On today's date in 1934, the audience at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City demanded—and got—50 curtain calls for the cast and conductor of the new opera that had just received its premiere staged performance.
The opera was "Merry Mount," based on a Nathaniel Hawthorne short story set in a Puritan colony in 17th century New England. The music was by the American composer Howard Hanson. The performers for Met Opera's premiere included the great American baritone Lawrence Tibbett as the Puritan preacher Wrestling Bradford, sorely tempted by the Swedish soprano Gösta Ljungberg in the role of Lady Marigold Sandys, his VERY unwilling leading lady.
Despite its setting in Puritan New England, Hanson's opera included plenty of the lurid sex and violence that fuels the all the best Romantic opera plots, and the score was in Hanson's most winning Neo-Romantic style, with rich choral and orchestral writing, capped by a fiery conflagration as a grand finale. What more could an opera audience want?
Strangely enough, despite its tremendous first-night success, "Merry Mount" has seldom—if ever—been staged since 1934. To celebrate the centenary of Hanson's birth in 1996, the Seattle Symphony presented "Merry Mount" in a concert performance conducted by Gerard Schwarz.
Music Played in Today's Program
Howard Hanson (1896-1981)Merry Mount SuiteSeattle Symphony; Gerard Schwarz, cond.Delos 3105
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