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Article

(‘Demophoön’)

Libretto by Pietro Metastasio, first set by Antonio Caldara (1733, Vienna). Versions of the libretto were also set as Demofoonte, rè di Tracia, Démophon, Demophontes, Dirce and L’usurpatore innocente.

It has been decreed in Thrace that, until such time as one who would unknowingly usurp the throne has been identified, a virgin of noble birth must be sacrificed each year to Apollo. Demophoön, King of Thrace, aware that the death penalty threatens anyone not of royal birth who weds the heir to the throne, has arranged for the union of his son, Timante [Timanthes], with Creusa, Princess of Phrygia. Timanthes, however, has secretly married Dircea [Dirce], daughter of the noble Matusio [Mathusius], and by her has a son. Creusa arrives, accompanied by Timanthes’ younger brother, Cherinto [Cherinthus], who has fallen in love with her. Timanthes begs Creusa to reject him. Offended, she orders Cherinthus to avenge her by killing his brother. Demophoön, meanwhile, has named Dirce as the next sacrificial victim in defiance of a plea from Mathusius to have her exempted. A warning from Mathusius comes too late and Dirce is imprisoned....

Article

Don Neville

(‘Dido Abandoned’)

Libretto by Pietro Metastasio, first set by Domenico Sarro (1724, Naples).

In spite of their mutual love, Enea [Aeneas] has resolved to separate from Dido, Queen of Carthage. Iarba [Iarbas], King of the Moors, arrives disguised as his own minister, Arbace [Arbaces], to offer peace on behalf of his king in return for Dido’s hand and the life of Aeneas. His offer rejected, larbas instructs his confidant, Araspe [Araspes], to kill Aeneas; Araspes refuses, but is arrested along with Iarbas when the latter makes a thwarted attempt himself. Iarbas reveals his identity and departs under escort. Aeneas tells Dido of his intention to leave, but falters when she accuses him of treachery and ingratitude.

Araspes, now released, declares his love for Selene, Dido’s sister – who, herself in love with Aeneas, rejects him. Meanwhile, Aeneas gains a pardon from Dido for Iarbas, unaware that the king has already been set free by Osmide [Osmidas], a confidant of Dido who has offered his services to the Moorish king in the hope of gaining Dido’s throne. Dido pretends to accept the offer of marriage from Iarbas; Aeneas’s jealous anger reassures her of his love, and with renewed hopes of detaining him she again spurns Iarbas....

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

Mary Hunter

(‘The Deserter’)

Libretto subject used in the late 18th century and the early 19th, based on the opéra comique Déserteur, Le by Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny to a libretto by Michel-Jean Sedaine (1769, Paris), and on a play of the same name by Louis Sébastien Mercier (1770, Paris).

The first Italian operatic version was written by C. F. Badini for P. A. Guglielmi (1770, London). Badini acknowledged his indebtedness to ‘the French’ in the plan of the drama but asserted his independence as far as the individual numbers are concerned. His version is a fairly typical opera buffa, which distributes the dramatic attention more equally among the characters than does Sedaine’s work. The story begins with a feast, purporting to be the wedding of the heroine, Rosetta, to Beltramino. It is in fact a joke designed to test the constancy of Rosetta’s real lover, Alessio, who is deemed to have deserted the army by virtue of having strayed from the barracks to see Rosetta. Alessio is sentenced to death, but Rosetta obtains a last-minute pardon from the King....

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

John Graziano

(b Dayton, OH, June 27, 1872; d Dayton, OH, Feb 9, 1906). American poet and lyricist. He was born into a family of former slaves, and although he had the opportunity to attend college through the generosity of white patrons, he decided to pursue a career as a poet and writer. After self-publishing his first collection of poems, he was invited to recite at the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, where he met the composer Will Marion Cook. When he traveled to England in 1897 on a reading tour, he met the African-English composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, who set eight of his poems in the song collection African Romances. In a little over a decade, Dunbar produced six collections of poems, four collections of short stories, four novels, three plays, and the lyrics and librettos for several works written in collaboration with Cook, including Clorindy, the Origin of the Cakewalk...

Article

Kimberly Greene

(b Perth Amboy, NJ, Feb 19, 1766; d New York, NY, Sep 28, 1839). American playwright, librettist, theater manager, historian, and painter. Despite losing his sight in one eye due to an accident, Dunlap became a professional portrait painter in his youth, and he was noted for his paintings of George Washington. In 1784 he traveled to London and studied painting with Benjamin West. Upon his return to the United States in 1787, he began writing plays and became America’s first professional playwright. Over a period of 40 years he translated, adapted, or wrote more than 70 plays, many of which used music by composers such as Benjamin Carr, Alexander Reinagle, Victor Pelissier, and James Hewitt. He was influenced by the plays of German dramatist August von Kotzebue, whose works he translated and made popular in the United States.

Dunlap’s The Archers, or Mountaineers of Switzerland (1796...

Article

Paul C. Echols

revised by David Music

(b Northampton, MA, May 14, 1752; d New Haven, CT, Jan 11, 1817). American poet and author of hymn texts. He graduated from Yale College in 1769, becoming a tutor there two years later. He served as a chaplain in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and wrote the texts of several patriotic songs, one of which (“Columbia, Columbia, to Glory Arise,” 1787) became widely popular. From 1783 to 1795 he was pastor of the Congregational Church in Greenfield Hill, Connecticut, where he rose to eminence as a preacher, educator, and poet. He was elected president of Yale College in 1795. In 1798, at the request of both Congregational and Presbyterian governing bodies in Connecticut, he undertook a revised edition of Isaac Watts’s Psalms and Hymns to replace one by Joel Barlow (1785) that had previously been compiled for the Congregationalists. Issued at Hartford in ...

Article

James Leve

(b New York, NY, c8 April 1928–33; d New York, NY, Sept 11, 2004). American lyricist. He received a BA from New York University and a master’s degree in English literature from Columbia University. In the 1950s he collaborated with Phil Springer and placed several song lyrics with record companies in the Brill Building. He also collaborated with Paul Klein on three musicals, one of which, Morning Sun, appeared Off-Broadway in 1963. Ebb’s first Broadway experience was as a contributor to the 1960 revue From A to Z.

He is best known for his work with john Kander , with whom he started working in 1962. Within months they had their first hit, “My Coloring Book,” which garnered them a Grammy nomination. Their collaboration lasted more than four decades and resulted in 13 Broadway musicals, including two produced after Ebb’s death. Their first, Flora, the Red Menace (...

Article

Erifile  

Marita P. McClymonds

Libretto by Giovanni De Gamerra , first set by Antonio Sacchini (1778, London). Operas on the subject were also called Erifile regina di Lacinto and Cleomene.

Learco, general of Zacinto’s army, has destroyed the royal family of Lacinto except for Erifile, whom he wishes to wed to establish himself on the throne he has usurped. The queen’s unyielding resistance, Cleomene’s invincible love for her and the tyrant’s rage at their undaunted fidelity constitute the centre of the drama, which ends with the deposition or assassination of the tyrant and the restoration of Erifile and Cleomene.

The first version, as published by Giuseppe Piatolli in 1784, cites Sacchini’s setting for London as the first production. Thus Mysliveček’s Erifile (1773, Munich), for which neither score nor libretto seems to have survived, was probably not based on De Gamerra’s text. In De Gamerra’s original text, Erifile is forced to take poison and appears to die at the end of the duet closing Act 2. In Francesco Bianchi’s setting (...