Composers Datebook®

Beach at the opera

Composers Datebook - May 13, 2024


On today’s date in 1995, an opera by American composer Amy Beach received its first professional production at Lincoln Center in New York City — 63 years after Beach completed it in the summer of 1932.

Beach was 65 years old in 1932 and for years had wanted to write an opera on an American theme. She settled on a play by Nan Bagby Stephens, a writer from Atlanta. Their operatic collaboration was entitled Cabildo, after the famous prison in New Orleans where the pirate Pierre Lafitte was imprisoned during the War of 1812. Stephens even supplied Beach with authentic Creole songs and dances to incorporate in her score.

Beach had a concise one-act opera finished by August of 1932, but it was never staged during her lifetime. Both the Great Depression and the outbreak of World War II postponed various attempts at a staging. Sadly, when an opera workshop at the University of Georgia finally got around to an amateur production in 1945, Beach had already died.

The manuscript of the opera remained unpublished for decades, but with the passage of time, interest in Amy Beach led to the Lincoln Center performance in 1995, conducted by Ransom Wilson.

Music Played in Today's Program

Amy Beach (1867-1944): Cabildo; ensemble; Ransom Wilson, conductor; Delos 3170

On This Day


  • 1842 - English composer Arthur Sullivan, in Lambeth (London)

  • 1913 - American organist and record retailer, William Schwann, in Salem Illinois. In 1949, he began publication of Schwann Record Catalog, a guide to phonograph records in print.


  • 1833 - Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 (Italian), in London, by the Philharmonic Society, with the composer conducting

  • 1877 - Franck: Les Eolides, in Paris at a Lamoureux Concert

  • 1949 - Panufnik: Sinfonia Rustica, in Warsaw

  • 1987 - Harbison: Symphony No. 2, by the San Francisco Symphony, Herbert Blomstedt conducting

  • 1993 - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Bassoon Concerto, by the Pittsburgh Symphony conducted by Lorin Maazel, with Nancy Goeres the soloist

  • 1995 - first professional production of Any Beach: opera Cabildo, at Alice Tully Hall in New York City as a Great Performances telecast conducted by Ransom Wilson. The world premiere performance was given on Feb. 27, 1945 (two months after Beach's death), by the Opera Workshop at the University of Georgia in Athens, directed by Hugh Hodgson.

  • 2001 - Harbison: North and South (Elizabeth Bishop Cycle), by the Chicago Chamber Musicians


  • 1862 - First concert by the Theodore Thomas Orchestra in New York City. His program includes the American premieres of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman Overture and Liszt’s arrangement for piano and orchestra of Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy.

  • 1875 - American premiere of J.S. Bach’s Magnificat, during the May Festival in Cincinnati, conducted by Theodore Thomas. The Cincinnati Commercial review on May 14 was not favorable: “The work is difficult in the extreme and most of the chorus abounds with rambling subdivisions. We consider the Magnifcat the weakest thing the chorus has undertaken … possessing no dramatic character and incapable of conveying the magnitude of the labor that has been expended upon its inconsequential intricacies. If mediocrity is a mistake, the Magnifcat is the one error of the Festival.” Thomas also conducted the next documented performance in Boston on March 1, 1876 (for which composer John Knowles Paine performed as organ accompanist to a chorus of 300).

Love the music?

Donate by phone

Show your support by making a gift to YourClassical.

Each day, we’re here for you with thoughtful streams that set the tone for your day – not to mention the stories and programs that inspire you to new discovery and help you explore the music you love.

YourClassical is available for free, because we are listener-supported public media. Take a moment to make your gift today.

More Ways to Give

Your Donation


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


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®