[Bliss, Arthur. (1891-1975)]

"The Olympians" - Original 1949 Opening Night Program

Original program from the September 29, 1949 premiere at the Royal Opera House of Arthur Bliss' opera The Olympians. Conducted by Karl Rankl and produced by Peter Brook, the opera starred Murray Dickie and Edith Coates. 4 pp. Heavy horizontal folding crease with a slight edge tear and light soiling; overall in very good condition. 8.5 x 11.25 inches (21.6 x 28.5 cm).

Towards the end of the Second World War, Bliss asked author J. B. Priestly for suggestions for an opera libretto. Priestley found in his notebooks an idea for a story about the legend of gods becoming strolling players. He enjoyed a good collaboration with the composer, only meeting three or four times and otherwise corresponding about the opera. Bliss insisted on irregular lines to set. Years later, Priestley reflected that to describe the first night as under-rehearsed was one of the "understatements of the last half-century". He claimed that Rankl had not taken the score away for the summer to study and that Rankl and Brook were not on speaking terms and communicated by passing notes between them. There was also insufficient rehearsal time: the first act was well rehearsed, Act 2 was barely adequate, and the third was like "charades". British music writer E. J. Dent nonetheless lauded the work's "masterly" orchestration and the opportunities for singers to show their voices off. (14316)

Program, unsigned