John Bray: The Indian Princess; Raynor Taylor: The Ethiop

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Uncle Dave Lewis
New World's John Bray: The Indian Princess/Raynor Taylor: The Ethiop is a combination of a key LP issued in 1978 featuring musicologist Victor Fell Yellin's reconstructed performances of the earliest two surviving works of musical theater in American history. While opera performances were already underway in the Spanish-speaking New World by the first years of the eighteenth century, it wasn't until the Chestnut Street Theater opened in Philadelphia in 1791 that operas were given in North America. Music for the Chestnut Street Theater was composed by able, Scottish-born composer Alexander Reinagle, but all of the music for such productions perished when an arsonist ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Uncle Dave Lewis
New World's John Bray: The Indian Princess/Raynor Taylor: The Ethiop is a combination of a key LP issued in 1978 featuring musicologist Victor Fell Yellin's reconstructed performances of the earliest two surviving works of musical theater in American history. While opera performances were already underway in the Spanish-speaking New World by the first years of the eighteenth century, it wasn't until the Chestnut Street Theater opened in Philadelphia in 1791 that operas were given in North America. Music for the Chestnut Street Theater was composed by able, Scottish-born composer Alexander Reinagle, but all of the music for such productions perished when an arsonist burnt down the Chestnut Street in 1820. That leaves two works of the early nineteenth century to answer our curiosity about such milestones, Boston-born actor/composer John Bray's 1808 effort "The Indian Princess" and older, English-born composer Raynor Taylor's "The Ethiop" 1814, both of which were originally heard at Chestnut Street as well. These performances are given by the Federal Music Society Opera Company, a varied incarnation of the same group that also produced New World's far better known Music of the Federal Era recording, also in 1978. The form indicated by the term of "American Musical Theater" didn't come into existence until "The Black Crook" 1866, and at least on the front cover, both of these works are referred to as operas, though neither quite qualify for such designation. Bray's "The Indian Princess" was described by its composer as an "opera-melodrama" and this is correct; it's an opera containing some measure of spoken dialogue. Taylor's "The Ethiop," by comparison, is essentially incidental music for a play, and the music consists of short instrumental interludes, an unusually fine overture, and set pieces -- duets, trios, and choruses -- for secondary cast members. The initial release of this recording in 1978 did absolutely nothing to enhance the reputation of the composers; Bray's only other known work, the comic opera "The Toothache" 1814, has never been revived, and while Taylor was a skilled composer who was prolific in a wide range of genres, his music has garnered little attention since. Although in his mid-sixties when he composed "The Ethiop," Taylor's music demonstrates he was on top of the latest developments in continental Europe, sounding more like Beethoven than self-professed "Beethoven of Louisville" Anthony Philip Heinrich, who first went into print a few years later. Bray's music is closer to the spirit of contemporary English opera composer William Shield, and unfortunately for him modern audiences have no familiarity with the specific style of opera that served as his model. Neither opera can be described as even close to being politically correct, "The Ethiop," at least, deals with a duplicitous Arab rather than a slave. However, they are amusing, delightful, and fun, and for the 1970s, the period-conscious Federal Music Project did a very good job realizing an appropriate historical milieu for these works, even if they have a hard time keeping the valve-less winds under control. There are points where the singers, too, might have benefited from an additional take or two; produced in the off-hours at Columbia by Max Wilcox and Andrew Raeburn, the recording as a whole is a little off their usual game, but it wasn't the usual kind of production. This disc remains essential to understanding what kind of entertainment was enjoyed by the urban, well-heeled resident of Philadelphia in the first decades of the nineteenth century. This was a period where America was overwhelmingly rural, boundaries, laws, the disposition of currency remained uncertain, and the nation was still skirmishing with both Native American tribes and agents of the mother country. However, 30 years after it was made, New World's John Bray: The Indian Princess/Raynor Taylor: The Ethiop is also valuable as a document of a thoroughly worthy musicological endeavor that -- rather like the NASA Space Exploration Program of the 1970s -- simply ceased to exist for some reason and was never followed up.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 8/6/1996
  • Label: New World Records
  • UPC: 093228023227
  • Catalog Number: 80232

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1–12 Indian Princess, the - John Bray & John Baldon (29:26)
    Composed byJohn Bray
    Conducted byJohn Baldon
    Performed byJohn Baldon, Susan Belling, Alan G. Moore, Debra Vanderlinde, Michael Best, Judith Otten, Richard Andersson, John Mack Ousley, Joseph Porrello, Federal Music Society Opera Company Chorus, Federal Music Society Opera Orchestra
    1. 1Act 1. Chorus
    2. 2Act 1. Song. Ever, Ever Cheery!
    3. 3Act 1. Song. Och! Hubbaboo! Gramachree! HonE!
    4. 4Act 1. Dialogue; Quartetto
    5. 5Act 1. Finale to the First Act
    6. 6Act 2. Incidental Music to Act Two, Scene 2. Smith brought in prisoner; Smith is led to the block;
    7. 7Act 2. Song. Fair Geraldine
    8. 8Act 2. Glee. Without A Penny Of Money
    9. 9Act 2. Song. When The Midnight Of Absence
    10. 10Act 2. Song. Careless Ned
    11. 11Act 2. Song. Captain Smith
    12. 12Act 2. Finale
  2. 13–28 The Ethiop, opera - Raynor Taylor & John Baldon (27:51)
    Composed byRaynor Taylor
    Conducted byJohn Baldon
    Performed byJohn Baldon, Alan G. Moore, Debra Vanderlinde, Charles Long, R. Sebastian Russ, Federal Music Society Opera Company Chorus, Federal Music Society Opera Orchestra
    1. 13Overture
    2. 14Symphony. While Cephania comes on in her barge
    3. 15Chorus. Queen of the East
    4. 16Air. The Camel's Bell
    5. 17Trio. Mighty Man! If I Surrender
    6. 18Duet. How Boon Are The Hours
    7. 19Chorus. The Bezestein
    8. 20Musical Coloquy
    9. 21Subteranean Chorus
    10. 22Chorus. Address of conspirators to Orasmyn
    11. 23Accompanied Recitative. Nourreddin at the top of the catacomb
    12. 24Chorus. Solo, Semi-Chorus, and Chorus of Conspirators
    13. 25Pas Seul
    14. 26Song. Corner Houses
    15. 27Air. These Keys Can A Treasure Unfold
    16. 28Finale
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
John Baldon Primary Artist
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