Dear Mr. Puppy,
How did you become leader of the Paris orchestras?
Cher amis, the story of how I became leader of the orchestra is a complicated one. For me, it was the best of all possible worlds. I was ill-received on my final visit to London when politics turned against me in that peculiarly toxic and infuriating English manner. I learned from some of the Italian musicians that M. Viotti had plans to reorganize the Italian players into a new band and I left for Paris before bankruptcy and debtors prison could catch up to me. In 1786, Leonardo, hairdresser to Queen Marie-Antoinette, obtained through her protection the privilege of a new Italian Opera. Called a mountebank and a usurper by some, this man understood the vain complexities of these courtly affairs. It was he who realized that he did not have the necessary knowledge to organize an enterprise of this kind. And so, he partnered with my compatriot J.B. Viotti who, having become the animating principal of the company, poured into it all the savings he had made in his travels and organized the most perfect orchestra of musicians and troupe of actors that was ever seen or heard in Paris, and which perhaps had ever existed before. The troupe was made up of first-rate players, singers, and actors, those such as Raffanelli, Mandini, Rovedino, Viganoni, Mengozzi, Mme. Baletti, and Miss. Morichelli. They were backed by myself the young prodigy Rode and La Houssay who always put himself above the Italians and took charge of the French musicians and the French plays. M. Houssay and I had a falling out concerning the manner of Tartini’s method of playing, but more of that later.
*Ask Mr. Puppy aka Giuseppe Puppo, an 18th-century concert violinist, answers our questions about his career and times.*