Verdi at the Golden Gate: Opera and San Francisco in the Gold Rush Years

Overview

Opera is a fragile, complex art, but it flourished extravagantly in San Francisco during the Gold Rush years, a time when daily life in the city was filled with gambling, duels, murder, and suicide.
In the history of the United States there has never been a rougher town than Gold Rush San Francisco, yet there has never been a greater frenzy for opera than developed there in these exciting years.

How did this madness for opera take root and ...

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Overview

Opera is a fragile, complex art, but it flourished extravagantly in San Francisco during the Gold Rush years, a time when daily life in the city was filled with gambling, duels, murder, and suicide.
In the history of the United States there has never been a rougher town than Gold Rush San Francisco, yet there has never been a greater frenzy for opera than developed there in these exciting years.

How did this madness for opera take root and grow? Why did the audience's generally drunken, brawling behavior gradually improve? How and why did Verdi emerge as the city's favorite composer? These are the intriguing themes of George Martin's enlightening and wonderfully entertaining story. Among the incidents recounted are the fist fight that stopped an opera performance and ended in a fatal duel; and the brothel madam who, by sitting in the wrong row of a theater, caused a fracas that resulted in the formation of the Vigilantes of 1856.

Martin weaves together meticulously gathered social, political, and musical facts to create this lively cultural history. His study contributes to a new understanding of urban culture in the Jacksonian–Manifest Destiny eras, and of the role of opera in cities during this time, especially in the American West. Over it all soars Verdi's somber, romantic music, capturing the melancholy, the feverish joy, and the idealism of his listeners.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520081239
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 8/17/1993
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

George Martin is the author of many books about Verdi and opera generally, among them The Opera Companion (fourth edition, 1991) and Verdi, His Music, Life and Times (fourth edition, 1992). He lives and writes in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Foreword
Preface
Acknowledgments
Prologue 1
I Toward a Theatre 9
II The First Opera 18
III The Celebrity Sopranos 32
IV More of Ernani; and the First Resident Company 44
V Anna Bishop and Judith (Nabucco) 50
VI Ernani, Nabucco, I Lombardi, and I due Foscari 67
VII Economic Decline, Il trovatore in Excerpts, and the Vigilantes of 1856 89
VIII Magyar, His Opera House, and the Bianchis 109
IX Il trovatore Premiered; Ernani Revived 125
X The Bianchis Produce La traviata and Attila 140
XI Theatrical Scenery and Styles; Traviata and the New Realism 153
XII A Duel, and a Period of Operatic Doldrums 164
XIII Success of the Magyar-Lyster Company, and Failure of Rigoletto 176
XIV The Annus mirabilis: San Francisco Mad for Opera 189
Epilogue 201
Appendix A: Opera Premieres in San Francisco 1851 Through 1860, with Theatre, Cast, and Number of Performances 213
Appendix B: Chief Theatres for Opera in San Francisco, 1851-60 227
Appendix C: Transpositions and Tuning A in San Francisco 233
Appendix D: Verdi's Operas: World, Western Hemisphere, United States, and San Francisco Premieres, with Casts for San Francisco 237
Appendix E: Reviews of San Francisco Premieres and Early Performances of Macbeth, I masnadieri, and Luisa Miller 247
Appendix F: Performances of Verdi's Operas in San Francisco by Decade, 1851 Through 1899 253
Notes 257
Works Cited 303
Index 309
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