Harry Lawrence Freeman—The Black Wagner

The first major American opera composer is not who you might expect, a Black man born right after the Civil War in Cleveland, Ohio. Harry Lawrence Freeman (1869-1954) is perhaps on of the most unique American composers whose work spans the 19th and 20th century. Born in Cleveland to a middle class home, Freeman wasContinue reading “Harry Lawrence Freeman—The Black Wagner”

Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s “Blues Opera” is coming back to the stage

Harold Arlen (1905-1986) is best known for his contributions to movie musicals, penning one of the most popular songs in movie history, the Wizard of Oz’s “Over the Rainbow.” What is not as well known are his works outside of Hollywood. A little known opera Arlen composed in 1959 with librettist Johnny Mercer, Free andContinue reading “Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s “Blues Opera” is coming back to the stage”

The Jazz Operas of W. Franke Harling

In 1925, composer W. Franke Harling (1887-1958) set out to make an opera that experimented with jazz. This concept made headlines across the musical world, “New American Music Drama of Redemption Utilizes’ Jazz” is just one example from Musical America.[1] What makes this opera unique is it premiered 10 years before the opera that isContinue reading “The Jazz Operas of W. Franke Harling”

The Jazz Influences in Shostakovich’s The Golden Age

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) is one of the most celebrated composers of 20th-century symphonic works. Despite that reputation, his ballets receive less attention and that is a major oversight in music history. His failure on the ballet stage has nothing to do with the quality of the music in the ballet, but around the volatile politicalContinue reading “The Jazz Influences in Shostakovich’s The Golden Age”

The saxophone and Oedipus, how George Enescu used the saxophone in his only opera, OEdipe

George Enescu (1881-1955) is one of Romania’s best known composer. Enescu was a musical prodigy, studying music in Vienna at the age of 7 before transferring to the Paris Conservatoire in 1895. At the Conservatoire, he studied composition under Jules Massenet and Gabriel Fauré. He remained active in Paris as a violinist and conductor ofContinue reading “The saxophone and Oedipus, how George Enescu used the saxophone in his only opera, OEdipe”

Joseph Holbrooke and the saxophone in his opera trilogy

In the early 20th century, the saxophone fell out of favor in opera and ballet. In the database, there are only a small handful of operas that premiered before WWI. Out of that small number, two operas are by English composer Joseph Holbrooke (1878-1958). Who is Holbrooke and how did the saxophone end up inContinue reading “Joseph Holbrooke and the saxophone in his opera trilogy”

Watch the saxophone solos in Léo Delibes ballet, “Sylvia”

In 2019, the Wiener Staatsoper ballet staged Sylvia by Léo Delibes. This classic Romantic styled staging harkens back to the premiere of the ballet at the Palais Garnier in its opening season 1876. The ballet was poorly received when it premiered, but with the strength of its score and new stagings and choreography, the balletContinue reading “Watch the saxophone solos in Léo Delibes ballet, “Sylvia””

Saxophonist Steve Lacy’s opera “The Cry” is now in the database

Saxophonist Steve Lacy (1934-2004) is one of preminent players of the soprano saxophone, first starting in Dixieland then branching out to the works of Thelonious Monk. Later in his career, he traveled extensively focusing on chamber works and free improvisation. In 1996 during a residency in Berlin, he wrote The Cry, a jazz opera basedContinue reading “Saxophonist Steve Lacy’s opera “The Cry” is now in the database”

Erwin Schulhoff’s Flammen returns to the stage 90 years after its debut

Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff’s only opera, Flammen is returning to the stage in the original Czech for the first time since its premiere in 1932. The opera is a part of the National Theatre of Prague’s Musica non Grata series—translation: unwelcomed music—“revives the artistic legacy of male and female composers important to the musical lifeContinue reading “Erwin Schulhoff’s Flammen returns to the stage 90 years after its debut”

Discover Günter Raphael’s ballet, Jabonah

Günter Raphael’s (1903-1960) life was surrounded by war and upheaval. Born into a musical family in Germany, he entered the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin in 1922. In 1926 he became professor of composition and theory at State Conservatory and at the Kirchenmusikalisches Institut, Leipzig in 1926. But this was short lived. When Nazis assumedContinue reading “Discover Günter Raphael’s ballet, Jabonah”