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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Friday, November 29

New York City "firsts" of Rossini and Cole Porter

Synopsis

It was on this date in 1825 that the United States had its first date with authentic Italian opera. This was a performance of Gioacchino Rossini's "The Barber of Seville,” staged at New York City's Park Theater.

The singers were mostly from one extraordinary Spanish family—the Garcias—led by its patriarch Manuel Garcia, a tenor who performed role of Count Almaviva – the same role Garcia had created at the opera’s premiere in Rome nine years earlier.

The 1825 New York audience included luminaries from society and the arts—including the American novelist James Fenimore Cooper and Mozart’s one-time librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, who was teaching Italian at Columbia University in those days.

November 29th is also important to 20th century American musical theater. Cole Porter's "Gay Divorce" opened on Broadway on November 29, 1932, at the Ethel Barrymore Theater.

The musical’s title rankled censors who feared it treated divorce too lightly, and they insisted on converting it to the less controversial "Gay Divorcee." Cole Porter’s score included one of his classic songs, "Night and Day,” and, like Rossini before him, Porter claimed to have tailor-made this song for the unusual tenor star of HIS new show, one Fred Astaire.

Music Played in Today's Program

Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868) selections from The Barber of Seville Academy of St. Martin in the Fields; Neville Marriner, cond. Philips 412 266

Cole Porter (1891-1964) Gay Divorce Overture London Sinfonietta; John McGlinn, cond. EMI 68589

Additional Information

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