1-20 of 20 Results  for:

  • Music Theatre x
  • 19th c. /Romantic (1800-1900) x
Clear all

Article

Leonard Burkat

revised by Pamela Fox

Puritan traditions slowed the development of theatre in Boston, but an anti-theatre law of 1750 did not prevent ‘readings’ of English ballad and comic operas. Over 150 ballad operas had been performed in Boston before 1800. In the late 1820s the resident opera company of New Orleans performed its French repertory in Boston, but Italian opera was not patronized by the upper classes in Boston to the extent that it was in New York. Therefore no serious attempts to promote Italian opera in Boston occurred before 1847, when an Italian company based in Havana played the first of two seasons in the Howard Anthenaeum. Travelling companies continued to visit during the next two decades, and opera in English opened at the new Boston Theatre in 1860. The Strakosch and Mapleson touring companies and others played in Boston, and a week-long Wagner festival in 1877 presented three early works and Die Walküre...

Article

Gillian M. Rodger

(b London, England, Feb 1834; d New York, NY, April 11, 1905). American composer, theater orchestra director, and arranger. Born in London’s East End, Braham’s musical education was gained largely through his early education at the British Union School. He initially played the harp, but switched to the violin and became a skilled performer by the time he was 18. Rather than embarking on a career as a professional musician, Braham became a brass turner, making tubing for brass instruments, and supplemented his income by performing in theatrical orchestras in the evenings. In 1856, in the wake of a cholera epidemic that took his mother’s life, he emigrated to New York, where he quickly found employment in theater orchestras. By 1857 he was a regular member of the orchestra attached to Matt Peel’s Campbell Minstrels, and remained with this company, despite personnel conflicts and the reforming of the troupe under a modified name, until ...

Article

Erich Schwandt, Fredric Woodbridge Wilson, and Deane L. Root

(Fr.; It. burlesca; Ger. Burleske)

A humorous piece involving parody and grotesque exaggeration; the term may be traced to folk poetry and theatre and apparently derived from the late Latin burra (‘trifle’). As a literary term in the 17th century it referred to a grotesque imitation of the dignified or pathetic, and in the early 18th century it was used as a title for musical works in which serious and comic elements were juxtaposed or combined to achieve a grotesque effect. In England the word denotes a dramatic production which ridicules stage conventions, while in 19th- and 20th-century American usage its principal meaning is a variety show in which striptease is the chief attraction.

Burlesque: Instrumental music

Burlesque: English theatrical burlesque

Burlesque: American burlesque

ESMGG2 (‘Burleske’; M. Struck) [incl. list of instrumental works]NicollHT.F. Dillon Croker and S. Tucker, eds.: The Extravaganzas of J.R. Planché, Esq. (Somerset Herald, 1827–1871) (London, 1879)W. Davenport Adams...

Article

Fredric Woodbridge Wilson and Deane L. Root

In the USA, burlesque followed the English form until the 1860s. From the late 1830s burlesques of operas and romantic plays were presented in New York, and the English émigré John Brougham wrote and acted in numerous burlesques from 1842 to 1879. Brougham’s Po-ca-hon-tas (1855, after Longfellow’s narrative poem) is peopled with ‘Salvages’, its dialogue is a string of doubles entendres and its songs were selected from such popular tunes as Widow Machree and Rosin the Bow and Tyrolean melodies. Several minstrel troupes presented such satires; in the 1860s the Kelly & Leon Negro Minstrels performed burlesques of Offenbach (La Belle L.N., Grand Dutch S.) throughout the north-eastern states, and Sanford’s Minstrel Burlesque Opera Troupe advertised a ‘change of programme every night’. From about 1860 burlesque often provided the framework for elaborate spectacles, beginning with those produced in New York by Laura Keene, who employed ballet troupes of women whose costumes exposed their legs; nearly all New York theatres presented shows that relied less for their effect on dramatic elements, wit or satire than on female beauty, and the term ‘burlesque’ gradually shifted in meaning from the ridicule of stage conventions to an emphasis on women in various degrees of undress, with striptease elements prominent by the 1920s. The burlesque was banned in New York in ...

Article

Fredric Woodbridge Wilson and Deane L. Root

Burlesque was related to and in part derived from Pantomime and may be considered an extension of the introductory section of pantomime with the addition of gags and ‘turns’ such as traditionally accompanied a transformation scene. But whereas pantomime most often took its subject matter from stories familiar to children – fairy tale, nursery rhyme, folk story, familiar fiction or exotic tales – burlesque tended to employ more elevated and serious models: mythology, classical or historical legend (Medea, Ivanhoe), literature, Shakespearean drama and history (Guy Fawkes, Lucrezia Borgia). Among the objects of ridicule were the conventions of serious theatre and melodrama. Burlesques followed the appearance of virtually every major opera, as for example J. Halford’s Faust and Marguerite (1853) after Gounod’s Faust.

Like pantomime, burlesque became a largely seasonal entertainment, appearing in legitimate theatres at Christmas and Easter in place of more serious bills. Occasionally a burlesque appeared as a companion piece to other works. Whereas pantomime entertained all classes and all ages, the burlesque and extravaganza tended to appeal to a relatively educated and sophisticated audience. In both genres dialogue was cast in rhymed couplets of iambic pentameter verse (less often in blank verse). Music was an essential if often a minor feature, consisting chiefly of arrangements of songs and incidental music to underscore the action or for comic effect. In operatic burlesques, numbers were appropriated from the model, with new words and often with humorous touches; additional numbers were interpolated from a variety of familiar sources (such as music hall and minstrel songs). Rarely was there any attempt at musical parody....

Article

Erich Schwandt

J.G. Walther (1732) described burlesque music as ‘jocular’ and ‘amusing’ (‘schertzhafft’, ‘kurzweilig’) and referred to ‘burleske Ouvertüren’ as pieces in which ‘laughable melodies, made up of 5ths and octaves, appear along with serious melodies’. This probably referred to the comic effects achieved by composers of Italian opera buffa in the early 18th century, effects that doubtless helped to set a standard of musical humour for the ‘burlesca’ movements sometimes included in contemporary suites. The example in Bach’s Partita bwv827, which is called a minuet in Anna Magdalena’s Notebook (1725), has nothing particularly jocular about it, although it displays some striking harmonies, as well as a passage in parallel octaves. J.L. Krebs placed a ‘bourlesca’ between the saraband and the minuets of his Partita no.2 in B♭; the movement is not a dance, but rather a small-scale sonata form with a few melodic and harmonic surprises. François Couperin subtitled some of his harpsichord pieces ‘dans le goût burlesque’; two examples are ...

Article

Gerald Bordman

revised by Jonas Westover

(b New York, NY, Sept 8, 1896; d New York, NY, July 30, 1983). American lyricist and librettist. He studied at Columbia University, where he was a contemporary of Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II, and served in the US Navy before becoming director of publicity and advertising in 1919 for the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation (from 1924 known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer or MGM). He wrote verse in his spare time, and was asked by Jerome Kern to supply the lyrics for Dear Sir (1924). He also worked with Vernon Duke, Jimmy McHugh, and Ralph Rainger. But he is best remembered for the numerous songs he wrote in collaboration with arthur Schwartz , beginning in 1929 with the revue The Little Show (with “I guess I’ll have to change my plan”). Other collaborations with Schwartz include Three’s a Crowd (1930) and The Band Wagon (1931, containing the hit “Dancing in the Dark”). Their professional relationship extended over a period of more than 30 years to the production of the musical ...

Article

Ellen Marie Peck

(b New York, NY, Jan 28, 1880; d New York, Jan 4, 1928). American lyricist, librettist, and actress. Born into a theatrical family, she spent her entire life in the theater. A meticulous actress, Donnelly was particularly known for her ability to interpret a role with depth and sensitivity at a rather young age, as she demonstrated with title roles in Candida (1903) and Madame X (1909). However, chronic illness and years of touring took an early toll on Donnelly, forcing her to transition to a writing career in her late 30s. In 1916 Donnelly penned the libretto for an Americanized German operetta, Flora Bella. She soon teamed up with composer sigmund Romberg , with whom she wrote some of the most successful operettas of the 1920s. Donnelly and Romberg enjoyed a close friendship and a symbiotic collaborative process, which lay behind the overwhelming success of ...

Article

Ian Bradley

English comic-opera collaborators. The impact of the comic operas of the librettist W.S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and the composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900) in the United States was immediate and lasting. H.M.S. Pinafore, the team’s second significant collaboration, established its transatlantic reputation. In the absence of international copyright agreements, a pirate production opened in Boston on 25 November 1878, exactly six months after the London first night. Within a few months Pinafore mania was sweeping the country. The opera was at one point being performed simultaneously in eight New York theaters within five blocks of each other. By the time the “authorized” version opened at the Fifth Avenue Theater in New York on 1 December 1879, more than 150 productions had played across the United States.

It was a mark of the instant and intense popularity of the first of the major Savoy operas, as Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas became known, that the next work in the canon, ...

Article

Sylvia Stoner-Hawkins

[John Joseph, Jr. ]

(b Boston, MA, Aug 10, 1898; d Los Angeles, CA, June 6, 1979). American actor and performer. Haley initially became an electrician in the Boston area. However, he soon left that career to pursue vaudeville and toured in the team Krafts and Haley. He began his Broadway career in the 1924 original musical revue Round the Town. In 1929 Haley starred as Jack Martin in the musical comedy Follow Thru with lyrics by DeSylva and Brown and music by Henderson. He and his costar, Zelma O’Neal, performed the hit number “Button up your Overcoat.” Haley was later cast in the 1932 musical comedy Take a Chance by DeSylva and Schwab. In the 1948 musical revue Inside USA, Haley’s character displayed effective physical comedy while portraying a weary traveler booked in a room with a trick bed. Haley served as the radio host of Wonder Show (1938–9), a show sponsored by Wonder Bread, which featured Gale Gordon as the announcer and regular appearances by Lucille Ball. Haley replaced Buddy Ebsen as the Tin Man in the film ...

Article

Gerald Bordman

revised by Jonas Westover

(Abels )

(b Salt Lake City, UT, Aug 18, 1873; d New York, NY, Jan 24, 1963). American librettist and lyricist. He was educated at Knox College, then taught English for six years at Whitman College before going to New York for further study at Columbia University. In 1902 he became a newspaper journalist and the following year a copywriter for an advertising agency. His friendship with the composer Karl Hoschna led him to try his hand at writing musicals, and their collaboration Three Twins (1908, including the song “Cuddle Up a Little Closer, Lovey Mine”) was a great success. Harbach soon became a prolific writer; he produced over 40 works for Broadway and also wrote occasionally for films. After Hoschna’s death in 1911 he entered into a successful partnership with Rudolf Friml. Many of his best lyrics and librettos, however, were written after 1920 in collaboration with his younger protégé Oscar Hammerstein II. Among his best-known songs are “Rose-Marie” and “Indian Love Call” (...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b New York, NY, Nov 28, 1887; d New York, NY, May 13, 1924). American composer. He was a highly regarded composer of Broadway musicals—especially revues—at the turn of the 20 century. He attended the City University of New York and studied piano at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin during his final year. After his return to New York in 1906, Hirsch found employment as a pianist for several music publishers. He composed original music for Lew Dockstader’s Minstrels but soon had songs interpolated into several shows produced by the Shuberts, including The Gay White Way (1907) and Up and Down Broadway (1910). This relationship was essential to Hirsch’s career, for the Shuberts eventually hired him as a staff composer. He wrote his first full score for them, He Came from Milwaukee, in 1910. The following year, several of his songs were included in ...

Article

Gerald Bordman

(b New York, NY, March 30, 1858; d Kansas City, MO, Sept 23, 1935). American bass and comedian. He was expected to follow his family tradition and become a lawyer, but after his father’s death he abandoned his studies and used his inheritance to form his own acting company. The company failed, partly because, being exceptionally tall, Hopper towered comically above the rest of his troupe. He then studied singing (he had a fine bass voice), and struck huge success in 1884 when John McCaull cast him in John Philip Sousa’s Désirée. He solidified his reputation in The Begum (1887) and The Lady or the Tiger? (1888). He then played leading roles in several shows opposite the diminutive Della Fox, where the disparity in their height was deliberately exploited for its comic effect; productions included Castles in the Air (1890), Wang (...

Article

Gerald Bordman

(b Concord, NH, July 26, 1860; d New York, NY, Nov 20, 1900). American librettist, lyricist, and producer. He studied law and worked on a western cattle ranch before becoming a writer for the Boston Post. He then began to write plays, achieving success with A Bunch of Keys (1883) and A Rag Baby (1884), the latter of which was produced by Tony Pastor. Both works were farce-comedies. Though in Hoyt’s hands these rather simplistically conceived shows, with their thin plots and their reliance on existing musical material, were transformed into recognizable musical comedies; he wrote full-length librettos and assigned a single composer to write a basic score (though still allowed for the traditional practice of interpolating of songs). He also preferred to write on American subjects. In collaboration with such composers as Edward Solomon, Percy Gaunt, and Richard Stahl, Hoyt produced a series of popular shows which included ...

Article

Sandra Jean Graham

Vocal duo. The group comprised soprano Anna Madah (b New York?, NY, 1855; d ?1920s) and alto/tenor Emma Louise (b Sacramento, CA, 1857; d by 1901). Born to Samuel B. and Annie E. Hyers, the musically precocious sisters soon abandoned their parents’ musical tutelage for private study with German music teacher Hugo Sank (vocalization, piano) and opera singer Josephine D’Ormy (Italian and German, enunciation, intonation, stage presence). Shortly after their debut at the ages of 12 and 10 at the Metropolitan Theatre in Sacramento, the parents separated, and their father Samuel managed their careers.

From 1867 to 1876 the sisters devoted themselves to concerts of operatic excerpts, art songs, popular ballads, and, from 1872, spirituals. Arriving in New York in 1871 after a cross-country tour, Samuel formed a concert company around his daughters, engaging tenor Wallace King, baritone John Luca, violinist John Thomas Douglass, and pianist Alexander C. Taylor. Myriad favorable reviews praised Anna’s range and suppleness, Emma’s power, and the sisters’ well-cultured refinement....

Article

Gillian M. Rodger

(Jane )

(b Columbus, OH, March 16, 1889; d Beverly Hills, CA, Feb 26, 1956). American actress, singer, songwriter, and entertainer. Her stage career began when she was just a child and was promoted tirelessly by her mother, Jennie Cockrell Bierbower, a woman whose own theatrical aspirations had been thwarted. Janis’s first roles on the stage were with the Ohio Valentine Stock Company in 1897. Her career in vaudeville lasted into the 1920s, and the format of her act varied little. She opened with a song and then moved through imitations of popular stars of the period; her imitations varied from year to year and included a wide range of celebrities including Weber and Fields, Lillian Russell, Pat Rooney, Anna Held, Ethel Barrymore, Alla Nazimova, Fanny Brice, and George M. Cohan. By the 1920s she had begun to move into musical comedy and revue.

Janis was a tireless supporter of the troops during World War I and traveled to France and England to entertain them. She found equal popularity with English and French audiences. After her mother’s death in ...

Article

Article

Gerald Bordman

(b Pittsburgh, PA, Nov 16, 1889; d New York, NY, June 2, 1961). American librettist and director. He first worked as a journalist, serving for a time as head of the drama desk at the New York Times, but resigned in order to write his own plays. His first libretto, produced in collaboration with Marc Connelly, was for Helen of Troy, New York (1923; music by B. Kalmar and H. Ruby) and established his reputation for witty and satirical writing. He then created two important shows for the Marx Brothers, The Cocoanuts (1925; I. Berlin) and, with Morrie Ryskind, Animal Crackers (1928; Kalmar and Ruby), and also collaborated with Ryskind on the libretto for the highly successful Of Thee I Sing (1931; G. Gershwin), the first musical to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for drama, and Let ’Em Eat Cake (1933; Gershwin). Kaufman contributed both libretto and lyrics for ...

Article

Sylvia Stoner-Hawkins

[Lahrheim, Irving ]

(b New York, NY, Aug 13, 1895; d New York, NY, Dec 4, 1967). American performer. At age 15, Lahr began his career in an act called the Seven Frolics that played the burlesque circuit. Later in 1910 he toured with the Whirly Girly Musical Comedy Success. Lahr began as a solo performer in vaudeville, then became a team (with his first wife) known as Lahr and Mercedes (1922). He debuted on Broadway in Harry Delmar’s Revels (1927), yet Hold Everything (1928) was considered his big break. The 1936 production of The Show is On included Lahr’s performance of Harburg and Arlen’s “Song of the Woodman,” which became his trademark. Lyricist Yip Harburg recommended Lahr for the role of the Cowardly Lion in the MGM film The Wizard of Oz (1939). Lahr returned to Broadway to co-star with Ethel Merman in ...

Article

Mary Helen Still

(b Charleston, MA, Feb 24, 1858; d New York, NY, May 3, 1897). American composer and actor. Often working with the librettist J. Cheever Goodwin, he produced several scores for Broadway productions in the 1890s. He studied harmony at the Boston Conservatory, and following his graduation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology he traveled to Paris and studied art under Jean-Léon Gérôme and Jean-Jacques Henner, among others. After returning to America, he began to compose musical plays and operettas. He convinced the producer Augustin Daly to underwrite his first musical play, Cinderella at School (1881), which, although a popular success, was not well received by critics. In 1884 he began to collaborate with Goodwin, and their partnership produced six crowd- and critic-pleasing operettas. His adaptation of Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’étoile (1890), produced by and starring the actor Francis Wilson, caught the attention of Richard D’Oyly Carte who engaged Ivan Caryll to further rework the operetta for the Savoy Theatre in ...