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On this week's Opera House we'll celebrate the artistry of Eleanor Steber and Anna Russell, both of whom star in our featured work, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf's Arcifanfano, King of Fools. Dittersdorf is today an almost entirely forgotten composer (except at The Classical Station, where we regularly play his twelve short symphonies based on Ovid's Metamorphoses). A contemporary of Gluck, Haydn and Mozart, Dittersdorf was an important composer in his day. Born August Carl Ditters on November 2, 1739 in Vienna, he was also an outstanding violinist.
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In 1765, Ditters was introduced to the Prince-Bishop of Breslau, who was creating a cultural center at his court in Javornik. Ditters accepted the post of court composer in 1771, and it was during his tenure there that most of his creative output was produced. Over the next twenty years he wrote symphonies, string quartets and other chamber music, and opere buffe. In 1773 the Prince-Bishop appointed him Amtshauptmann of nearby Freiwaldau, to help entice Ditters to remain at isolated Javornik. Since this new post required a noble title, Ditters was sent to Vienna and given the noble title of von Dittersdorf. His full surname thus became "Ditters von Dittersdorf" but he is usually referred to simply as "Dittersdorf."
In 1776 Dittersdorf set Carlo Goldoni's Arcifanfano, Re Dei Matti (Arcifanfano, King of Madmen). Due to financial setbacks, the Prince-Bishop couldn't afford to mount the new opera, so the composer sent the score to Joseph Haydn's patron, Prince Esterházy. Haydn graciously conducted the premiere of Arcifanfano in 1777. The English-language adaptation by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman we'll hear was presented on November 11, 1965 at New York City's Town Hall.
King Arcifanfano (bass-baritone David Smith) accepts applications for citizenship in his mad capital city from six lunatics: Furibondo (baritone Heinz Rehfuss), who is made Keeper of the Gate; Gloriosa (soprano Eleanor Steber), who is named Siren in Residence; Sordidone (baritone John McCollum), who becomes Banker to the Wasteful; Malgoverno (tenor Joseph Sopher), who is appointed Commander of the Stupid; Garbata (contralto Anna Russell), who is created Instructress in Folly; and Semplicina (soprano Patricia Brooks).
Malgoverno offers Sordidone's gold to Gloriosa in exchange for her charms, but she spurns the offer as too little, so he offers it instead to the zany Garbata, who goes off with him. Insisting that his treasure be returned, Sordidone threatens the King, who promises to return it. Desperate, Sordidone asks Garbata to help him hang himself; she restores the Banker's coffer after he promises to dance and sing. Furibondo pursues Semplicina, who manages to fend him off. While resting, the King declares his love for her--and she joins Arcifanfano in a love duet.
The exasperated King throws everyone except Semplicina into prison, promising to release them only if they'll give up their lunacies--a condition they all reject. As a token of his good will, Arcifanfano releases Garbata, whom he considers to be less mad than the others. She joins Semplicina in begging for their companions' release--which the King graciously grants.
Sordidone has buried his gold under a tree. Malgoverno digs it up and again offers it to Gloriosa, who now accepts it. But after Furibondo scares her, Gloriosa drops the treasure and flees. Furibondo gives the treasure to Garbata, but the King takes it from her and offers it to Semplicina--who refuses to take it. The King's subjects now demand that he marry, choosing from among Gloriosa, Garbata and Semplicna. He chooses Semplicina, who immediately turns into a shrew. Arcifanfano laments that he is "the most foolish of fools."
Responding to their demand to know the name of their new city, Arcifanfano gives each of them a letter of the alphabet. Because one letter is missing, the King takes it up himself and moves to the proper position among them so that onlookers--but not the lunatics themselves--can read the city's name.
Newell Jenkins conducts the Clarion Music Society Orchestra in this 1965 VAI Audio Recording, CD 1010.
From Act II, here's the ensemble "Long live King Arcifanfano," featuring David Smith, Patricia Brooks, John McCollum, Anna Russell, Eleanor Steber, Heinz Rehfuss, and Joseph Sopher:
As a bonus we'll hear Steber in a 1947 performance of "Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit" from Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem, followed by Russell's hilarious introduction to Wagner's Ring cycle.
Please join me next Thursday, August 7th, for a sparkling performance of Johann Strauss Junior's quintessential Viennese operetta, Die Fledermaus (The Bat), starring Kiri Te Kanawa (Rosalinde), Wolfgang Brendel (Eisenstein), Richard Leech (Alfred), Olaf Bär (Falke), Brigitte Fassbaender (Orlofsky), and Edita Gruberova (Adele).
The WCPE Opera House is heard every Thursday evening at 7 o’clock in the Eastern time zone on 89.7 FM in central North Carolina, and we’re streamed online at http://www.theclassicalstation.org.
— W. Robert Chapman, Host of the WCPE Opera House
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Recently on "Preview!" we spoke with cellist Jennifer Kloetzel and violinist Tom Stone of the Cypress String Quartet about their latest release, Schubert: Quintet and Quartettsatz. With the addition of cellist Gary Hoffman in this recording, the quartet seamlessly becomes "an instrument of five."
The Silver Album
AnneSophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis
We sometimes forget that in chamber music there is no soloist, and no accompanist. All the players are equal partners in the creation of beautiful music.
This summer, violinist AnneSophie Mutter and pianist Lambert Orkis celebrate their 25year musical partnership with the release of "The Silver Album", two discs of favorites old and new, including sonatas by Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Faure, with new works by Krzysztof Penderecki and Andre Previn.
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After 25 years the duo has developed an intuitive musical dialogue. “Of course, we talk to each other, but we say very little about interpretation," Orkis says. "We talk about politics and religion or about her dogs and my cats – and we never argue.” And this is, without argument, a thoroughly enjoyable album.
— William Woltz WCPE Music Director
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[ via N&O ] Robert D. "Bob" Kennedy, age 84, of Zebulon died at Rex Hospital on 16 June 2014.
Bob retired to Zebulon in 1988 after 35 years of service with the Central Intelligence Agency. He was a member of their Senior Executive Service and served many years in the Far East.
Bob was born in Vigan in the province of Ilocos Sur, Philippines of missionary parents. He graduated from high school in Little Rock, Arkansas receiving an honors scholarship to Columbia University in New York where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He then attended Columbia's School of International Affairs and the East Asian Institute, receiving his M.I.A. in 1952.
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CD #1 - Bizet: Symphony in C -
Martin West leads the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra in this masterpiece symphony written by Bizet at age 17, plus Children's Games and Chromatic Variations. A great performance and a superb recording.
The Metropolitan Opera Announces the 2014-15 Season
The Met’s 2014-15 Season Will Feature 26 Operas, Including Three Met Premieres, In Six New Productions and 18 Revivals!
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