This Thursday, June 6th at 12:00 pm the Library of Congress Chorale, comprised of staff and retirees from throughout the Library, performs a special tribute to the bicentennials of Richard Wagner (1813-1883) and Giuseppi Verdi (1813-1901), “An Afternoon at the Opera.” Offering a survey of operatic traditions, the program includes some of the great opera choruses ranging from Purcell through Puccini.
Wagner and Verdi are two of the most prolific opera composers in history and have cult-like followings in music circles. Many Wagnerites make it their mission to travel the world and experience new productions of Der Ring des Nibelungen—the famed cycle of four operas that combines for a whopping total of 16-18 hours (depending largely on tempi). In the last several decades Verdians have been gaining ground in the scholarly world, combating the notion held by many Wagnerites that Wagner was the greatest composer of opera to ever live. Verdians tend to think that of their Italian maestro. Regardless of the various opinions in both camps, not to mention those who love them equally, it is commonly accepted that both composers exerted enormous influence on the development of the genre, through their understandings of form, text, orchestration and composing for voice.
The LC Chorale concert includes selections by Wagner and Verdi, framed by music of composers who were responsible for shaping the artistic form that those two made their own. Wagner’s famed “Bridal Chorus” from Lohengrin, WWV 75 (1845-1848) contrasts with two different styles from Verdi, the early Italian style of “Va, Pensiero” from Nabucco (1841) and the French grand opera style of “Spuntato ecco il di ďesultanza” from Don Carlo (1867-1882).
The Library of Congress Music Division holds a host of materials relating to both Wagner and Verdi. Aside from first editions full scores and vocal scores for virtually all of their published works, the Library’s Gertrude Clarke Whittall Foundation Collection contains sketches of Wagner’s Symphony in C major, WWV 29 (ca. 1832). The extensive Moldenhauer Archives contain manuscript materials for Wagner’s Overture to Der fliegende Holländer, his Der Tannenbaum and Ballade für Piano, Verdi’s manuscript of the aria “Romanza” for tenor and orchestra from Attila, as well as correspondence from both Wagner and Verdi. Senior Music Reference Specialist Susan Clermont recently wrote about the Music Division’s quirky collection of fabric swatches and correspondence that belonged to Wagner’s seamstress, lending insights into the composer’s penchant for high fashion. The John Davis Batchelder Collection contains Wagner’s signed manuscript of “Gesang des Friedensboten” from Rienzi.
Hearing the LC Chorale is a great opportunity to experience Library staff doing something outside of their regular duties. James Wintle, a music reference specialist at the Library, moonlights as a musicologist and singer. He joins the Chorale for a performance of the classic, “Modern Major General” from the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta The Pirates of Penzance. No opera chorus program is worth having without a cheeky bit of patter-song!
Concerts from the Library of Congress and the Music Division will be hosting a series of special events and programs related to the Wagner and Verdi bicentennials in the fall of 2013. Stay tuned to loc.gov/concerts for more information. You may also join our mailing list here to keep up to date with operatic happenings at our nation’s oldest federal cultural institution.
Thursday, June 6, 2013 – 12:00 pm
Library of Congress Chorale Spring 2013 Concert
Un après-midi à l’opéra | An Afternoon at the Opera
Nicholas Alexander Brown, Conductor
Dan Meyer, Accompanist
James Wintle, Tenor
Works by Purcell, Gluck, Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Puccini and Sullivan
FREE & Open to the Public
Coolidge Auditorium, Thomas Jefferson Building
10 First Street, SE
Washington, DC 20540