Author: José Shane Brownrigg-Gleeson Martínez
On March 24, 1806, a ‘Young Spaniard’ hailed as a musical prodigy gave a violin concert at the Hanover Square Rooms in London. According to an advertisement placed in that day’s Morning Post, the visitor could be considered ‘one of the brightest examples of musical talent and application that ever engaged the attention of the amateur, or enraptured an English audience’.
Born in Bilbao in July 1793—and not 1795 as held by most of his biographers—this ‘celebrated young Spaniard’ was Miguel Rufino Lacy, the third of the five children of Francis Lacy, originally a shoemaker from Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan, Ireland, and Catherine MacDonald (sometimes ‘MacDonall’ or ‘Donall’), probably also of Irish origin.
Prior to his arrival in England, Rophino Lacy—as he would come to be known in the Anglophone world—had debuted in Spain and studied in France, where in 1804 he had performed for Napoleon. Although he was engaged for a time as a violinist in London, Dublin and Edinburgh, by late 1808 Lacy had taken up a career in acting. Throughout his life he was to also try his luck as a playwright, theatrical manager and composer, but it was as an arranger of operas that he would be most successful. Having lived for some time in Liverpool, Lacy visited Paris in 1831 and toured the United States in 1845. He died impoverished in London in September 1867 and was survived by a wife and two daughters. In spite of his ‘Spanish’ moniker, Lacy is commonly included in studies of English, Irish and Basque musicians.
This portrait of Lacy, painted by John Smart and engraved by Antoine Cardon, was published in England in May 1807, shortly after he had given a concert at the King’s Concert Rooms in Haymarket, London. Judging from its inscription—‘born in Bilboa [sic], July 19, 1795’—Lacy would have been 11 years old at the time, yet church records in Spain demonstrate that the young musician was actually two years older than what his contemporaries believed. The way in which his age was commonly misrepresented in early advertisements for his concerts suggests that his parents might have willingly misled the public in exaggerating his precociousness.
Sources and Suggested Reading: Archivo Histórico Eclesiástico de Bizkaia (Derio, Spain); Archivo Histórico Foral de Bizkaia (Bilbao, Spain); American Irish Historical Society (New York, USA); Morning Post (London), 24 March 1806; Times (London), 17 March 1807; Freeman’s Journal (Dublin), 27 August 1807; Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh), 25 July 1808; Belfast News-Letter, 2 January 1818; The Musical World, A Magazine of Essays, Critical and Practical, and Weekly Record of Musical Science, Literature, and Intelligence (London), 2 April 1840; Evening Mirror (New York), 13 November 1845; Gaceta Musical de Madrid (Madrid), 5 August 1855: Times (London), 26 September 1867; La semaine musicale: musique sacrée, concerts, musique dramatique, littérature et beaux-arts (Paris), 17 October 1867; Ángel Sagardia Sagardia, “Lacy, Rufino, instrumentista.” Auñamendi Eusko Entziklopedia [http://aunamendi.eusko-ikaskuntza.eus/es/lacy-rufino/ar-84229, accessed May 22, 2018]; Axel Klein, “Lacy, Michael Rophino,” in Harry White & Barra Boydell (eds.), The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland (Dublin: UCD Press, 2013), vol. 2, 575–576; John C. Greene, Theatre in Dublin, 1745–1820: A Calendar of Performances (Bethlehem, Pa.: Lehigh University Press, 2011), vol. 5, 3541; Warwick Lister, Amico: The Life of Giovanni Battista Viotti (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 460; David J. Golby, “Lacy, Michael Rophino (1795–1867), violinist.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-15859, accessed May 21, 2018]; Richard J. King, “Lacy, Michael Rophino.” Grove Music Online. [https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.15794, accessed May 21, 2018]; Allardyce Nicoll, A History of Early Nineteenth Century Drama 1800–1850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1930), vol. 2, 330; Henry Saxe Wyndham, The Annals of Covent Garden from 1732 to 1897 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1906), vol. 2, 76–79 and 120–121; A. Mason Clarke, A Biographical Dictionary of Fiddlers, Including Performers on the Violoncello and Double Bass (London: Wm. Reeves, 1895), 162–164; José Manterola, ‘Efermérides basco-nabarras’, Euskal-Erria: revista bascongada de San Sebastián, 1 (July–Dec 1880); Baltasar Saldoni, Diccionario biográfico-bibliográfico de efemérides de músicos españoles (Madrid: Imprenta a cargo de D. Antonio Pérez Dubrull, 1868), tomo 3, 65; John W. Moore, Complete Encyclopaedia of Music, Elementary, Technical, Historical, Biographical, Vocal, and Instrumental (Boston: P. Jewett and Co., 1854), 497–498; John S. Sainsbury, A Dictionary of Musicians: from the Earliest Ages to the Present Time (London: Printed for Sainsbury and Co., 1824), vol. 2, 33.
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