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Dictionary of Sydney: Isaac Nathan

Hailed as Australia’s ‘first composer’ (despite being English-born), Isaac Nathan was a prolific musician, conductor, and publisher. He was born in Canterbury, England in 1790. While in London, he met the poet, Byron, and worked as a music librarian and a royal spy to King George IV.

Eventually, finding himself in financial hardship, he emigrated to Australia. He became a well-known singing instructor, and formed a musical society at St Mary’s Cathedral and St James’s Church.

He composed several operas, the most famous of which was Don John of Austria. Unfortunately, Nathan’s musical career was cut short in January 1864, when he was tragically crushed by a horse-drawn tram on Pitt Street while on his way home. Nicole Cama from Dictionary of Sydney chats to Nic Healey.

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