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Music: Duetting Cow

2 minute read

A philosophic cow which not only sings falsetto and bass but also performs duets with itself will next November join that operatic zoo which includes the lyrical Forest Bird and the Dragon Fafner in Wagner’s Siegfried; the Cock in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Coq d’Or and the Fishes in his Sadko; the Frog-Man in Respighi’s Sunken Bell. This cow, it was announced last week, is a character in Jack and the Beanstalk, a new opera composed by Louis Gruenberg to the libretto of Author-Professor-Pianist John Erskine. First of a projected series of native U. S. operas, it will be presented by students of Manhattan’s Juilliard School of Music, of which Author Erskine is president.

Described as a “fairy opera for the childlike,” Jack and the Beanstalk is retold in the naively sophisticated manner which Author Erskine found profitable in his novel The Private Life of Helen of Troy. Jack, a soprano, loses gold, a hen and a magic harp to a Gargantuan bass giant. An old woman tricks him out of his faithful cow, burlesqued by two bassos who lyricize fore & aft. The harridan gives him a handful of beans which grow into the familiar beanstalk; he retrieves his treasures from the giant, who at last turns out to be an inflated rubber figure. The old lady by stages becomes a beauteous princess whom Jack marries and installs in his restored ancestral castle.

Modern, colorful, technically difficult, Jack and the Beanstalk is announced as an “all-American” opera. Its young singers and Conductor Albert Stoessel are U. S.-born; Composer Gruenberg is nearly native. Born in Russia 48 years ago, he arrived in the U. S. at the age of two, has lived there since save when traveling and studying in Europe under the late great Pianist Ferruccio Busoni. In 1921 he won Philanthropist Harry Harkness Flagler’s $1.000 prize with Hill of Dreams for orchestra; last year he was one of the winners of the Victor symphonic award.

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