Curtis Institute celebrates music of alum Samuel Barber

    One of the 20th century’s significant composers is being remembered today for his 100th birthday. Samuel Barber was born in West Chester in 1910, studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and went on to win two Pulitzers.

    One of the 20th century’s significant composers is being remembered today for his 100th birthday. Samuel Barber was born in West Chester in 1910, studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and went on to win two Pulitzers. From WHYY’s Arts and Culture desk, Peter Crimmins reports he had his ups and downs.

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    Samuel Barber’s mournful Adagio for Strings is beloved by many, frequently turning up in concert halls and in movies. But his opera Antony and Cleopatra has its own infamy.

    The 1966 premiere at the New York Metropolitan Opera house was as disastrous as a Spinal Tap performance. There were too many people on stage, the set broke down, and, reportedly, a soprano got trapped in a pyramid.

    David Ludwig, who teaches composition at the Curtis Institute of Music, says the music didn’t go down with the ship.

    Ludwig: That piece got really overloaded by its own production – it was a great blow to his ego. Writing opera is like a novel – it takes years of a composer’s time. It got a lot of bed press – but he thought it was some of the best music he had written.

    Students from the Curtis will perform a full production of Antony and Cleopatra on March 17, 18, and 19 at the Kimmel Center. On Barber’s birthday the Curtis students will perform an orchestral program.

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