British groups often set new trends in music. New staff and styles continue to appear. One of the most popular contemporary musicians and composers is Andrew Lloyd Webber. The musicals and rock operas by A. L. Webber have been a great success both in Britain and overseas.
The famous English composer of the 19th century was Arthur Sullivan. Together with William Gilbert, the writer of the texts, he created fourteen operettas of which eleven are regularly performed today. In these operettas the English so successfully laugh at themselves and at what they now call the Establishment that W. S. Gilbert and A. Sullivan will always be remembered.
If you stand in Trafalgar Square with your back to Nelson's Column, you will see a wide horizontal front in a classical style. It is the National Gallery. It has been in this building since 1838 which was built as the National Gallery to house the collection of Old Masters Paintings (38 paintings) offered to the nation by an English Private collector, Sir George Beamount.
Today the picture galleries of the National Gallery of Art exhibit works of all the Euro-pean schools of painting, which existed between the 13th and 19th centuries. The most famous works among them are 'Venus and Cupid' by Diego Velazquez, 'Adoration of the Shepherds' by Nicolas Poussin, 'A Woman Bathing' by Harmensz van Rijn Rembrandt, 'Lord Heathfield' by Joshua Reynolds, 'Mrs Siddons' by Thomas Gainsborough and many others.
In 1897 the Tate Gallery was opened to house the more modern British paintings. Most of the National Gallery collections of British paintings were transferred to the Tate, and only a small collection of a few masterpieces is now exhibited at Trafalgar Square. Thus, the Tate Gallery exhibits a number of interesting collections of British and foreign modern painting and also modern sculpture.
The collection of Turner's paintings at the Tate includes about 300 oils and 19,000 watercolours and drawings. He was the most traditional artist of his time as well as the most original: traditional in his devotion to the Old Masters and original in his creation of new styles. It is sometimes said that he prepared the way for the Impressionists.
The modern collection includes the paintings of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Salvador Dali, Francis Bacon and Graham Sutherland, Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton, the chief pioneers of pop art in Great Britain. Henry Moore is a famous British sculptor whose works are exhibited at the Tate too. One of the sculptor's masterpieces - the 'Reclining Figure' - is at fees Headquarters of UNESCO in Paris.
The Art of Acting
From the fall of the Roman Empire until the 10th century, acting hardly existed as an art in Western Europe; only the wandering minstrels gave entertainment in castles and at fairs. In England, the first real actors were amateurs who performed Miracle and Morality plays, which were religious in character. In the Elizabethan age, the first professional theatres were opened. At the time of Shakespeare there were at least six companies of actors. Shakespeare himself joined the Earl of Leisester's company, which under James I became known as the 'King's Men'. There were also companies of boy actors. All the women's parts were played by boys. It was very difficult for most actors to earn a living on the stage, even in a London company, and many of them fell into debt. When Shakespeare arrived in London in 1586, the acting was very crude and conventional. There was almost no scenery, and the actors were dressed in the costumes of their day. But when 'The Globe' was opened to the public in 1599, it started the golden age of the theatre in England.
In the first half of the 17th century the influence of the Puritans was bad for the popular theatre, and it was not before the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 that theatre going again became a popular habit. The most popular plays were comedies. The first part played by an actress was that of Desdemona. Nell Gwynn was the first English actress.
By the beginning of the 18th century the most popular type of play was the sentimental comedy. The acting was artificial probably due to the influence of French actors.
But, later, under the influence of David Garrick and some other actors, acting became much more naturalistic. David Garrick was one of the greatest actors known. But even at his time acting was not very popular. An actor whose acting had offended the audience had to ask pardon on his knees before a full house before he could continue in his profession. During the 19th century acting became more and more naturalistic. Like in Shakespeare's time, the best actors understood the importance of the teamwork of the company. One of the most famous actors of that time was Henry Irving. He was the first actor to be knighted. By the 1920s naturalistic acting reached a peak in the performance of Sir Gerald Du Maurier. He hardly appeared to be acting at all.
At present most acting still continues to be naturalistic. Designers make the settings as realistic as possible. Modern producers and directors Peter Hall, Peter Brook and others are trying out new styles of acting. Some go back to Greek methods, with a revival of the chorus; others are making use of the audience in helping to interpret the play.
British Drama Theatre Today
Britain is now one of the world's major theatres centres. Many British actors and actresses are known allover the world. They are Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Glenda Jackson, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and others.
Drama is so popular with people of all ages that there are several thousand amateur dramatic societies. Now Britain has about 300 professional theatres. Some of them are privately owned. The tickets are not hard to get, but they are very expensive. Regular seasons of opera and ballet are given at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London. The National Theatre stages modern and classical plays, the Royal Shakespeare Company produces plays mainly by Shakespeare and his contemporaries when it performs in Stratford-on-Avon, and modern plays in its two auditoria in the City's Barbican Centre. Shakespeare's Globe Playhouse, about which you have probably read, was reconstructed on its original site. Many other cities and large towns have at least one theatre.
There are many theatres and theatre companies for young people: the National Youth Theatre and the Young Vic Company in London, the Scottish Youth Theatre in Edinburgh. The National Youth Theatre, which stages classical plays mainly by Shakespeare and modern plays about youth, was on tour in Russian in 1989. The theatre-goers warmly received the production of Thomas Stearns Eliot's play 'Murder in the Cathedral'. Many famous English actors started their careers in the National Youth Theatre. Among them Timothy Dalton, the actor who did the part of Rochester in ' Jane Eyre' shown on TV in our country.