Young, Cecilia (c. 1711–1789)

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Young, Cecilia (c. 1711–1789)

English opera singer. Name variations: Cecilia Arne. Born in London, England, around 1711; died in London on October 6, 1789; daughter of Charles Young; sister of Isabella Young and Esther Young, both singers; married Thomas Augustine Arne (1710–1778, a composer), in 1737 (separated 1756, reunited 1777, died shortly after).

Opera singer Cecilia Young, a gifted soprano, is said to have been born in London in 1711, though there is no confirming record of this. Her father Charles Young was an organist at All Hallows, in Barking. Young, whose voice has been described as light and flexible, studied with Geminiani, and her first professional appearance is thought to have been in London at a 1730 concert. She began her career in opera productions by Lampe and Smith (1732–33) and went on to sing in Handel's 1735 premieres of Alcina and Ariodante. She later created parts in his oratorios Saul and Alexander's Feast.

In 1737, Young married the composer Thomas Arne. She performed in Milton's Comus, Thomson and Mallet's Alfred, and Congreve's Judgment of Paris, for which her husband contributed the music. Her last appearance in one of his productions was in Eliza in 1754. The marriage was not always happy, and while Cecilia was singing in Dublin in concert in 1756, the two separated. She remained in Ireland with her niece Polly Young , known as Mrs. Barthélemon; Arne returned to London. Over 20 years later, in 1777, the Arnes were reunited in London, shortly before Thomas' death.

Young came from a musical family of great talent. Her sister Isabella Young (d. 1795), also known as Mrs. Lampe, was married to composer J.F. Lampe and performed at Covent Garden in roles composed by him, including Thisbe in Pyramus and Thisbe in 1745. Young's sister Esther Young (1717–1795), also known as Mrs. Jones, was a soprano. She created Handel's Semele in 1744 and continued for many years in The Beggar's Opera. Cecilia Young died in London on October 6, 1789, survived by her sisters and two musical nieces, Polly and Isabella Young (d. 1791), known as Mrs. Scott.

Susan Wessling , freelance writer, Worcester, Massachusetts