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Steven Huebner

(b Montréal, France, Sept 14, 1805; d Paris, April 24, 1870). French journalist and theatre director. After law studies, he joined the staff of Le Figaro as a theatre critic. He wrote for a number of other papers before taking up the directorship of the Théâtre des Variétés in 1841, a post he occupied until 1847 when he became co-director of the Opéra with Charles Duponchel. Duponchel withdrew from the association in 1849, leaving Roqueplan as sole director until 1854. The two most important premières during his tenure were Verdi’s Jérusalem (1847) and Meyerbeer’s Le prophète (1849), though the first of these was not very successful. In 1851 Roqueplan also oversaw Gounod’s début with Sapho. Later, as director of the Opéra-Comique from 1857 to 1860, he gave Meyerbeer’s Le pardon de Ploërmel; the success of that work did not rescue him from severe financial troubles and, abandoning opera production, he turned to music journalism in the last decade of his life, becoming a well-known figure in fashionable boulevard society during the Second Empire....

Article

Charles Pitt

(b Castell’Arquato, Dec 1, 1944). French critic of Italian birth . He studied at the Sorbonne and soon became established as an authority on singing and opera and a broadcaster on the subject for Radio France. He was appointed editor of the journal Opéra international in 1979; he serves on singing and record juries and teaches at the Accademia Rossiniana, Pesaro. In ...

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(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 ...

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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

Jonas Westover

(b Sept 10, 1945, Pasadena, CA). American music critic. Von Rhein is best known as the critic for the Chicago Tribune, where he worked from 1977 into the first decade of the 21st century. He began his career as a violinist, playing through college. After receiving his BA in English from UCLA in 1967, he pursued graduate work at California State University in Los Angeles. Von Rhein began working as a critic for the Hollywood Citizen-News (1968–71) until he took a position in Ohio for the Akron Beacon Journal between 1971 and 1977. His interests are centered on classical music, especially on opera. He has contributed to a wide range of classical publications, including Opera magazine, Gramophone, American Record Guide, Opera News, Fanfare, Vanity Fair, Ovation, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and Opera Now. Von Rhein has also produced a number of liner notes for labels like Sony BMG, Pro Arte, and Stradivari. 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

Brian Boydell

(b Wexford, Nov 20, 1911; d Wexford, Nov 8, 1988). Irish writer on opera and co-founder of the Wexford Festival. He was educated in Wexford and at University College, Dublin, where he graduated in medicine in 1944. In Dublin he also studied singing. In autumn 1950 two young collectors of opera records came to him with the idea of forming an opera study group. With the active support of the novelist Compton Mackenzie, they mounted a production of Balfe’s Rose of Castille in October 1951, which initiated the annual Wexford Festival. While still working as an anaesthetist at the Wexford County Hospital, Walsh undertook the artistic direction of the festival, personally recruiting the principal singers and organizing the training of the local amateur chorus until his retirement after the 1966 season. His devoted enthusiasm helped ensure the international fame of the festival, an achievement recognized by the award of an honorary MA from the University of Dublin in ...

Article

(b Siegburg, Sept 4, 1858; d 1916). German writer. The younger sister of the composer Engelbert Humperdinck, she contributed much to the family interest in folksong and fairy-tales; Humperdinck set song texts by his sister and father throughout his life. Adelheid married the Cologne doctor Hermann Wette, the author of two folklike librettos for Arnold Mendelssohn. Her own libretto for Humperdinck’s ...

Article

Arthur Jacobs

(b London, Nov 14, 1933). English translator. With Michael Scott, he made a free adaptation of Donizetti’s Le convenienze e inconvenienze teatrali in its one-act form (as The Prima Donna’s Mother is a Drag) for a production at the Camden Festival in 1972. The following year he provided an English version of Offenbach’s ...

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 ...