Lars Lalin (1729−1785)


Lars Samuel Lalin, born in Skinnskatteberg 25 June 1729 and died in Stockholm 15 December 1785, was a civil servant, author, singing teacher, singer and composer. He was appointed a Royal Musician in 1762 and a Royal Secretary in 1764. He became a member (one of the founders) of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1771, a singing teacher there from 1771−72 and then song master at the Royal Opera 1773−83. He was a member of Utile Dulci. Lalin also edited libretti and arranged opera and incidental music as well as working as a répétiteur and stage manager.


Lars Samuel Lalin was born in Skinnskatteberg on 25 June 1729. His father Samuel Lalin was the inspector at Finnåker iron works in the region of Västmanland. In 1746 Lars Lalin moved to Stockholm, and according to tax records from 1748 he was employed as a clerk at the Riksbanken (the central bank of Sweden) and a few years later at the Tullverket (Swedish Customs Service). It is unknown exactly where or from whom he received his musical education, but as soon as he moved to Stockholm it seems that he contacted the Bollhus theatre. There he helped with the music arrangements, text editing and possibly with singing and vocal coaching.

In 1758 Lalin arranged a concert at the Riddarhussalen (the grand hall of the House of Nobility) where he performed as a singer. After another concert with arias sung by ‘Lalin and several good voices’, Lalin ventured to arrange a subscription series of twelve concerts held at Stora Frimurarsalen (the  great Freemason’s hall) in the spring of 1759. He continued putting on concerts in the early 1760s. After a break of  approximately ten years he began arranging concerts again from the middle of the 1770s until the year before his death in 1785. In 1762 Lalin was appointed hovmusicus (Musician of the Royal Court) and several years later he received the title hovsekreterare (Secretary of the Royal Court).

Lalin gave singing lessons and was permanently employed as a court musician. Despite this his economy was pitiful and he therefore applied for a licence to run a billiard hall. His licence was permitted only with the prerequisite that he travelled abroad in order to buy music that would be freely available for the nation’s secondary schools, churches and academic institutions. Several years later, possibly as an acknowledgement of his extensive collection of music, Lalin received a licence to run coffeehouses in the capital city. Lalin was overseas from 1767 until the autumn of 1779. It was likely that he had already returned in August when his first son, Johan Samuel, was born. The son was taught singing from his father and at the age of ten he began to sing in concerts arranged by Lalin.

Lalin, who was a member of the society Utile Dulci, was one of founders of the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music) and was employed as a singing teacher at the academy from 1771−1772. In 1773 he was employed as both singer and singing teacher at the Kungliga Operan (the Royal Opera). He performed only once as a singer in the role of Jupiter in Francesco Antonio Uttini’s Thetis och Pelée (1772); his voice was appreciated but apparently he was a bad actor. It is unknown as to how much he taught; instead he was thought to have worked as répétiteur and stage manager as well as editing texts and music from various operas. He received extra payment for the editing work that was not included in his employment. Even after his retirement in 1778 Lalin continued to edit several operas on behalf of the Kungliga Operan. However, his collaboration with the directors began to face difficulties and Lalin complained about not receiving payment for his work. In 1783 he left the opera house and wrote to his friend Patrik Alströmer about his plans to move to Christiania (now Oslo). He had hoped that Alströmer would initiate a theatre for lyrical drama in Gothenburg. Nothing came of any of his plans so Lalin, who was suffering from consumption, decided to stay in Stockholm and continue arranging concerts. On 10 December 1785 a concert was organised for the ‘benefit of a sick patient’, where amongst others Johan Samuel Lalin sang. It was Lars Lalin who was that patient and he died five days later at his home.


Musical drama and opera seems to have been Lalin’s passion. In a letter to Patrik Alströmer in 1782 he wrote that Niccolò Piccini’s Atis was the sixteenth opera that he had ‘worked with’. Several ‘minor operas, intermezzi and divertimenti’ soon followed. It is difficult to judge how much of the music in the various works that he adapted was original, composed by Lalin himself or if it was his arrangements. Whatever the case, he is mentioned as the composer of several operas that were performed at the Kungliga Operan and he almost certainly edited the libretti. It seems to be agreed that Lalin is the author of an opera performed at the Bollhus theatre, the opéra comique Den straffade förmätenheten, eller Arachne, förvandlad till en spindel. Some suggest that Lalin has also written the music, but it is more likely that he has borrowed and arranged the music so that it would suit his libretto.

Later on when Lalin was employed by the Kungliga Operan he began to revise works that were to be performed there. The first of these was Georg Friedrich Händel’s Acis and Galatea, which developed from being a pastoral piece into a heroic ballet. Lalin had help from Hinrich Philip Johnsen, who composed the recitative and choral parts. Johnsen also assisted him later on with the production of André Grétry’s opera Procris and Cephale which was performed 1779. It was this work that showed the first signs of development towards neoclassicism in Sweden.

Lalin meant that a dramatic opera was better if music from different composers was used. The arias were more varied and of better quality, as it could not be expected to have the same standard throughout a whole work by one composer. The various directors at the theatre regarded Lalin as a craftsman, but rather he was skilful at ‘polishing literary and musical works’ by sensitively connecting  the correct Swedish language with appropriate music, thus contributing to Gustav III’s agenda for the new Swedish opera.

Veslemøy Heintz © 2015
Trans. Sally Allkins


Dahlgren, Fredrik August: Förteckning öfver svenska skådespel uppförda på Stockholms theatrar 1737−1863 och Kongl. theatrarnes personal 1773−1863 med flera anteckningar, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1866.
Engländer, Richard
: ‘Lars Lalin’, in: Svenska män och kvinnor, vol. 4, Stockholm, 1948, pp. 440−441.
Flodmark, Johan
: Elisabeth Olin och Carl Stenborg: två gustavianska sångargestalter: bilder från svenska operans första tider, Stockholm: Fröhleén & co, 1903.
Jonsson, Leif & Ivarsdotter, Anna (eds):
Musiken i Sverige: frihetstiden och gustaviansk tid, Stockholm: Fischer, 1993.
Karle, Gunhild
: Kungl. Hovkapellet i Stockholm och dess musiker 1772−1818, Uppsala: G. Karle, 2000.
Nyström, Pia & Anne-Marie Elmquist:
Kungl. Musikaliska akademien: matrikel 1771−1995, Stockholm: Kungl. Musikaliska akademien 1996.
Sundström, Einar
: ‘En interiör från den Gustavianska operans första tid’, in: Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 32, 1950.
Swanson, Alan
: ‘A Swedish reinterpretation of Handel's Acis and Galatea’, in: Scandinavian studies, 1993 (65) pp. 29−49.
Vretblad, Patrik:
Konsertlivet i Stockholm under 1700-talet, Stockholm: Norstedts, 1918.


Kungl. Biblioteket Stockholm, Musik- och teaterbiblioteket.

Summary list of works

Arrangement of operas (Den straffade förmätenheten eller Arachne förvandlad till en spindel, Zephyr and Flora, Acis and Galatéa, Iphigenie uti Auliden, Procris and Cephal, Roland, Lucile).

Collected works

Stage works
with revised/translated text and/or arranged/inserted music by Lalin
Den straffade förmätenheten eller Arachne förvandlad till en spindel, 1750.
Acis and Galathea, heroic ballet, based on the music from Georg Friedrich Handel's opera, 1773.
Lucile by André E.M. Grétry, 1776.
Procris and Cephal by André E.M. Grétry, 1778.
Iphigenie in Auliden by Christoph Willibald Gluck, 1778.
Roland by Niccolò Piccinni, 1781.
Iphigenie in Tauris by Christoph Willibald Gluck, 1783.

Works by Lars Lalin

There are no works by the composer registered