Composers Datebook®

Heggie's 'Great Scott'

Composer's Datebook - October 30, 2023


American opera composer Jake Heggie and his librettist Terrence McNally decided to follow their Dead Man Walking – a successful but harrowing opera about capital punishment – with a lighter, more comic work, Great Scott.

Now, McNally winced when people called Great Scott a “comic” opera, since it deals with a serious topic – for opera lovers, at least, namely, “Does opera still matter?”

Great Scott is set in a large U.S. city with a respected – but struggling – opera company. The city also has a powerhouse professional football team. In Great Scott, international opera star Arden Scott returns to her hometown to save the opera company by staging the world premiere of a long-lost Italian bel canto work, Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompei. Unfortunately, the scheduled premiere falls on the same day as the home team’s first Super Bowl.

Does the diva save the opera company? And who wins the Super Bowl?

Well, you’ll just have to listen to the opera to find out!

Fortunately, a Dallas Opera recording of Great Scott was made at its premiere on today’s date in 2015 – featuring the powerhouse American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato in the title role.

Music Played in Today's Program

Jake Heggie (b. 1961) “Rosa Dolorosa” Overture, fr Great Scott - Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano; Dallas Opera; Patrick Summers, conductor Erato 9029594078

On This Day


  • 1894 - English composer Peter Warlock (real name, Philip Heseltine), in London;


  • 1953 - Hungarian operetta composer Emmerich Kálmán, age 71, in Paris;


  • 1733 - Handel: opera "Semiramide" in London at the King's Theater in the Haymarket (Gregorian date: Nov. 10);

  • 1876 - Brahms: String Quartet No. 3 in Bb (first public performance), in Berlin, by the Joachim Quartet; This work had been privately premiered at the home of Clara Schumann by the Joachim Quartet on May 23, 1876, and subsequently performed for a small circle of friends at the Joachim home on June 4 that year;

  • 1881 - Serenade for Strings, in St. Petersburg (Julian date: Oct. 18);

  • 1882 - Tchaikovsky: Trio, Op. 50 (dedicated to the memory of Nicolas Rubinstein), in Moscow at a Russian Musical Society concert by Ivan Hřimaly (violin), Wilhelm Fitzenhagen (cello) and Sergei Taneyev (piano) (Julian date: Oct. 18); This was the public premiere of the Tchaikovsky Trio, but a private performance featuring the same artists had occurred on Feb. 18 (Gregorian date: Mar. 2) that same year;

  • 1896 - Amy Beach: "Gaelic" Symphony, at the Music Hall in Boston by the Boston Symphony, Emil Paur conducting; This was an afternoon "open rehearsal" performance - the "official" premiere took place the following evening;

  • 1929 - Wallingford Rieger: "Study in Sonority," by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conducting;

  • 1944 - Copland: ballet "Appalachian Spring," by a 13-piece chamber orchestra, at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., by the Martha Graham Ballet;

  • 1947 - Elie Siegemeister: Symphony No. 1, by the New York Philharmonic, Leopold Stokowski conducting;

  • 1947 - Kurt Weill: musical, "Lost in the Stars," in New York City;

  • 1957 - Shostakovich: Symphony No. 11 ("The Year 1905"), in Moscow, by the USSR State Symphony, Natan Rakhlin;

  • 1979 - Ned Rorem: "Nantucket Songs" (to texts by Roethke, Wm. Carlos Williams, Edmund Waller and others) at Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress, with soprano Phylllis Bryn-Julson and the composer at the piano;

  • 1998 - Anthony Davis: "Tales (Tails) of a Signifying Monkey," by the Pittsburgh Symphony, David Zinman conducting;


  • 1739 - Handel completes in London his Concerto Grosso in A, Op. 6, no. 11 (Gregorian date: Nov. 10);

  • 1822 - Schubert begins work on his Symphony No. 8 in B minor, later known as the "Unfinished." Not played until 37 years later;

  • 1935 - First concert at The Composers' Forum-Laboratory in New York City, sponsored by the Federal Music Project and featuring works of Roy Harris.

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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®