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Open Features: Elizabeth Billington

Peter Wintersgill gives details of the life of Elizabeth Billington who made her opera debut as Polly in the Beggar's Opera in Dublin in 1783

Born
1765 in London.

Father
Carl Weichsel, a German-born oboist.

Childhood
She was a child prodigy as pianist and composer.

Adolescence
Studied with J C Bach.

Adult life
She also studied with James Billington, a double bass player, whom she married in 1783. Her opera debut was as Polly in the Beggar's Opera in Dublin in 1783.
She sang in Naples in Bianchi's Inez di Castro in 1794. Her London debut was Vitallia in Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito in 1806.

She retired in 1811 and lived in Venice from 1817. A close friend of the Prince of Wales, she was in constant demand, being one of the finest English singers of her day.

Her brother-in-law, Thomas Billington, was a composer.

She died on 25th August, 1818, in Venice, aged 53.


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