The Kennedy Center

Locke Matthew


An English composer and chorister, sometimes known as "Father of English Opera," Matthew Locked was born in Devon around 1622.  While his primary interest was stage theatre, he was an artistic writer of group music. No early data is available on his education.
Involved mostly in courts and chapels, he was a chorister at Exeter Cathedral (1638 – 1641). When he left for the Netherlands, he most likely served the exiled Charles II.  After the restoration of the monarchy, he was the composer-in-residence at the Duke's Theatre, Lincoln's Inn Fields (presently Dorset Garden), providing overtures and musical intermissions for a succession of plays.
In 1656, Locke was among the composers for Sir William Davenant's The Siege of Rhodes, and specifically wrote the music for the fourth act. The opera was the first all-sung English opera. He revised Christopher Gibbons' music for James Shirley's masque Cupid and Death, performed for the first time in London on 26 March 1653. Similarly he provided music for Elkanah Settle's, The Empress of Morocco (1673) and the fourth-act masque of Orpheus and Eurydice, a mini opera.
Locke's outstanding work and most important contribution to theatre was the resumption of Davenant's version of Macbeth (1673) and also the Davenant-Dryden translation of The Tempest (1674). These were published in full musical composition in The English Opera (1675) along with his music for his most important and last stage work on Thomas Shadwell's semi-opera Psyche (1675).
While his work's melodies were considered ancient, he mostly influenced Blow and Purcell in providing a recitative style, and for Purcell, a structural model for semi-operas. He died in London in August 1677.