[Barber, Samuel. (1910-1981)] Copland, Browning, Elias, Bernstein, Graham, Robbins, Auden, Coward, Leinsdorf, Dorati, Kostelanetz, Reznik, Gish etc.
Collection of Letters and Telegrams to Samuel Barber from the Premieres of "Vanessa" and "Antony & Cleopatra"
A fascinating and important collection of autograph letters and telegrams to the important American composer, dating from the premieres of his two operas, Vanessa (1958), and Antony and Cleopatra (1966). Included are autograph letters from Aaron Copland, John Browning (who premiered Barber's Piano Concerto), Rosalind Elias (the original Erika in Vanessa and Charmain in Antony and Cleopatra), Ignace Strasvogel, and other friends and admirers, and telegrams from Leonard Bernstein, Martha Graham, Jerome Robbins, W. H. Auden, Noel Coward, and many others.
While Vanessa, with libretto by Menotti, won Barber the 1958 Pulitzer Prize for music, Antony and Cleopatra, written for the opening of the new Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center, was not well-received. Franco Zeffirelli, chosen to write the libretto and stage the opera, weighed down the production with over-the-top scenery, animals, and extras; technical difficulties marred the opening night. As Barber departed New York for Italy the very next morning, his years of success had for the most part come to an end. The 1966 letters to Barber reflect his unhappy state, with many of his friends consoling him over the bad reviews and assuring him that his music transcended the problems of staging.
88 telegrams sending best wishes and congratulations on the première of Vanessa in 1958, sent by W. H. Auden, Noel Coward, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, John Browning, Frank O'Hara, Stephen Spender, Martha Graham, Erich Leinsdorf, Antal Dorati, Andre Kostelanetz, Regina Reznik ("Your old Baroness"), Roberta Peters, G. Schirmer, Lillian Gish, Max Rudolf, Samuel Chotzinoff, the heads of ASCAP and NBC, and many other luminaries and friends.
3 letters about Vanessa, two ALS and one TLS, dated January 1958. One from Roberta Peters, celebrated Met coloratura, thanking Barber for sending her some music, mentioning that she is looking forward to learning Barber's song "Nuvoletta," and wishing him good luck for Vanessa, 2 pp.; one from Eleanor Belmont, a member of the Metropolitan Opera board, congratulating Barber on the premiere, 1 p.; and one from a music student, William Gordon, expressing his love for the opera and asking where he can obtain the score, 1 p. typed and undated.
19 letters, mostly autograph with one TLS, to Barber from before and after the 1966 premiere of Antony and Cleopatra. Dated September-November 1966. Letters are from: Ignace Strasfogel, 1 p; John Browning, 3 pp.; Rosalind Elias, 2 pp.; John Barrows, 1 p.; Aaron Copland, wishing Barber the best for the opening, 1 p. with original envelope; David Johnson, from Time-Life Records, 2 pp.; C. W. Bailey, 3 pp.; Dick, 1 p.; Ellie Frankfurter, 3 pp.; an unidentified correspondent in Russian, 1 p.; Nina Fassler, 1 p.; Lisette Lewis and another correspondent in one airmail letter from South Africa, 3 pp.; Andrew Chiappe, 2 pp.; Channing Way, Jr (a West Chester friend),1 p.; Katy Katsoyanis, mentioning Dimitri Mitropoulos, 1 p.; "Chandler," 1 p.; Edith Jackson (Barber's old school teacher from West Chester!), 2 pp.; Horace P. Halsing (from West Chester), 1 p.; Mrs. Henry Holt, 3 pp. Also included is one letter about the premiere addressed to "Bill" from "Ed" on the letterhead of the St. Thomas Aquinas Rectory, Chicago; and an envelope addressed to Barber (letter missing) from Sol Schoenbach, postmarked October 31, 1966.
Also included are 2 telegrams sent to Barber at the Metropolitan Opera House on the occasion of the premiere of Antony and Cleopatra. One is from an Ada Camillo congratulating Barber on behalf of all Cadegliano (Menotti's hometown in Lombardy). The other reads, "Love the story hated the music I think you are an American disgrace. Frank Terez (17)" - a comic reaction to Barber's music, but one that may have hit a nerve?