Arnold, Samuel: Obi; or Three-Finger’d Jack
Facsimile: Printed score, John Longman, Clementi’s Company (1800) and MS libretto, The Huntington Library LA1297
Introduction by Robert Hoskins with Eileen Southern
In the last three years of his active career as composer to the Haymarket Theatre, Samuel Arnold wrote the music for three innovative pantomimes which reveal the influence of early Romanticism, the first being Obi, or Three Finger’d Jack (1800). In all these the story was mimed by actors, to continuous orchestral music with occasional vocal numbers interspersed. In addition, each was set in an exotic locale and included supernatural events, spectacular effects, processions, combat and rescue. The ambitious dramatic scale of these theatre pieces admitted many possibilities in script and staging, and the composer was compelled even more than previously to make extensive musical cross-references between the use of mime and its integration into musical numbers.
Premiered at the Haymarket Theatre on 2 July 1800, Obi was one of the most popular newly composed afterpieces, playing 39 times in the first season.