Michael Kelly

1762-1826 [var. 1764]; b. 25 Dec. 1762; son of Master of Ceremonies in Dublin Castle, his voice was renowned in Smock Alley; toured Europe (where he was known as Ochelli) and sang in the first production of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro; wrote musical scores for works of William Dimond (The Young Hussar, 1807; The Bride of Abydos, after Byron, 1826, et al.), and published many others, often with arrangement by M.C. Mortellari; Thomas Moore wrote a libretto for his operetta The Gipsy (1801); his Reminiscences were ghost-written [ie., ‘with materials provided by Michael Kelly’] ed. Theodore Hook (2 vols., London 1826; 2 edns.); d. 9 Dec. 1826; there is a biography by Stewart M. Ellis. ODNB DIB BREF DIW OXT

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Memoirs, [Theodore Hook,] Reminiscences of Michael Kelly, of the King’s Theatre, and Theatre Royal Drury Lane, including a period of nearly half a century / with original anecdotes of many distinguished persons, political, literary, and musical, [2nd edn.] (London: Colborn 1826), 2 vols. [xvi, 349, 367pp.; port.]; and Do. [rep. of 2nd edn.], new intro. by A. Hyatt King (NY: Da Capo Press 1968), 2 vols.; and Do., as Solo Recital: The reminiscences of Michael Kelly, ed., with biog. index by Herbert van Thal ((London: Folio Society 1972), 372pp., ill. [pls., ports.], 23 cm. [abridged vers.]; Do., as Reminiscences [of] Michael Kelly [Oxford English memoirs & travels] [2nd edn. rep. with corrs.) ed. Roger Fiske (London: OUP 1975), xxxiv, 396pp., ill [12pp. of pls., with. facs.music, ports], 25 cm.

Musical scores incl. The bride of Abydos, a tragedy by W. Dimond founded entirely upon the poems of Lord Byron; the music by Michael Kelly (London: J. Power [1818]), 46pp., 35 cm [vocal score];“The Maid of Snowden”, sung [...] by Miss Tyrer in the comedy of Town or Country by Thos. Morton ([London]: printed & sold by M. Kelly [1807]), 4pp., fol.; Prince Hoare, Mahmoud (1796) [prepared for performance by Michael Kelly]

Published scores (other authors), incl. Peter von Winter, Vaghi colli ameni prati: the much admired duett, as sung at the Kings Theatre by Sigra. Grassini & Mrs. Billington, in the grand serious opera of Il ratto di Proserpina [...] arranged by M.C. Mortellari (London: printed by M. Kelly ... [1804]), 6pp.; Dunque non senti O barbaro: the favorite duett, sung by Mr. Braham & Made. Grassini, in the grand serious opera of Gli Orazi e i Curazi / composed by Mr. Braham; arranged by M.C. Mortellari (1805).

For full list of titles by and involving Michael Kelly listed in COPAC, see attached.

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Stewart M[arsh] Ellis (The Life of Michael Kelly, Musician, Actor and Bon Viveur, Gollancz 1930), 400pp.

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Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction: A Guide to Irish Novels, Tales, Romances and Folklore [Pt. 2] (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985), lists Naomi Jacob The Irish Boy (1955), A biographical romance [see under Jacob, infra, and Notes, here].

Michael Arnott, English Theatrical Literature (1979), and see Lowe’s note therein; also Oxford Dictionary of Music: ‘part of the Irish set in London’.


Henry Boylan, Dictionary of Irish Biography (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1988): Vienna, 1783-1787; Drury Lane, 1797-1807; opened music shop in London, and went bankrupt; last Dublin appearance, 5 Sept. 1811.

Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction: A Guide to Irish Novels, Tales, Romances and Folklore [Pt. 2] (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985), gives summary of The Irish Boy, 1955, by Naomi Jacob: son of Dublin wine merchant; retained gift of pure song after his voice broke; lessons from St. Georgio; meeting with Rauzzini proved turning-point in career; sang for Charles Edward (Pretender); met Casanova; close friend of Mozart, performing in his operas; creates robust and endearing Dublin of [his] childhood.

COPAC lists The Woodpecker, air by M[ichael] Kelly (1762-1826), arranged by John Creed [for] S.A.T.B. [with piano] (London: Bosworth & Co. [1971]), 5pp. score; 26cm.; also Thomas Moore [author of libretto for Gipsy Prince].

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Ar teanga: Douglas Hyde quotes the Memoirs of Michael Kelly, where the musician recalls being in the German court at Schoenbrunn, in the company of generals O’Donnell and Kavanagh, ‘my gallant countrymen’; the latter addresses him in Irish, and the Emperor inquires if he does not understand or speak it; Kelly replies that ‘none but the lower orders of the Irish people speak Irish’, and is struck by the impropriety of his remark, which the Irishmen, do not, or else pretend not to hear. (Literary History of Ireland, 1901 ed., 622.) See also Naomi Jacob’s novel The Irish Boy (1955) in which the title-character is addressed by Jacobite officers in Irish before the king of Bavaria and excuses his ignorance of ‘his own language’ by saying that ‘in Ireland only the lower classes speak Irish’. (Quoted in Frank O’Connor, Leinster, Munster and Connaught; cited in P. J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland, 1994, p.176.)

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