Culture Magazine

Today in Opera History - May 24

By Pinkall @pinkall

Happy Birthday to the late, great Duke Ellington.  Take a listen at one of my favorite recordings of his - the Duke is on the piano, but the bass is the best part.  It is simple and clean, but a lot more interesting (musically that is) than most of his Big Band stuff.
With that said, the Big Band stuff sure is a lot of fun though.  I'm sure everyone out there knows this piece.

But what does the Duke have to do with opera history?  Well, his father was an operatic singer.  And, relatively recently, opera houses have performed his unfinished opera Queenie Pie.  I couldn't find a recording of it, and I think only one is in existence, but I did find a flip video of the recording session of one of the movements, "New York, New York" (no, it's not the one you're thinking of).  I found it on a Turkish video site - CLICK HERE TO WATCH - but on the screen before you watch it, it asks some simple poll questions in Turkish.  Just randomly click an answer and it will play the video.
Today marks the 155th anniversary of the Pottawatomie Massacre.  If you have already forgotten your U.S. history from High School, this was when John Brown killed five settlers near Pottawatomie Creek in Kansas for participating in William Quantrill's burning of Lawrence.  John Brown was an abolitionist and tried to make "Bleeding Kansas" a free state when it entered the Union.  Of course all of this lead to the American Civil War.  But this has opera connections as well with Kirke Mechem's opera John Brown, which made its world premiere at the Kansas City Lyric Opera a few years ago.  This is a video of the Texas All-State Choir performing a rendition of one of the movements "Dan-u-el".  Beware, there are many annoying choral crescendos and sforzandos, where the choir begins loud, then immediately drops to a hush and follows by making a massive crescendo.  When will conductors realize that this sounds corny?

The first telegraph message was sent on this day in 1844, "WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT" (quoting Numbers 23:23) from the old Supreme Court room at the US Capitol in Washington to the train depot in Baltimore.  Almost unrelated is the British news journal, the Telegraph, which has a great opera twitter feed http://twitter.com/#!/telegraphopera
The Brooklyn Bridge was opened on this day in 1883.  It was the muse for Arthur Miller's Play "A view from the Bridge", which was turned into an opera by William Bolcom - who is a donor and sponsor of several scholarships for my music organization, the Kansas City Vocal Institute.  The opera has played in many of the world's most acclaimed houses including the Chicago Lyric, the Metropolitan Opera, and Teatro dell'Opera di Roma.
And finally, continuing on a week honoring many great German singers, one of the greatest German sopranos, Anneliese Rothenberger, died on this day last year.


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