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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Thursday, August 27

Rameau's "Pygmalion"

Synopsis

Around this time in 1956, the hot ticket on Broadway was for a musical based on the old Greek legend of Pygmalion, a sculptor so good that he fell in love with one of his beautiful female statues. The playwright, George Bernard Shaw, had updated the legend to modern-day London, and in 1956, the Broadway team of Lerner and Loewe had in turn transformed Shaw’s stage play into the smash Broadway musical, “My Fair Lady.”

But 208 years before all that, on today’s date in the year 1748, ANOTHER very successful musical adaptation of the Pygmalion legend opened in Paris. This “Pygmalion” was an opera-ballet by the great French Baroque composer, Jean-Philippe Rameau.

Rameau was born in 1683, two years earlier than Bach and Handel, but unlike them, was something of a late bloomer. He was 50 before he became famous, and his opera-ballet “Pygmalion” opened shortly before his 65th birthday.

Rameau was famous for imitating natural sounds and noises in his music. One of Rameau’s contemporaries, in praising the overture to “Pygmalion,” even suggested the repeated notes of Rameau’s theme represented the chipping of Pygmalion’s chisel as he worked on his lovely creation.

Music Played in Today's Program

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683 – 1764) Pygmalion La Petite Bande; Gustav Leonhardt, cond. BMG/Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77143

Additional Information

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