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This is a podcast From The Red House – the former home of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears. I’m Lucy Walker – join me, colleagues, and other guests for a monthly chat about all things Britten and Pears, but also music, culture, heritage in general – and anything else that might come up.
 
Britten's operas are firmly established in the international repertoire: according to Operabase, they are performed worldwide more than those of any other composer born in the 20th century, and only Puccini and Richard Strauss come ahead of him if the list is extended to all operas composed after 1900. Britten went to various sources for his stories from the Bible to Japanese noh plays. This is a collection of twelve of the source stories. All but one are the original texts; the one exceptio ...
 
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Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) in 1948 We mark the birth on November 22, 1913 – 108 years ago today – of the English composer, pianist, and conductor Edward Benjamin Britten in Lowestoft, Suffolk, on the eastern coast of England, roughly 105 miles northeast of London. He died in nearby Aldeburgh on December 4, 1976, at the age of 63. The danger of ov…
 
The concert at the Altamont Speedway, December 6, 1969; the nearly ground-level stage is directly beneath the top balloon, in between the two speaker towers We mark the disastrous concert held on December 6, 1969 – 52 years ago today – at the Altamont Speedway here in Alameda Country in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over 300,000 people attended, four…
 
Tune in to the final podcast of Season 3 (recorded in June 2021) to hear about Alma Mahler's work, the potent combination of opera, film and fashion house (a link to the film Elise discusses can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhgwmZQVgJE), and the power of song to connect people in isolation. Plus, some beautiful tracks for the podca…
 
Before getting to the question that drives today’s post, we would recognize five date-worthy events: a tragedy; two notable cancellations, and two notable opera performances. George Harrison (1943-2001) in 1961, at the age of 18 First, the tragedy. On November 29, 2001 – 20 years ago today – George Harrison died in Los Angeles of lung cancer at the…
 
We will observe the first performances that occurred on this date and contemplate, as well, the nature and reality of a “first performance” in a moment. But first. I know; I know. We collectively wait, with breaths bated, for today’s “This Day in Musical Stupid.” Sadly, aside from this very post, I have not been able to dig up any particular date-r…
 
Abbé Maximilian Stadler (1748-1833) We mark the death on November 8, 1833 – 188 years ago today – of the Austrian pianist, composer, and Benedictine monk, Maximilian Stadler. Born on August 4, 1748, in the Austrian city of Melk, Abbé Stadler died in his adopted home city of Vienna. Witnesses to History We contemplate “witnesses to history,” who I’m…
 
We mark the American operatic debut on November 1, 1954 – 67 years ago today – of “La Divina” – “the divine one” – meaning Maria Callas at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Callas performed her signature role of Norma in Vincenzo Bellini’s opera of the same name under the baton of Nicola Rescigno. More fun in Chicago: Maria Callas after having been serve…
 
We mark the world premiere – on October 25, 1885, 136 years ago today – of Johannes Brahms’ fourth and final symphony. Performed by the superb Meiningen Court Orchestra, the performance was conducted by Brahms himself. It went well. We’ll get to Herr Doktor Professor Brahms in a bit. But first, some gratuitous, auto back slapping. I began writing t…
 
Tune in to hear more about Hannah's work, how she has been inspired by Britten's music, how the life and work of both Britten and Pears can still be sensed at The Red House, and what a Creative Retreat in the grounds of their former home has meant to her. Plus, further additions to the podcast playlist - four brilliant tracks that are all about cou…
 
Viktor Ullmann (1898-1944) We mark the death on October 18, 1944 – 77 years ago today – of the composer and pianist Viktor Ullmann, in a gas chamber at the concentration and death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Nazi-occupied Poland. Last week’s Music History Monday focused on a soft-rock song entitled Je t’aime… Moi non plus by the French singer-so…
 
There was a time, in the not terribly distant past (in our days of relative musical innocence), when a little heavy breathing was all it took to get a recording banned from the airwaves. Today we celebrate just such an event. Jane Birkin (born 1946) and Serge Gainsbourg (1928-1991) On October 11, 1969 – 52 years ago today – a song entitled Je t’aim…
 
Before moving on to the main topic for today’s post, I would like to announce a new feature here on Music History Monday, something called “This Day in Musical Stupid.” I explain. As regular readers of this post know, I will, occasionally, dedicate a post to the shenanigans and sometimes plain old idiocy of musicians as they go about their daily li…
 
Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904), photographed in New York City circa 1893 We mark the arrival on September 27, 1892 – 129 years ago today – of the Bohemian-born Czech composer Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904) to the United States, here to take up the Directorship of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. He retained the directorship for 2½ years…
 
Johan Julius Christian “Jean” Sibelius 1865-1957 We mark the death on September 20, 1957 – 64 years ago today – of the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, in Järvenpää (yes, that’s a lot of umlauts), Finland. Born on December 8, 1865, in Hameenlinna, Finland, Sibelius was 91 years old when he died. Scandanavia Scandinavia is the Canada of Europe: a hug…
 
Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) in 1945, by Yousuf Karsh We mark the death, on September 13, 1977 – 44 years ago today – of the British conductor Leopold Anthony Stokowski, in Nether Wallop, Hampshire, United Kingdom, 67.6 miles (give or take) southwest of London. Born in London on April 18 (the maestro and I share that day and month of birth) 1882, …
 
Mozart in April 1789 by the German portrait artist Dora (Doris, Dorothea) Stock (1760-1832) We mark the premiere on September 6, 1791 – 230 years ago today – of Wolfgang Mozart’s final opera La clemenza di Tito (The Clemency [or Mercy] of Titus), K. 621. Commissioned by the Prague-based opera producer and impresario Domenico Guardasoni (circa 1731-…
 
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