Composers Datebook®

Adamo at the opera

Composer's Datebook - Mar. 13, 2023


It might seem farfetched that Winona Ryder, Emma Watson, and Charles Ives might have anything in common, but there IS a connection of sorts: Ryder appeared in a 1994 film based on Louisa May Alcott’s classic 19th century novel, “Little Women,” Emma Watson appears in the 2019 remake, and, in 1913, American composer Charles Ives composed the second movement of his “Concord” sonata for piano, a movement titled “The Alcotts,” which evokes Louisa May, her novel and her real-life family and friends, who included the New England “Transcendentalists,” Emerson and Thoreau.

Set during the American Civil War, Alcott’s “Little Women” chronicles the coming of age of four young women in Concord, Massachusetts.  The story of has charmed readers and film-goers around the world.  Ives’s music, like Alcott’s novel, is nostalgic, affectionate, and quietly powerful.

The contemporary American composer, Mark Adamo, crafted an opera based on Alcott’s “Little Women” which premiered on today’s date in 1998 at the Opera Studio of Houston Grand Opera.  After its premiere, that company’s general director, David Gockley, pronounced Adamo’s opera “destined to become an American classic,” and since its successful Houston Opera revival in 2000, Adamo’s “Little Women” has been staged again and again, to equal acclaim from audiences and critics.

Music Played in Today's Program

Charles Ives (1874 - 1954) The Alcotts, fr Concord Sonata Anthony de Mare, piano CRI 837

Mark Adamo (b. 1962) Little Women Houston Grand Opera; Patrick Summers, conductor. Ondine 988

On This Day


  • 1700 - French composer and flutist Michel Blavet, in Besançon;

  • 1860 - Austrian composer and music critic Hugo Wolf, in Windisch-Graz;


  • 1842 - Italian-born composer Luigi Cherubini, age 81, in Paris;


  • 1744 - Handel: oratorio "Joseph and his Brethren" (Julian dater: March 2);

  • 1797 - Cherubini: opera "Médée" (Medea), in Paris;

  • 1845 - Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in e, Op. 64, by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra conducted by Niels Gade, with Ferdinand David the soloist;

  • 1861 - Wagner: opera "Tannhäuser" (Paris version), at the Théâtre Imperial de l'Opéra;

  • 1947 - Messiaen: "Hymne" for orchestra, by the New York Philharmonic, Leopold Stokowski conducted;

  • 1954 - Schoenberg: (unfinished) opera "Moses and Aaron," in a concert performance by the Hamburg Radio; The first staged performance took place in Zürich, Switzerland, on June 6, 1957);

  • 1964 - Ernst Toch: Symphony No. 5 ("Jeptha - Rhapsodic Poem"), in Boston;

  • 1976 - Babbitt: Concerti for Violin, Small Orchestra and Tape, in New York City;

  • 1986 - George Rochberg: Symphony No. 5 (Commissioned for the sesquicentennial celebration of the city of Chicago), by the Chicago Symphony, with Sir Georg Solti conducting;

  • 1992 - Peter Maxwell Davies: "Strathclyde Concerto" No. 5 for violin, viola and strings, at Glasgow's City Hall, by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by the composer, with soloists James Clarke and Catherine Marwood;

  • 1998 - Mark Adamo: opera "Little Women" at Houston Opera Studio, with Christopher Larkin conducting;


  • 1970 - George Crumb completes his "Black Angels" for electric string quartet, percussion and water-tuned musical glasses; The score is inscribed: "finished on Friday the Thirteenth, March 1970 in tempore belli" (in time of war).

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®