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Article

Philip Weller

(b Neuchâtel; fl 1770s). Swiss writer on music. Like Escherny he moved to Paris, where he frequented the literary and intellectual circles of the Encyclopedists and philosophes. In 1772 he published his long Traité du mélodrame; its immediate occasion was the rebuttal of views expressed in François-Jean Marquis de Chastellux’s Essai. The Traité is a sustained apology for the more complex orchestral style of Bohemian instrumental composers as the musical basis for an effective dramaturgy. He appreciated the obvious plastic beauty of Hasse in individual arias (for instance ‘Non ha ragione, ingrato’ in Didone abbandonata) and admired the inventiveness of motifs in Italian opera, but thought that the hedonistic regularity of a pure singing-based style allowed insufficient contrast to sustain interest and maintain dramatic power. He regarded Philidor’s orchestral invention and vivid instrumentation as a model of its kind, and the Traité is in this sense a eulogy of Philidor: Garcin made specific bar-by-bar observations on his style with a precision that inspires confidence in his judgment. The standard of criticism is remarkable, considering the early date; and throughout Garcin shows general musical literacy and a keen dramatic imagination....

Article

Barbara Reynolds

(b Venice, Dec 13, 1720; d Venice, April 14, 1806). Italian playwright . Born of a noble family of declining fortune, he was the leading member of the Accademia dei Granelleschi, a learned society devoted to stemming innovation and foreign importations in linguistic usage. He also set himself up against the changes that Goldoni was introducing into Venetian comedy.

Goldoni broke with the age-old Venetian tradition of the commedia dell’arte. In his plays stock characters disappeared, masks were no longer worn, and a bourgeois naturalism replaced stereotyped conventions. Though immensely successful, the plays attracted criticism and envy. One of his rivals was Pietro Chiari, a prolific novelist and playwright, who introduced sentimental and extravagant inanities into his comedies. Gozzi despised them both and, in answer to Goldoni’s claim that he drew large audiences, declared that he could do the same with any nonsensical tale ‘such as grandmothers tell little children’. To prove his point Gozzi sketched a scenario for the first of his ...

Article

Thomas Bauman

(b Vienna, Sept 27, 1735; d Vienna, July 30, 1764). German playwright. He served as a secretary in the Viennese municipal court during his short life, and wrote a series of successful plays that developed a distinctively Viennese brand of written comedy out of local improvisatory traditions. His lone musical text, the three-act Zauberlustspiel ...

Article

Linda Troost

(b Bath, 1755; d Brighton, Dec 22, 1834). English playwright . A son of the artist William Hoare, he studied painting at the Royal Academy and in Italy, where he met Stephen Storace, who was also interested in art. Hoare tried unsuccessfully to establish himself as a painter, though he became honorary foreign secretary to the Royal Academy in 1799. No doubt encouraged by Storace, he took to theatrical writing, initially specializing in plots that mixed clever farce and romance. No Song, No Supper (1790), his first success and one of Drury Lane’s as well, exemplifies that blend (lawyers thrust into sacks and spouses who will not bar the door, disguised lovers and lost-and-found fortunes). His later works emphasized either farce or romance. In The Three and the Deuce! (1795) one person acts three roles, to everyone else’s confusion; The Captive of Spilburg (1798...

Article

Thomas Bauman

(b Beneschau, Bohemia, Oct 10, 1755; d Mainz, July 25, 1814). German playwright . After living in Prague, Huber moved to Vienna in 1781, where he worked in a newspaper office. He was so outspoken in his liberal opinions, especially his support of the French and Napoleon, that he was forced to flee to Bavaria in 1809. In addition to satirical novels he wrote opera texts for Vienna’s suburban theatres and also the libretto for Beethoven’s oratorio Christus am Oelberge (1803).

Another Franz Xaver Huber, born in 1760 at Munderfing, Upper Austria, may be the author of some of the librettos attributed to the Bohemian Huber. He died in Vienna about 1809.

Article

Theodore Fenner

(b Southgate, nr London, Oct 19, 1784; d Putney, London, Aug 28, 1859). English critic . He was the son of a Unitarian and Universalist preacher. In 1808, together with his elder brother John, he founded the weekly Examiner, a liberal journal that contained political essays and literary and theatrical criticism. The brothers went to gaol (1812–14) for a libel against the future George IV, yet with the help of friends the journal not only survived but became famous. Hunt’s articulate criticism of both English (1808–12, 1815–21) and Italian (1817–21) opera performances in London did much to arouse public interest in opera, while his writing, marked by wit, clarity and independent thinking, helped raise the literary standard in contemporary periodicals.

T. Fenner: Leigh Hunt and Opera Criticism: the ‘Examiner’ Years, 1808–1821 (Lawrence, ne, 1972) J. Thompson: Leigh Hunt (Boston, 1977) T. Fenner: Opera in London: Views from the Press, 1785–1830...

Article

Martin Cooper

(b Deolali, India, Feb 27, 1893; d Cheltenham, Sept 6, 1972). English critic. After serving in World War I and as a civil servant he worked at the National Gallery. Expert knowledge of the visual arts and of European culture in general lent a valuable perspective to his music criticism in the ...

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...

Article

Arthur Jacobs

(b London, March 13, 1863; d London, May 17, 1933). English translator. He was one of the first British champions of Richard Strauss, with whom he became personally acquainted at the first performance in Berlin of Feuersnot (1912). His translation of Der Rosenkavalier, published in the vocal score and first performed in Birmingham in ...

Article

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

Robert McMahan

(b London, June 7, 1852; d New York, Jan 14, 1936). American critic and translator . He studied informally at the Sorbonne in 1875 and was music critic in Paris for the Musical Standard and Bohemia (1870–75) and the Chicago Tribune (c 1875–8); drama and music critic and general reporter for the New York Herald (1878–93), transferring to New York in 1890; drama critic for the New York World (1893–6); ‘official librettist, secretary and publicity director’ (his own words) to two successive directors of the Metropolitan Opera, Maurice Grau and Heinrich Conried (1902–7); and critic, first in music (1907–14), then in drama (1914–16), for the New York American. Meltzer also wrote on music (particularly opera), drama, art and politics for numerous journals. Many of these articles reveal him to be a passionate, eloquent and convincing advocate of opera in English translation, the establishment of a national American conservatory and opera house, and the production of more operas by American composers. He had a substantial correspondence with several composers (now 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 ...

Article

Reinhard Oehlschlägel

(b Saalfeld, Feb 16, 1939). German writer . After working in industry and the press, Müller studied journalism at the Karl Marx University, Leipzig, 1959–63, and was a cultural editor for the state news service in Halle, Leipzig and Berlin until 1980, when he became principal dramatic adviser at the Komische Oper, Berlin. In 1986 he took the doctorate at the Humboldt University, East Berlin, with a dissertation on Heine’s views on music.

As well as his musical criticism, musical journalism and satirical pieces for East German radio, the weekly Sonntag (Freitag from 1990) and the satirical magazine Eulenspiegel, Müller has written librettos for the operas Candide, after Voltaire, by Reiner Bredemeyer (1986, Halle), Gastmahl, oder Über die Liebe, after Plato, by Georg Katzer (1988, Schwetzingen) and Antigone oder Die Stadt, after Sophocles, also by Katzer (composed 1989–90). He has also prepared a German text for Joplin’s ...

Article

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....