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Article

Anthony Parr

(b London, July 26, 1894; d Los Angeles, Nov 22, 1963). English writer . A member of a distinguished scientific family, he became a major literary figure after World War I, with such novels as Crome Yellow (1921), Antic Hay (1923) and Brave New World...

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Julian Budden

(b Hanover, pa , Jan 1, 1861; d Clifton Springs, ny , Oct 31, 1927). American writer. In 1897 his story Madame Butterfly appeared in the Century Magazine. Based partly on a true incident told him by his sister, Mrs Irwin Corell, wife of a missionary at Nagasaki, and partly on Pierre Loti’s popular ‘conte’ Madame Chrysanthème, it created such a sensation that two famous American actresses, Maude Adams and Julia Marlowe, at once sought his permission to turn it into a play. This, however, was eventually granted to the playwright David Belasco, whose one-act Madame Butterfly, written with Long’s assistance, so impressed Puccini when he saw it in London in 1900 that he determined to make a full-length operatic version. Giuseppe Giacosa even published an Italian translation of the original story in La lettura to coincide with the première of Madama Butterfly in February 1904. Long collaborated with Belasco in five further plays, the most successful of which, ...

Article

Christopher Smith

[Louis-Marie-Julien Viaud]

(b Rochefort, Jan 14, 1850; d Hendaye, June 10, 1923). French novelist and travel writer. Born into a Protestant family, he joined the French navy, was posted to a variety of stations around the world and retired as ‘capitaine de vaisseau’ in 1906, returning later for war service. He was elected to the Académie Française in 1891. Although Mon frère Yves (1883) is set in Brittany, Pêcheur d’islande (1886) in northern waters and Ramuntcho (1897) in the Basque region, most of his stories reflect experiences, or perhaps dreams of experiences, in the Levant and the Far East. Exoticism and eroticism mingle in picturesque settings until the call of duty brings things to a gently melancholic end; Delibes’ Lakmé (1883), with a libretto based on Loti’s novel Rarahu, is typical. Messager’s Madame Chrysanthème (1893), with a libretto by Georges Hartmann and André Alexandre after Loti’s tale of the same name, has situations that were to be developed more powerfully in a similar setting by Puccini in ...

Article

Michael Hovland

(b New York, Oct 17, 1915). American writer . A prolific writer in many genres, he is best known for four award-winning plays produced between 1947 and 1955, including The Crucible (1953). Many critics have seen parallels between this play, based on the late 17th-century Salem witch trials, and the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s (to which Miller was called to testify). The only operatic adaptations of Miller’s work are Jef van Durme’s La mort d’un commis-voyageur (after Death of a Salesman; composed 1954–5), Renzo Rossellini’s Uno sguardo dal ponte (after A View from the Bridge; 1961), Robert Ward’s setting of The Crucible (1961), to a libretto by Bernard Stambler and Bolcom’s setting of A View from the Bridge (1997–9, rev. 2002), to a libretto by Arnold Weinstein. Closely based on the original play, Ward’s opera won a Pulitzer Prize and the New York Music Critics’ Circle Award in ...

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Christopher Smith

[Henri ]

(b Paris, March 27, 1822; d Paris, Jan 28, 1861). French novelist . The son of a tailor from Savoy who became a concierge in Paris, he disappointed parental hopes of his making a career in law. He preferred ‘une vie de bohème’, that is, a life of poverty in an attic on the left bank of the Seine, among witty friends with artistic leanings and pretty girls with loose morals but hearts of gold. The counterpart to the fun was the prospect of dying, from consumption or alcoholism, in the public hospital. All this Murger presented in a series of short stories published between 1845 and 1849 in the satirical magazine Le corsaire. In 1849 Théodore Barrière, a popular dramatist, proposed to Murger that they collaborate on a play based on a selection of the tales; La vie de bohème was a triumph. Only after this did Murger bring out ...

Article

Anthony Parr

(Gladstone )

(b New York, Oct 16, 1888; d Boston, Nov 27, 1953). American playwright . Initially influenced by Ibsen and Strindberg, he found his distinctive voice in the expressionist tragedy The Emperor Jones, about the rise and fall of a West Indian tyrant, and Anna Christie, a sympathetic portrayal of a prostitute’s fortunes on the New York waterfront. O’Neill’s experiments in stage technique revolutionized American theatre in the 1920s, and he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1936. It was apropos his trilogy Mourning Becomes Electra that he declared his need of ‘a speech that is dramatic and not just conversation. I’m so strait-jacketed by writing in terms of talk’. But this did not dispose O’Neill to an interest in opera and he declined to write the libretto for Louis Gruenberg’s opera The Emperor Jones. The rhetorical intensity he sought is most fully realized, in its weaknesses as well as its strengths, in ...

Article

Christopher Smith

(b Douai, May 8, 1892; d Montsoreau, April 11, 1975). French dramatist . He studied law and literature at the University of Lille. During World War I he served in the infantry; after demobilization he moved to Paris, where he first made a living as a journalist. Most of his major works, including Noë and Le viol de Lucrèce (which served as background sources for Britten), both of 1931, are elegant reworkings of familiar material in a highly sophisticated though ostensibly naive theatrical style. They were conceived for performance by the semi-professional Compagnie des Quinze, which had considerable impact both in France and on tour in London. Claude Arrieu’s three-act ‘imagerie musicale’ based on Noë dates from 1932–4, though the first performance was given only in 1949. Britten’s Noye’s Fludde, based on a Chester miracle play, owes nothing directly to Obey’s Noë. At the suggestion of Eric Crozier, impressed by the work of the Compagnie des Quinze, Britten asked Ronald Duncan to devise a libretto for ...

Article

(b Philadelphia, Jan 5, 1871; d New Rochelle, ny , July 6, 1966). American composer and journalist. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania and the Akademie der Tonkunst in Munich. He founded the Pasadena Orchestra and Choral Society in California, where he was also programme annotator for the Los Angeles SO. In New York he joined the staff of the Musical Courier and helped organize the American section of the ISCM, serving as chairman of its music committee. He wrote both comic and serious operas. His tragedy A Little Girl at Play was rejected by the Metropolitan Opera because of its gruesome libretto. Retitled Beggar’s Love, it was given its New York première at the Matinee Musicale in January 1930. Mountain Blood, composed in 1925, is based on a work of the same name by the composer Hergesheimer, who also wrote his own libretto. The Echo, which uses four soloists, chorus and ballet, received the David Bispham Medal and, in ...

Article

(b Kutná Hora, March 23, 1862; d Prague, March 27, 1946). Czech writer and dramatist . Her marriage at the age of 18 took her to Hodonín, in the Moravian ethnographic region of Slovácko. The rich folk culture in the surrounding villages captivated her and provided the setting for her short stories based on her observations and later for her play Gazdina roba (‘The Farm Mistress’), produced with great success at the Prague National Theatre in 1889. A second play in the same vein, Její pastorkyňa (‘Her Stepdaughter’, 1890), aroused hostility in Prague for its frank subject matter but survived in provincial repertory. Many years later Preissová worked it into a novel, providing interesting background information on the characters involved. Both plays were turned into operas, by Foerster (The Farm Mistress, as Eva, 1899) and Janáček (Her Stepdaughter, 1904; generally known outside Czechoslovakia as Jenůfa...

Article

Ferenc Bónis

(b Budapest, Jan 1, 1892; d Budapest, Nov 4, 1935). Hungarian director, composer and critic . He studied composition with Koessler and Viktor Herzfeld at the Budapest Academy of Music (1906–11) and later taught at the Fodor Conservatory (1912–19) and at the Budapest College of Music (1919–25). He also wrote music criticism for various daily newspapers in the Hungarian capital from 1919 to 1925. From August 1925 until his early death he was artistic director of the Royal Hungarian Opera House in Budapest. His tenure brought consolidation and higher artistic standards to the institution between the two world wars. By engaging young artists (János Ferencsik as co-répétiteur, later conductor, and Kálmán Nádasdy and Gusztáv Oláh as directors), he ushered in a new phase in the history of the opera house. Radnai engaged the leading Italian conductor Sergio Failoni as chief conductor for the Wagner, Verdi, Bartók and Kodály repertory. He was as eager to produce the works of contemporary Hungarian composers (Jenő Ádám, Bartók, Ernő Dohnányi, Hubay, Kodály, Kósa, Albert Siklós, Tivadar Szántó, Leó Weiner) as those of earlier masters of Hungarian music (Erkel, Liszt, Mosonyi) and of his foreign contemporaries (Debussy, Falla, Hindemith, Malipiero, Milhaud, Ravel, Respighi, Richard Strauss, Stravinsky, Zandonai). In revitalizing the design and production side, establishing discipline during rehearsals and performances, and educating a young and gifted generation of singers, Radnai created one of the most successful chapters in the history of Hungarian opera. He also contributed knowledgeable studies of works by Gounod, Erkel, Poldini and Goldmark to the literature of operatic analysis....

Article

(b Dresden, 1738; d Schleswig, Nov 22, 1789). German actress and writer. At the end of an unhappy childhood she took to the stage. In 1754 she married the actor Hensel, but they separated three years later. She worked with various troupes and appeared several times in Vienna. After the collapse of the Hamburg Nationaltheater, she took up with the impresario Abel Seyler in 1769, and married him three years later, by which time she was recognized as Germany’s foremost tragedienne. Lessing praised her passionate and majestic acting at Hamburg, and Benda and F. W. Gotter wrote their chilling melodrama Medea to set off her skills in 1775. At the end of her career she wrote a five-act libretto Hüon und Amande, based on Wieland’s epic poem Oberon and set by the Schleswig music director Karl Hanke in 1789. The text was adapted for Paul Wranitzky shortly thereafter by Gieseke as ...

Article

Julian Budden

(b Verona, Sept 5, 1875; d Milan, July 5, 1952). Italian critic, playwright and librettist . His main career was in journalism; in 1894 he became drama critic of the Adige (Verona), moving in the same capacity to Tempo (Milan) in 1899. In 1903 he assumed the editorship of the Corriere della sera, acting as its drama critic from 1913 until his death. From 1906 until 1924 he was editor of the review La lettura in succession to Giuseppe Giacosa – a fact which probably recommended him to Puccini as a suitable partner for Giuseppe Adami on the libretto of Turandot (1926). In the meantime he had written five comedies, one of them in Venetian dialect, and furnished Giordano with the text of Madame Sans-Gêne (1915). His only other libretto of note was Il Dibuk (1934), written for Ludovico Rocca. He translated a number of operettas, including Ivan Caryll’s ...

Article

Anthony Parr

(b Newtown Little, Rathfarnham, nr Dublin, April 16, 1871; d Dublin, March 24, 1909). Irish playwright . Most of his plays deal with Irish peasant life and are written in an expressive prose which was Synge’s rhetorical reshaping of the rhythms of ordinary Irish speech. His most famous play, The Playboy of the Western World (1907), caused riots at its first performance at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, on account of its unsparing portrait of village morality. Synge’s rich idiom is more purely musical in the elegiac tragedy Riders to the Sea (1904), in which a mother awaits the death of her last surviving son. Operatic settings of Riders to the Sea include those by Fritz Hart (1915), Henri Rabaud (1924, as L’appel de la mer) and Vaughan Williams (1937). Synge’s In the Shadow of the Glen (1903...

Article

Barbara Reynolds

(b Catania, Sept 2, 1840; d Catania, Jan 27, 1922). Italian writer . His short story Cavalleria rusticana was based on an actual event, originally fictionalized as part of his novel I Malavoglia but later published separately. The young Eleonora Duse read it and encouraged him to turn it into a play, which he did, heightening the dramatic impact and developing the part of Santuzza as a tragic heroine, played by Duse.

Altogether three operas were based on the story. The first, set to music by Stanislao Gastaldon, with a libretto by Bartocci Fontana, was performed in 1888 under the title Mala Pasqua; all that survives is a serenade, revived by Beniamino Gigli with the title ‘Musica proibita’ (‘Forbidden Music’). Verga gave permission for the librettists Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci to adapt his play for the opera by Mascagni (1890), but trouble arose over royalties and Verga took the publisher Sonzogno to court and won. In revenge, Sonzogno saw to it that Verga’s name appeared only in small lettering on the published score and finally removed it altogether. The third setting, by Domenico Monleone with a libretto by his brother Giovanni, was performed in ...

Article

Thomas Bauman

(b Weimar, Jan 23, 1762; d Weimar, June 26, 1827). German writer . A copyist’s son from a large family, he was mostly self-educated as a youth. Later he studied law at Jena and Erlangen, then supported himself and his siblings by his pen. Goethe, who lived with and subsequently married Vulpius’s sister Christiane, tried to help him secure various positions. Vulpius translated and adapted Italian and German opera texts for the Bellomo company at Weimar during the 1780s, and supplied over two dozen new versions of previously composed operas to the Weimar court theatre, under Goethe’s direction from 1791 to 1817. On obtaining a position in the Weimar library in 1797, Vulpius turned to cultural-historical studies. The University of Jena conferred the PhD on him in 1809, and in 1816 he was knighted by the Weimar court. Vulpius’s original librettos, like his popular novels, show a decided taste for the sentimental, picaresque and supernatural. During the 1790s his revisions of several of Schikaneder’s librettos – by no means improvements – sparked a war of words between the two....

Article

Richard Langham Smith

(b Paris, April 2, 1840; d Paris, Sept 29, 1902). French writer. Brought up in Aix-en-Provence, he became a leading man of letters in the latter years of the 19th century, having a profound effect on the arts reaching far beyond the boundaries of his own work. He is celebrated as the leading figure in French naturalisme. His many expositions of his aesthetic emphasize that his accurate observation of real-life events was not an end in itself but rather a scientific basis underlying the creative nature of his art. ‘J’observe pour créer, non pour copier’, he stressed, in the belief that he could penetrate the depths of human nature only by seeing man acting in the society in which he lived. His concept of a series of linked novels – the Rougon-Macquart novels – was his major literary contribution in this respect.

His credo affected not only much other writing, visual art and theatre but also opera, providing a French alternative to Italian ...

Article

Ian Mikyska

(b Brno, 13 March 1966). Czech composer, pedagogue, and writer on music, son of zdeněk zouhar. He studied composition at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU) in Brno (with Miloš Ištván and alois piňos) and musicology at the Masaryk University, followed by post-graduate studies at the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst Graz (with Herman Markus Preßl and younghi pagh-paan) and JAMU. He remains an external pedagogue at both these institutions, as well as being active as a researcher at the Palacký University Olomouc (vice-dean starting in 2010), Ostrava University, and Masaryk University.

His brand of postmodernism is surprisingly respectful, using disparate materials in a serious manner, and generally staying with a few pieces of material for the duration of a piece or movement. Often composed in an additive, evolutionary structure, his works are sonically reminiscent of New York post-minimalism, but are very European in their approach to expressivity and emotional intensity. This approach includes both the intense rhythms of ...