Harry B. Smith: Dean of American Librettists by John Franceschina

By John Franceschina

Harry B. Smith used to be the main prolific author of librettos for the yank musical theatre in background, with approximately 1/2 his three hundred works truly establishing in big apple urban. moreover, Smith used to be instrumental in adapting and popularizing overseas musicals in the USA, considerably influencing writing and composing kinds of American exhibits. He labored with each significant composer in the US among 1880 and 1920, and as a result this exam of his paintings and technique is very instructive of the heritage of the yank musical.

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Treated to an impeccable meal, in sumptuous surroundings, McCaull agreed to produce the show, although not without asking for certain financial guarantees. As Mrs. de Koven recalls in her memoir: My husband had vainly sought for a manager, when one day Colonel McCaull visited Chicago and came to my father’s house at my husband’s invitation. His leading actress and singer, the very brilliant Austrian called Mathilde Cottrelly, told me that after my doubtless naïve and probably amusing plea to him “to please put on my husbands opera, even if we did not really need to have him do it,” he said: “I believe I will put on the opera.

S. Gilbert was openly acknowledged, the reviewer pointed out that The Begum was not a slavish imitation of the Englishman’s work, but simply reminiscent of his style, and predicted that Smith would have an “exceedingly promising” future. The Spirit of the Times (November 26, 1887), likewise noting the parallels to Gilbert and Sullivan, complained that the performances of the low comics, De Wolf Hopper, Digby Bell, Jefferson de Angelis (Jhust-Naut, the Court Jester), and Harry MacDonough (Asch-Kahrt, an Officer in the Royal Household), robbed the script of a crispness and clarity: On its merits, played as the author and composer intended, with its amusing little story and its jingling transcriptions of popular melodies, there would be a chance of success for The Begum.

De Koven recalls in her memoir: My husband had vainly sought for a manager, when one day Colonel McCaull visited Chicago and came to my father’s house at my husband’s invitation. His leading actress and singer, the very brilliant Austrian called Mathilde Cottrelly, told me that after my doubtless naïve and probably amusing plea to him “to please put on my husbands opera, even if we did not really need to have him do it,” he said: “I believe I will put on the opera. ” However this unusual plea might have evoked his fancy, he was not fanciful enough to forego a guaranty [sic] for part of the production, which fortunately we were able to furnish.

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