Tuesday, August 18, 2020

100 Years Later: All The American (Operatic) Ties To Susan B. Anthony

The original "Iron Lady": Susan B. Anthony
On this day 100 years ago in America, the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified which began to pave the way for all women's right to vote. One of the most profound leaders in the suffrage movement was Susan B. Anthony. Her name and legacy would have influence that delved even into the opera world. Let's being at the beginning."[Susan Anthony was] born into a Quaker family committed to social equality, she collected anti-slavery petitions at the age of 17. In 1856, she became the New York state agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society. In 1851, she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who became her lifelong friend and co-worker in social reform activities, primarily in the field of women's rights. In 1852, they founded the New York Women's State Temperance Society after Anthony was prevented from speaking at a temperance conference because she was female. In 1863, they founded the Women's Loyal National League, which conducted the largest petition drive in United States history up to that time, collecting nearly 400,000 signatures in support of the abolition of slavery. In 1866, they initiated the American Equal Rights Association, which campaigned for equal rights for both women and African Americans. In 1868, they began publishing a women's rights newspaper called The Revolution. In 1869, they founded the National Woman Suffrage Association as part
A Century Ago: Parade for Voting Rights
of a split in the women's movement. In 1890, the split was formally healed when their organization merged with the rival American Woman Suffrage Association to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with Anthony as its key force. In 1876, Anthony and Stanton began working with Matilda Joslyn Gage on what eventually grew into the six-volume History of Woman Suffrage. The interests of Anthony and Stanton diverged somewhat in later years, but the two remained close friends. In 1872, Anthony was arrested for voting in her hometown of Rochester, New York, and convicted in a widely publicized trial. Although she refused to pay the fine, the authorities declined to take further action. In 1878, Anthony and Stanton arranged for Congress to be presented with an amendment giving women the right to vote. Introduced by Sen. Aaron A. Sargent (R-CA), it later became known colloquially as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. It was eventually ratified as the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. Anthony traveled extensively in support of women's suffrage, giving as many as 75 to 100 speeches per year and working on many state campaigns. She worked internationally for women's rights, playing a key role in creating the International Council of Women, which is still active. She also helped to bring about the World's Congress of Representative Women at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. When she first began campaigning for
Minted Pride: Anthony's Coin
women's rights, Anthony was harshly ridiculed and accused of trying to destroy the institution of marriage. Public perception of her changed radically during her lifetime, however. Her 80th birthday was celebrated in the White House at the invitation of President William McKinley. She became the first female citizen to be depicted on U.S. coinage when her portrait appeared on the 1979 dollar coin." She was also the inspiration for an opera! "The Mother of Us All is a two-act opera composed by Virgil Thomson to a libretto by Gertrude Stein. She wrote the libretto in the winter of 1945–46, sending it to Thomson in March of 1946; he began the score that October, shortly after Stein's death in July, and completed it early in 1947. The opera chronicles the life of Susan B. Anthony, one of the major figures in the fight for women's suffrage in the United States. In fanciful style, it brings together characters, fictional and non-fictional, from different periods of American history. The opera premiered on 7 May 1947 at Columbia University's Brander Matthews Hall with soprano Dorothy Dow as Susan B. Anthony. Soprano Shirlee Emmons was awarded an Obie Award for her portrayal of Susan B. Anthony in the 1956 Off-Broadway production. The Santa Fe Opera mounted the work in 1976
Recorded History: Santa Fe Performance
and released a recording of the work the following year on the New World Records label. The European premiere took place in Kensington Town Hall in London on 26 June 1979. The New York City Opera staged a production in 2000 with Lauren Flanigan as Susan B. Anthony. In 2003, San Francisco Opera opened its 80th anniversary season with a new production of The Mother of Us All, Luana DeVol assuming the role of Susan B. Anthony for the first time." The American soprano Dorothy Dorow, who created the title role of the opera, was known internationally for her talent. "Dorothy Dow (8 October 1920 – 26 February 2005) was an American classical dramatic soprano who had an active international career in concerts, operas, and recitals during the 1940s through the 1960s. After retiring from the stage in 1968, she embarked on a second career as an academic. Dow was born in Houston, Texas. She studied at the Juilliard School in New York City, graduating with a
Dorothy Dorow rehearsing with Carl-Axel Dominique
bachelor's degree in vocal performance in 1942. She quickly became one of the leading concert sopranos in the United States, singing with orchestras throughout the country and giving a number of highly lauded recitals. She made her first appearance on the opera stage in Buffalo, New York as Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana in 1946. Her first major critical success was singing the role of Brünnhilde in a concert version of Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy in 1947. As an opera singer, Dow's career was more centered in Europe than in the United States. She was engaged at the Zürich Opera from 1948 to 1950. She was a frequent guest at La Scala during the 1950s and 1960s, singing there Chrysothemis in Richard Strauss's Elektra, Elisabeth in Wagner's Tannhäuser, the title role in La Gioconda, Judith in Bluebeard's Castle, Marie in Wozzeck and Cressida in William Walton's Troilus and Cressida among other roles. In 1952 she made her first appearance at the Glyndebourne Festival as Lady Macbeth in Giuseppe Verdi's Macbeth. She returned to Glyndebourne the following year to sing the title role in Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos. In 1954 she sang Irmengard in Spontini’s Agnes von Hohenstaufen at Teatro della Pergola. In
One of Dorothy Dorow's many recordings
1955 she sang the role of Renata in a critically acclaimed production of Sergei Prokofiev's The Fiery Angel at La Fenice. Although Dow made few opera appearances in the United States, the ones she did make were notable. In May 1947, she portrayed the role of Susan B. Anthony in the world premiere of Virgil Thomson’s The Mother of Us All at Columbia University’s Branders Matthews Hall. In 1951 she sang the Woman in the United States premiere of Arnold Schoenberg’s Erwartung in Washington, D.C. In 1968 Dow retired from her singing career. She embarked on a second career as an academic, earning further degrees in history and humanities from the University of Texas at Austin, Columbia University and New York University. She joined the faculty at Rutgers University where she taught history for many years. She died in Galveston, aged 84." Decades later, a soprano would emerge from the midwest with the original suffragette's namesake. "Michigan-born Susan Anthony has established a reputation as one of the world’s leading sopranos. Twice named 'Singer of the Year' by Opernwelt for her performance of Maria in Strauss' Friedenstag in Dresden, and for her interpretation of Genievre in the seldom performed Chausson opera, Le Roi Arthus , she is a much sought-after guest artist in the world’s major opera houses, including Paris National Opera, La Scala Milan, Bavarian State Opera, Vienna State Opera, Berlin State Opera, Dresden Semperoper, Tokyo New National Theater and New York City Opera. The central focus of her
Namesake: The soprano carrying on a tradition
repertoire is in the young dramatic and she has won acclaim with critics and audiences alike for her sensitive and technically assured performances of roles such as Salome, Sieglinde, Leonore (Fidelio), the Kaiserin, Ariadne and Senta. Equally at home on the concert stage, she has performed with such notable Maestri as James Conlon, Daniel Barenboim, Sir Colin Davis, Zubin Mehta, Ricardo Muti, Giuseppi Sinopoli and Wolfgang Sawallisch. Recent appearances have included an "intensely dramatic" Marietta in New York City Opera's staging of Die Tote Stadt, and a 'glowing' Senta in Barcelona. Salome in Amsterdam garnered rave reviews and her interpretation of Die Liebe der Danae during the recent Strauss festival in Dresden impressed international audiences and critics. Upcoming engagements include her debut as Ortrud in a new production of Lohengrin in Karlsruhe, Germany, Masterclasses in Detmold and Stuttgart, as well as diverse concert appearances. Between engagements, the busy soprano schedules as much teaching as possible, most recently as adjunct Professor of Voice at the prestigious Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana." 

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