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About dramma per musica


Robert Kingston


Where to begin? My name is Bob Kingston. I’m a librarian, free-lance musicologist, pre-concert lecturer, and self-professed opera fanatic living in Portland, Oregon. My operatic tastes are pretty eclectic, though I’m not a huge fan of French grand opera (who is?) and Gluck’s appeal totally escapes me. Radical or updated stagings don’t bother me in the least, as long as they succeed in bringing out aspects of the drama that I hadn’t noticed before. I’d rather watch something that generates a strong reaction–negative or positive–than sit through yet another thunderously dull production of Carmen or Rigoletto. I love collecting historic vocal recordings, and I often use examples of these in my classes and presentations. So, don’t be surprised if I post a clip of some obscure Russian tenor or Italian baritone from time to time.
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People who know me know that I love looking for connections between seemingly unrelated things or events. Even though a lot of what I find is interesting mainly as trivia, I manage to stumble across fun stuff like this from time to time:
  1. Giuseppe Verdi’s third opera, Nabucco, premiered at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, on March 9, 1842. Two years later, on March 9, 1844, the composer’s fifth opera, Ernani, premiered at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice.
  2. On October 24, 1960, the Metropolitan Opera launched its season with a new production of Nabucco. The cast for that performance included Cornell MacNeil, Leonie Rysanek, Rosalind Elias, and Cesare Siepi, and the conductor was Thomas Schippers, who was born on March 9, 1930.
  3. In late 1962 and early 1963, Schippers lead a series of seven performances of Ernani at the Met. His Elvira during that run was Leontyne Price, who had recently added the role to her repertoire.  (The two of them would later team up for a studio recording of the opera, issued on the RCA label in 1967.)
  4. Price and Schippers would both become closely identified with the music of American composer Samuel Barber, whose birthday we celebrate on–you guessed it–March 9.
Beyond a superficial geographical link, I haven’t figured out a very good way of tying Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra–which Price and Schippers debuted at the Met in September, 1966–back to Nabucco.