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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Friday, August 28

Gershwin's operatic flop

Synopsis

The life story of George Gershwin usually runs something like this: an incredible string of successes cut short by Gershwin’s tragically early death. But on today’s date in 1922, Gershwin suffered one of his rare flops when his one-act opera “Blue Monday” opened and closed on the same day.

For five years, beginning in 1920, Gershwin had provided the music for an annual Broadway review entitled “The George White Scandals.” The impresario Mr. White provided the money and the leggy showgirls, Mr. Gershwin the catchy tunes and light-hearted dances.

But in 1922, Gershwin was eager to try something different: a modern, jazz-age version of an Italian verismo opera. The plot was simple: he does her wrong, and then she shoots him. The reviews were devastatingly bad—one critic suggesting the soprano with the pistol should have shot the rest of the cast before ANYONE had a chance to sing.

And so Mr. White pulled “Blue Monday” from his revue before it could have a second performance. A concert revival by the Paul Whiteman band at Carnegie Hall in 1925, and a 1953 CBS-TV production didn’t fare all that much better.

Even today “Blue Monday” is rarely staged.

Music Played in Today's Program

George Gershwin (1898 – 1937) Blue Monday Cincinnati Pops; Erich Kunzel, cond. Telarc 80434

Additional Information

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