Cibber, Susanne Maria

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Cibber, Susanne Maria

Cibber, Susanne Maria, celebrated English actress and mezzo-soprano, sister of Thomas Augustine Arne; b. London, Feb. 17, 1714; d. there, Jan. 31, 1766. After vocal training from her brother, she made her debut at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket in 1732 in J.F. Lampe’s Amelia. In 1734 she became a member of the Drury Lane Theatre. That same year she married Theo-philus Cibber, the disreputable son of the actor and dramatist Colley Cibber who admired her talent and served as her mentor. Her first great success was as Polly in The Beggar’s Opera, which made her one of the leading lights on the London stage. Her notoriety was further enhanced when her husband allowed one of her admirers, John Sloper, to become her intimate upon payment of a fee. The ensuing scandal prompted Susanna and her new mate to elope. All the same, Handel engaged her for his oratorio productions in Dublin in 1741. On April 13, 1742, she sang in the premiere of his Messiah there. Returning to London, she sang in other oratorios by Handel while pursuing her career as an actress. Handel chose her to create the roles of Micah in Samson (1743) and Lichas in Hercules (1745). From 1744 she was the leading lady at Drury Lane, where she was acclaimed as an actress in tragic roles.


An Account of the Life of S.M. C.(London, 1887); M. Nash, The Provoked Wife: The Life and Times of S. C.(London, 1977).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire