Sunday July 4: The
programming for this Independence Day is absolutely red white and blue! Everybody knows
John Philip Sousas "El Capitan" march: nothing could be more vibrantly
American in spirit. The tunes in that march come from Sousas comic operetta El
Capitan (1895). Yes, believe it or not, "The March King" composed twelve
operettas for the American lyric stage. El Capitan was his most popular and
significant work in that vein. Jerrold Fischer and William Martin restored Sousas
original score for the 1997 Zephyr compact disc recording of El Capitan. It was
made at the Kannert Center for the Performing Arts at he University of Illinois/Urbana.
Ian Hobson directs the Sinfonia da Camera, with the University of Illinois Chorale and
Band, plus vocal soloists.
Sousas operettas may be a little too bright and sap-happy for
some jaded twentieth century American listeners, so Im offering by way of contrast
Leonard Bernsteins dark little opera in seven scenes Trouble in Tahiti
(1952), which looks at the breakdown in communication between husband and wife and exposes
the general feeling of ennui in suburbia in the immediate post - WW2 years. Trouble
in Tahiti was ultimately incorporated into the composers 1983 sequel A Quiet
Place, which examines the further breakdown of the modern American family. I broadcast
the DGG world premiere recording of A Quiet Place on Sunday, September 9, 1990.
Bernstein himself conducted the 1973 recording of Trouble in Tahiti. That, too, I
broadcast when it came out in CD format through Sony Classical on Sunday, June 28, 1992.
Just this year Sony repackaged it for a new "Bernstein Century" series.
Youll hear that reissue today.
Sunday July 11: Bernstein gets
us rolling again this Sunday in a three-part presentation of original cast recordings of
some classic American musicals; these were originally released on LPs on the
Columbia Broadway Masterworks line. Sony Classical has made them available again to the
public in digitally remastered CD format. The reissue of Leonard Bernsteins On
the Town (1944) is actually of a 1960 studio recording in which Bernstein himself is
conducting and which included four cast members from the 1944 premiere Broadway
production. Like his later musical Wonderful Town (1953), heard on this program on
Sunday, July 12, 1992, On the Town is Bernsteins personal tribute to the
vibrant life of New York City. The Sony CD reissue is the first complete, full-length
recording of On the Town, because it has as additional tracks the overture,
recorded in 1958 in studio but never previously released, plus Bernsteins music for
three "Dance Episodes" in the show (rec.63).
Then our attention turns to music by another genius of American lyric
theater music, George Gershwin, in collaboration with his lyricist brother Ira. Oh,
Kay! (1926) is a rollicking "bootlegger opera" absolutely in tune with the
Prohibition years. This musical was first recorded in 1955 long after its highly
successful Broadway premiere. Columbias esteemed producer Goddard Lieberson saw to
it that the music of Oh, Kay! was preserved for posterity. The Sony CD reissue has
three bonus tracks.
I played the Gershwin brothers Girl Crazy (1930) once
before on Sunday, August 15, 1993, when I worked from the recent Elektra/Nonesuch
recording which presented an authentic reconstruction of the complete score, as edited by
the musical comedy historian Tommy Krasker. There is also a 1951 monaural recording of Girl
Crazy which never presumed to be a faithful representation of the show. It was a
Goddard Lieberson "studio cast" LP staring Mary Martin. All the hit tunes are
there: "Bidin My Time," "Embraceable You," "I Got
Rhythm" and "But Not For Me," with one additional track on the Sony CD
reincarnation: Mary Martins vocal interpretation of "Bidin My Time."
After the "studio cast" Girl Crazy there may be time for a few more
Broadway chestnuts from some of the other Sony historic cast album series.
Sunday July 18: From American
musical comedy in its bygone golden age, we move on this Sunday to the musicals of the
more recent silver age of senior Broadway composers and lyricists who are still living.
Steven Sondheim (b.1930) surely ranks foremost among them. A Little Night Music
(1973) is Sondheims musical take on a 1955 Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer
Night. The hit song "Send in the Clowns" epitomizes the gentle humor and
sweet nostalgia of Sondheims entire score. After years of absence Goddard Lieberson
returned to the recording studio to produce the LP version of A Little Night Music.
The Sony CD reissue offers the previously unreleased "Night Waltz II" and a
bonus song "The Glamorous Life."
With Company (1970) Sondheim entered his own personal golden age
of creativity. Although the show has no specific plot, it deals with a "swinging
single" guy in New York City and his married couple friends. Company has no
one hit number, yet every cabaret artist alive has covered its songs. The spontaneity and
energy of the original cast album really makes the Company CD reissue worth
listening to, especially Dean Jones in the role of the bachelor Robert.
Sunday July 25: Funny but
macabre, Gilbert and Sullivans Yeoman of the Guard (1888) is their only
operetta to have a tragic twist. It deals with a young man accused of sorcery and
condemned to die in the Tower of London. Jack Point the Jester relieves much of the gloom
with his superb singing about the Merryman and His Maid. Sir Malcolm Sargeant conducts the
Pro Arte Orchestra and Glyndebourne Festival Chorus in a very early stereo recording on
Angel LPs. I last broadcast Yeoman of the Guard long ago on Sunday, July 10,
1983. Sargeant oversaw a cast of English operatic greats in this recording: Welsh baritone
Geraint Evans as Jack Point was but one of them.
Time remains to listen to a brand new world premiere CD recording of
Sullivans operetta The Rose of Persia (1899), to a libretto by Basil Hood
rather than William S. Gilbert. This was Sullivans last completed lyric stagework.
He was working on another Basil Hood libretto The Emerald Isle when he died,
November 21, 1900. BBC Music touts their CD as "extended highlights" of The
Rose of Persia, which must mean its most of the entire operetta heard in just
over a hours worth of play. Tom Higgins conducts The Hanover Band and Southwick
Sunday August 1: My summertime
mix of programming always includes something bucolic in nature. Wolfgang Mozart was eleven
years old when he wrote a three-act intermezzo Apollo et Hyacinthus (1767), which
is arguably his first operatic work, preceding both Bastien und Bastienne (1768)
and La Finta Semplice (1769). The text of this little pastoral tragedy is in Latin.
The nine numbers of Mozarts score were broken up for insertion between the five acts
of another Latin tragedy staged at the Salzburg Benedictine University. Apollo et
Hyacinthus is a remarkably mature composition. Little Mozarts dramatic
conception was sure: all the musical numbers fit together perfectly well in continuous
recorded performance. One such was made in 1981 at the Salzburg Mozarteum, produced
jointly by Deutsche Gramophon and ORF Radio Austria. Leopold Hager conducts the Mozarteum
Orchestra. Three internationally known operatic greats sang in this recording: tenor
Anthony Rolfe Johnson, and sopranos Arleen Auger and Edith Mathis.
Sunday August 8: In 1990
Elektra/Nonesuch Records issued on two CDs a pioneering work of American lyric
theater from the Jazz Age: George and Ira Gershwins Strike Up the Band. No
piece of flapper/gangster theatrical fluff this! Strike Up the Band is a satiric
comedy, a Yankee version of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta with an antiwar theme. The
political criticism contained in the show was way ahead of its time and, unfortunately,
went over the heads of its audience. The original 1927 production was a flop, and the 1930
revival succeeded only because the antiwar sentiments were greatly toned down. Two
immortal songs came out of Strike Up the Band, the theme and and "The Man I
Love." Musical comedy historian Tommy Krasker spent two years of intensive
musicological research in reconstructing the 1927 score. There are seven appended tracks
of numbers from the 1930 production Krasker considered too good to leave out. One of them
is another song that became a popular standard, "Ive Got a Crush on You."
John Mauceri conducts the ensemble.
Sunday August 15: After a 15
year absence I will broadcast Rossinis L Italiana in Algeri (1813).
"The Italian Woman in Algiers" is partly a "Turkish" opera
highlighting the exotic and barbaric aspects of life among "the Moors," as
Europeans used to think of the Islamic peoples of the Near East and North Africa. A
beautiful Italian woman is shipwrecked on Algerian shores. Shes drafted into the
harem of a Muslim potentate. One of the best recordings ever made of Rossinis dramma
giocoso was the one taped in 1980 at the Teatro Communale of Treviso with Claudio
Scimone conducting I Solisti Veneti. Bass Samuel Ramey is heard as Mustafa, the Bey of
Algiers, opposite mezzo Marilyn Horne as Isabella, the Italian woman. The other members of
the singing cast are top notch too: soprano Kathleen Battle, tenor Ernesto Palacio and
baritone Domenico Trimarchi. An Erato release.
Sunday August 22: Every summer
I make sure to program at least one Viennese operetta. Ive broadcast a central
classic of the repertoire, Johann Strauss Der Zigeunerbaron or "The
Gypsy Baron" (1885) three times before. Now comes an older recorded interpretation
than all of those preceding. This one came out in 1958 on monaural LPs here in the
US on the Angel label. EMI rereleased it in 1988 on CD. Otto Ackermann conducts the Vienna
Philharmonic with a stellar cast. Soprano Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and tenor Nicolai Gedda
get top billing.
Sunday August 29: The last
Sunday in August I customarily reserve for broadcast of one of the seven operas of
Frederick Delius (1862-1934), who has been called "the English Debussy." I
program them now because Delius exquisite, impressionistic style is so evocative of
the lazy, hazy end of summertime. Delius second attempt at writing opera The
Magic Fountain (1895) never saw the stage in his lifetime. The great English conductor
Sir Thomas Beecham befriended Delius and championed his music. Beecham planned to have The
Magic Fountain staged in 1953, but its actual premiere came over BBC Radio in 1977
without need of visible staging. How well it fits radio broadcast! Delius so captures the
spirit of nature you can see in your minds eye the setting: the Everglades in the
days of the Spanish conquistadors. In seeking the Fountain of Eternal Youth and Life in
South Florida a Spanish nobleman falls in love with a native American princess. He dies
for her sake by drinking from the fatal waters. The world premiere recording of
Delius The Magic Fountain heightens with environmental sound effects the
balmy atmosphere the music has already created. Norman Del Mar leads the BBC Concert
Orchestra with vocal soloists.
Copyright©WWUH: July/Augustl Program Guide, 1999