Tag: opera (page 1 of 16)

Oedipe à Colone, Napoli, Cambridge

A recent discovery at the Loeb Music Library came about as a result of the domino effect of space issues.

Last year we accessioned a series of Chinese music which was best housed in the music library,  Mus 549.601. Beautifully cataloged by our own Lingwei Qiu, the series was entirely in Chinese, and therefore needed the added discoverability of storage within the library. Finding space, however, required a larger weeding project. Sandi-Jo Malmon, our collections development librarian, worked with fellow librarian Bob Dennis to target librettos which could be moved to offsite storage, thus freeing up space for the Chinese collection.

In preparing the librettos for offsite storage, a number were targeted for revised cataloging and placement within the Merritt collection, as they were much older, rare editions, or had an interesting provenance.  One work, originally targeted for inclusion in Merritt as a first edition Italian language libretto of Sacchini’s Oedipe à Colone, presented some surprises.

This Italian translation of the libretto for Antonio Sacchini's Edippo a Colono was published in Naples, Italy in 1817.

Merritt Mus 575.156. Nicola François Guillard, Oedipe à Colone.

The work was donated by Col. Charles W. Folsom (1826-1904) of Cambridge in 1874 (he was an 1845 Harvard College alumnus). Charles W. Folsom’s father Charles Folsom (1794-1872) was an alumnus of the Harvard Divinity School, and is the central figure of this story.

After earning his divinity degree from Harvard, the elder Folsom served as a chaplain in the Navy, stationed on the Washington, then in the Mediterranean. His duties also serving as tutor to the Washington midshipmen, a group that included a teenager named David G. Farragut (1801-1870). Farragut would go on to become the first admiral of the United States Navy, perhaps best known for his service in the Civil War as a flag officer, particularly in the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864. In the fall of 1817, after Folsom had been appointed American consul in Tunis, Farragut left the Washington to continue his studies with his tutor for an additional nine months.

Returning to our libretto, however, we learn that Farragut spent some time in the early part of 1817 in Italy. On the title page verso, we find Farragut’s signature, along with the place and date of the performance, Naples, Jan. 5th, 1817.

The libretto features the signature of the former owner.

Merritt Mus 575.156. Nicola François Guillard, Oedipe à Colone.

This libretto clearly found its way into the collection of the elder Folsom, with whom Farragut developed a lifelong friendship.

Folsom also served as a librarian at Harvard from 1823-1826, and taught Italian. Harvard would later receive donations of his work from his son and, later, a larger donation from his grandson in the 1920s, the Charles Folsom Papers, 1829-1855, now at Houghton Library.

Anne Adams, Music Cataloger, Loeb Music Library

Bibliography

Schneller, Robert J., Jr. Farragut: America’s First Admiral. Potomac Books, 2002.

Sears, John Randolph. David G. Farragut. George W. Jacobs & Company, 1905.

Much ado about nothing: searching for scores by women composers

This is the only known score of Etelinda, an opera in three acts by Mildred Marion.

Front cover of Ethelinda, the English vocal score of Mildred Marion Jessup's opera Ethelinda

Mus 742.902.601, Merritt Room

First performed in Florence in 1894, it was published in this vocal score version the following year. The libretto has been translated into English, and in the Music Library’s copy a second version of the finale laid in at the end is annotated, the Italian text restored by hand in red ink.

An alternate finale is laid in, annotated in red ink with the original Italian libretto.

Mus 742.902.601, Merritt Room

The score appears to have been self-published, as there is no publication information on the title page. It is enclosed in what is known as a publisher’s binding. The cover is paper, as opposed to the leather more commonly used in the first half of the nineteenth century for covering self-published scores. The composer’s name and the English title, generically stylized, ornament the front. As there are no other known copies of this score in library catalogues one wonders whether a small number were created for the composer and librettist to present as gifts; this copy is inscribed A’l Maestro Commendatore Tomagno avec les homages de A.E. Jessup. It was given in 2002 by Professor Emeritus John M. Ward.

Ethelinda title page inscribed by librettist.

Mus 742.902.601, Merritt Room

We happen to know a bit about both the librettist and the composer. The composer’s full name was Mildred Marion Jessup, previously Lady Mildred Marion Bowes-Lyon. She lived from 1868 to 1897, was raised in a musical family and in 1890 married Augustus Edward Jessup, an American businessman (and the librettist for Etelinda). She is listed in the Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women.

There are no parameters for searching library catalogs which reliably bring together musical works by women. Library of Congress Subject Headings does include the term Women composers but this is meant to be used to describe books which address music by women specifically, for example the excellent bibliographies in the Greenwood Press Music Reference Collection (see here for Helen Walker-Hill’s Piano Music by Black Women Composers then click on one of the subject headings at the end of the record, such as African American women composers or Women composers, Black to browse more subdivisions of this heading). Other subject searches that yield secondary literature are Feminism and music and Music by women composers (right between Music by Sultan composers and Music, Byzantine).

How, then, might we tease scores of music by women composers out of library systems? The absence of a publisher or a place of publication can be a clue. To take this record for Etelinda as a starting point, one technique would be to target these self-published or privately published scores. The terms s.l. and s.n., abbrevations of the Latin terms sine loco and sine nomine, were until 2013 used by Harvard Library catalogers to signal that no place of publication or publisher’s name could be seen or inferred. We now use the English-language terms place of publication not identified and publisher not identified in these situations. If there is a likely place of publication or publisher, then that is supplied in brackets, sometimes followed by a question mark, so any score upon which such research has been performed already by the cataloger would have escaped receiving an s.l. or s.n. or the English equivalents.

And, if we associate this sort of binding with the sort of composer who may not have achieved commercial prominence, we can further infer that a keyword search for binding, limited to scores, will generate at least a few interesting results. The complete results of that search are 33 items, of which four have female authorship (two composers, two compilers).

The sombre opening chords of Etelinda.

Mus 742.902.601, Merritt Room

It is likely that we will soon be able to search library catalogs and other databases by the gender of the composer and in fact the gender of any other person affiliated with a work.

RISM, the online inventory of musical sources, includes this information in its name authority records. Catalogers working in the back end of the database can filter search results by the gender of the composer (the choices are male, female and unknown). This filter isn’t available to users searching in the public interface but the data are there and theoretically actionable. Earlier this month, RISM made available a spreadsheet listing all 803 known women composers in the database.

The beginning of Act II, an intermezzo in G major.

Mus 742.902.601

The Linked Jazz Name List includes gender information, as well. And Resource Description and Access, the cataloging standard now in use at most American repositories, gives these instructions in its section 9.7.1.3, Recording Gender:

“Record a gender of the person, using an appropriate term in a language preferred by the agency creating the data.  Select a term from a standard list, if available.”

The third act, "organ within."

Mus 742.902.601, Merritt Room

A last, difficult but effective way to discover scores by female composers in a library catalog is simply to cross-reference between a list of known female composers and the catalog, painstakingly searching one name at a time. Here, for example, is IMSLP’s Women composers category.

But nowhere on this list do the names Marion, Bowes, Lyon or Jessup appear (although there is another Mildred).

Isham Memorial Library is the special collections unit within the Loeb Music Library. Many of its materials are in open stacks, with rare and unique items held in the locked Merritt Room. To view Merritt Room materials, use your Special Collections Request Account. As Isham is not always fully staffed it is advisable to wait for a confirmation message from a staff member before you plan your visit.

 

 

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