Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lost In Reagan-Bush-Clinton's America: A Generation Of Modern American Operas Including Peter Paul Fuch's Darkness at Noon, White Agony, The Heretic

"When composer and conductor Peter Paul Fuchs died on March 26, 2007, I marked his passing with two tributes written with John McLaughlin Williams. At the end of the second article I wrote the following - We now have information on Fuchs’ music, but don’t have any photographs of him. Any photos for publication would be very gratefully received.

After writing that a student of Fuchs, Adrian McDonnell, who is now conductor of the Orchestre de la Cité Internationale in Paris, emailed me. He is in contact with the composer's widow Mrs. Elissa Fuchs in North Carolina who kindly supplied the photographs and biography that I am publishing to mark the first anniversary of his death. This is the only comprehensive resource on Fuchs on the internet...

In 1938 he sailed for America with a letter of recommendation from Felix Weingartner, a tooth brush, $5.00, and a basic change of clothes. When he arrived in the US he supported himself by accompanying singers and instrumentalists, and playing for ballet classes. He toured with a small Ballet company in 1939-40 and in October 1940 he was hired as accompanist for the Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera.

Fuchs arranged for his parents to leave Nazi occupied Austria in 1940, and brought them to America; two years later he was inducted into the army and automatically became an American citizen. Following the end of hostilities in 1945, he returned to the Metropolitan Opera as a full time staff conductor until 1950 working with Bruno Walter, George Szell, Fritz Reiner, Erich Leinsdorf and Ettore Panizza and others. He also conducted at the San Francisco Opera, the Cincinnati Summer Opera, the Central City Opera, and the Berkshire Summer Music Festival where he was assistant conductor to Leonard Bernstein....

In Baton Rouge in the 1960’s he conducted his opera “Darkness at Noon” at Louisiana State University. Then, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, excerpts from his opera “White Agony” were produced at the Komische Opera in Berlin (where Felsenstein had directed). In 1992, the Greensboro Opera produced a staged version of “White Agony” staged by his wife, Elissa Minet Fuchs, former ballerina of Ballet Russe and the Metropolitan Opera" ...

[His third opera was "The Heretic"] ...

On An Overgrown Path

Peter Paul Fuchs


"In 1946, about a year after the American and British liberation of France from German occupation, Jan Meyerowitz [1913-1998] immigrated to the United States, where he became an assistant to Boris Goldovsky at the Berkshire Music Festival at Tanglewood. He later joined the music faculty of Brooklyn College, after which he taught at City College of New York (C.C.N.Y.), soon establishing himself in America as a composer. His second opera, The Barrier (1949), with a libretto by Langston Hughes — based on Hughes's play about racial tensions in the South, The Mulatto — was premiered in 1950 at Columbia University. It was revived at several Italian opera houses during the 1970s and at the Darmstadt Staatsoper in 1996.

In 1956 Meyerowitz was awarded the first of two Guggenheim fellowships, and that same year he completed his opera Esther, based on the biblical Book of Esther also with a libretto by Hughes, which was commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation for the eighth Festival of Contemporary Arts held at the University of Illinois (1957).

Other collaborations with Hughes included a cantata, The Five Foolish Virgins; and The Story of Ruth, for coloratura soprano and piano. Among Meyerowitz's other operas are Eastward in Eden, with a libretto by Dorothy Gardner, about Emily Dickinson's love for a married minister... Simoon, with a libretto by P. J. Stephens after a Strindberg play; Godfather Death, also with a Stephens libretto; and Winterballade, apparently his last opera, after the play by Gerhart Hauptmann." ...


American classical artists Peter Paul Fuchs, Langston Hughes, and Emily Dickinson

Photo credits: (c) Copyright controlled.


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