 9 April 1705, the Queen’s Theatre, Haymarket, was officially opened with Greber’s opera Gli amori di Ergasto. It was the first opera sung entirely in Italian by Italian singers to be performed in London. It was a dismal failure and Greber left London soon after (without his mistress).

Margherita continued her career in the capital, performing at Drury Lane from 1704 to 1708, and then at the Queen’s Theatre from 1708 to 1714. Her repertoire initially consisted of songs and cantatas, but she became above all associated with the establishment of Italian opera in London. Her singing was judged to be superior to anything heard in England at the time.

Her only rival was Catherine Tofts, an established favourite at Drury Lane, and the first English singer who sang Italian opera in Britain. They divided the fashionable world into rival Italian and English parties. Margherita dominated the stage until 1718 when she married composer Johann Pepusch and retired. The couple lived for some time at Boswell Court, Carey Street. In 1730 they moved to a house in Fetter Lane. She died in August 1746 in London.

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