University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

When the University of Hartford was incorporated just over 50 years ago by business and community leaders, they envisioned a center of education and culture for Greater Hartford. Read more...

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Kern: Showboat

08/14/2022 1:00 pm
08/14/2022 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

This is the archetypal American musical, which is in part the outgrowth of the European operetta. Unlike the typical vapid musical comedy of the flapper era, this is a serious or dark musical comedy, with a storyline very daring for its day, involving racism and misogyny in the turn-of-the century Southland.

Showboat was Kern's single longest composition. It's his acknowledged masterpiece, containing such all-time hit Broadway songs as "Ole Man River." You'll hear it in its entirety as Jerome Kern intended it to be heard at its 1927 preview performance in Washington, DC. Stage revivals of Showboat and the two movie versions of the Dixieland operetta have tended to take the guts out of Edna Ferber's original story and remove the darker sort of music, such as Kern's original overture.

There was no definitive score of Showboat to work from until Robert Russell Bennett's orchestrations were recovered in 1978. Broadway musical historian John McGlinn reconstructed the whole body of musical numbers (even Kern's deletions) for the 1987 EMI recording starring operatic soprano Frederike von Stade as Magnolia Hawks. McGlinn conducts the London Sinfonietta and Ambrosian Chorus in the studio recording made in London in EMI's prestigious Abbey Road facility. The LP issue of this EMI release I broadcast on Sunday, August 10, 1989. The 1988 CD reissue I presented on Sunday, August 10, 1994. Listen to those three EMI CDs again this afternoon.