Monday Morning Post–Our Final Week Enjoying Eileen

We are about to finish our study of Victor Herbert’s operetta, Eileen, and more’s the pity too. This show was produced in 1917, and it represented both the pinnacle of his career as a composer and the final chapter in his glorious career. He would go on to write more operettas and songs for revues before his death in 1924, but he would never write another score like this. In 1915, he had heard Jerome Kern’s music and had correctly anticipated that his mantle would soon fall on Kern’s shoulders. For those of us who love Herbert, it is hard to say, “The King is dead.” On the other hand, because Kern is such a worthy successor, it is easier to say, “Long Live the King.”

It is hard to say goodbye to Herbert because he took the United States from obscurity into world prominence in musical theatre over a period from the late 1890’s to 1917. He was a generous man to new composers and founded ASCAP to protect the rights of all American composers. Composers such as Kern and Richard Rodgers benefitted from the compositional foundations created by Herbert. He is their father, and they are his children.

And I am taking a personal moment, with tears in my eyes, to send my love to a wonderful man and a great composer.

That said, let’s take a moment to outline the remaining music that we will cover today and the rest of this week. The musical selections are from the New World Records double CD we recorded in 2011 in the National Concert Hall in Dublin. It was a joy to record, and in many ways, it was a family affair. We worked with Joe Csibi and Jonathan Ford at Chapter Productions as the in-country producers, while Judy Sherman oversaw the entire process from rehearsal to final master. On one of my trips to Dublin, I was introduced by Jonathan and Joe to David Brophy, who later became our conductor, and Fionnuala Hunt, who later became our concert mistress. I also met Una Hunt, Fionnuala’s sister, who is the Mother of Rachel Kelly, our Rosie Flynn. I have stayed in touch with Una, one of Ireland’s great pianists, and David Brophy, the principal conductor of the RTE Concert Orchestra.

As part of my introductions, I met Veronica Dunne, one of the great vocal teachers in Europe; and we were pleased to have one of her students, Lynda Lee, play the role of Lady Maude in our recording. Dean Power, who plays opposite Rachel as her love interest, Dinny Doyle, is a multiple prize-winner at the Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition.

As you can see from the liner notes on the New World Records website (www.newworldrecords.org), our singers are classically trained, a necessity if one is to successfully sing Herbert’s music. Today, we will concentrate on Mary O’Sullivan’s excellent rendition of Act Two’s “When Love Awakes.” It is a difficult song to perform, because it requires the soprano to reach down into her lower register to provide the rich tones when she sings “For when love at last is waking, Like the dawn of a beautiful day.” Then she must scale up to an E above high C at the end of the song, as she and the chorus sing “Tell me, Love, that you love but me!”

This song is perhaps Herbert’s closest brush with the form and style of an operatic aria. Here is the youtube clip.

We will post the Spotify version shortly.

The rest of the week will focus on one of the greatest third acts in the history of operettas.

Tomorrow, we will cover the dueling melodies in Opening Act Three as Dinny sings an ode of appreciation to Lady Maude and she returns the compliment to her friends, “true sons of Erin!”

On Wednesday, we will feature one of the greatest love duets ever written, “Thine Alone.”

On Thursday, we will concentrate on Dinny as he leads the chorus in “The Irish Have a Great Day Tonight!”

On Friday, we will end with the Finale Ultimo, as Barry sings “When Ireland Stands Among the Nations of the World!”