Did you know that November 5th is National Love Your Red Hair Day? Not to be confused with the September Dutch festival that has taken place in Breda since 2005, November 5th is our country’s time to let the redhead love shine. And, what better way to do it than give an In the Muse salute to a few of music’s great redheads in our own collections?
Let’s start with the Italian composer, violinist, and opera impresario Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), also known among musicians as “The Red Priest of Venice.” As I discussed in my post Let’s Talk About the Weather, the Music Division has a great deal of Vivaldi first editions and additional resources to help you enrich your Vivaldi studies. Last January, the incredible ensemble Europa Galante performed works by Vivaldi and his contemporaries here in the Coolidge Auditorium. If you feel like taking a jaunt over to Italy to have your own experience of Vivaldi, you can visit the former site of the Ospedale della Pietà – the convent, girls orphanage, and music school where Vivaldi taught violin – and the nearby church that was completed about two decades after Vivaldi’s death.
Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), the French Romantic composer and music critic, was a fiery redhead in every sense of the term. Accounts from his contemporaries vary as to whether he was more strawberry blond or deep auburn, but the written evidence is nevertheless supported by a famous painting of the young Berlioz that hangs at the French Academy at the Villa Medici in Rome to this day. Berlioz’s birthplace in France is now the Hector Berlioz Museum. If you can’t make it to France, the Bibliothèque nationale de France (French National Library) has an online exhibit of their rich Berlioz resources.
The Music Division also has many unique resources for you to study Berlioz, his music, and his notoriously eccentric personality. We have five letters, copyist manuscripts of Franz Liszt’s (1811-1886) transcriptions of Berlioz works, and first editions of scores printed in Berlioz’s lifetime. Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) also featured one of Berlioz’s most famous orchestral pieces, Symphonie Fantastique, in a 1969 Young People’s Concert at the New York Philharmonic. Check out Lenny’s cue script and handwritten draft notes to that episode, “Berlioz Takes a Trip,” in our digital Leonard Bernstein Collection!
An unsung item related to Berlioz in the Music Division is a musical autograph album of the Russian Count Anatole Nicolaevich Demidoff. Page 47 is a holograph excerpt from Berlioz’s overture to Les Francs-juges, an unfinished opera from 1825-1826. Berlioz wrote this violin and cello duet out in score form in the album and signed it on February 15, 1838. Other composers’ autographed fragments in the album include those of Adolphe Adam, Luigi Cherubini, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Anton Reicha, Giacomo Rossini, and more.
What about musical redheads from a more recent century? There’s the great opera diva Beverly Sills, whom you can read about in a blog post from 2013. It’s just as impossible to think of famous redheads in the performing arts and leave out Lucille Ball! The Music Division holds a special set of scrapbooks assembled by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, donated by their two children, along with orchestral arrangements used by Desi in performances. The scrapbooks were featured in a 2011-2012 exhibit at the Library of Congress, I Love Lucy: An American Legend. You can view all of the exhibit materials and text through this link. If you search across all finding aids at the Library, you’ll find archival traces of Lucy in photos, correspondence, business papers, and music in the Music Division’s Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine collection, Music from the Bob Hope collection, the Billy Byers collection, and more! Look up Lucille Ball in the Prints and Photographs Division Online Catalog, too.
I will wrap up my musical redhead tribute post with an animated, sprightly sprite of a redhead: Ariel the Little Mermaid. Not only was this one of my favorite movies as a child, but the film is well represented at the Library of Congress! Contact the Performing Arts Reading Room ahead of your visit to work with the Howard Ashman collection. Howard Ashman (1950-1991) was the lyricist for Disney’s 1989 The Little Mermaid, and Alan Menken (b. 1949) wrote the music; The Little Mermaid premiered as a staged musical in 2008. Series 1, Project Files, contains materials for stage and film works arranged by title. You’ll find lots of materials for The Little Mermaid in this collection, including scripts, photographs, storyboards, correspondence, and more. The Prints and Photographs Division also has the original film posters because they were submitted to the US Copyright Office. Go back in time to the film’s 20th anniversary (2009) and look at Little Mermaid materials from around the Library exhibited in Molto Animato! Music and Animation. You can celebrate your love for Ariel (and, let’s face it, Sebastian’s an honorary redhead) with Alan Menken in person on our November 19th concert.
Happy Love Your Red Hair Day, everyone!