New Orleans Opera Association Archives

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“The date of the very first staging of opera in the New Orleans cannot be firmly established and seems forever lost to music historians, but it can safely be stated that since 1796, in the final decade of the Spanish colonial era, New Orleans has had operatic performances on almost a yearly basis. With few exceptions throughout the nineteenth century, each year the city hosted a resident company which was engaged for its principal theatre and which could be depended upon for performances throughout an established operatic season…

Welcome though these sporadic appearances were, what the city needed was a return to a permanent company, with a fixed operatic season. Determined to meet this challenge, in February 1943 a group of music lovers, led by Walter L. Loubat (1885-1945), drew up a charter creating the New Orleans Opera House Association. An inaugural summer season of open air performances, billed as “Opera under the Stars”, in City Park stadium was planned. The inaugural bill of Cavalleria rusticana/Pagliacci (June 11/12, 1943) was followed by three other works.  Amelio Colantoni served as artistic director; former Metropolitan Opera conductor Louis Hasselmans was recruited from nearby Louisiana State University’s faculty; and Lelia Haller, a New Orleanian who had danced with the Paris Opéra ballet, began the training of a resident corps de ballet.   The initial season scored a success, but the ever present threat of evening showers in semi tropical New Orleans prompted a move indoors to the Municipal Auditorium that autumn.  The concert hall of the Auditorium remained home for the Opera Association until the inauguration of the Theatre of Performing Arts in 1973.”

Jack Belsom, “A History of Opera in New Orleans.”

Here at Monroe Library’s Special Collections and Archives, we house a huge collection of programs, donated by the New Orleans Opera Association, dating back to that first performance “under the stars” in 1943. I have been lucky enough to have been allotted the task of digitizing this collection. Flipping through the beautifully vintage pages of these programs, one can recognize Loyola Alums credited as both chorus members and singing roles. Sarah Jane McMahon (’02), Norman Treigle (51’) and Bryan Hymel (’01) are just a few of the many recognizable names you can find. You can even find the names of superstars like Walter Cassel, Robert Weede, Eugene Conley, Lawrence Tibbett, Gabor Carelli and many more. Each program includes bios about the composers, conductors and singers involved in each performance, as well as a synopsis of the opera(s) being performed, and provides a neat insight to the life of those musicians. They also include some very hip ads from the time: a piano company that was based in New Orleans, local restaurants and eateries, clothing and jewelry stores, home radios, cars, theatres, etc…

Once the collection is digitized it will be made available and accessible through the SCA webpage. In the meantime, if you desire to hold one of these pieces of operatic history in your own hands, the same pieces of paper that were held by the hands of who-knows-who (perhaps a few of today’s New Orleans-hailing opera stars from their student days), then come by the Booth-Bricker Special Collections and Archives Reading Room on the third floor of Monroe Library to consult with one of our archivists. We will be happy to help!

This post was compiled by student worker Dylan J. Tran.

Found in the Archives is a recurring series of crazy cool stuff found in the Monroe Library’s Special Collections & Archives.

#howtotuesday: Prevent Yellow Fever

#howtotuesday: Prevent Yellow Fever

Above: sanitary map of the city of New Orleans

Yellow Fever, sometimes called Yellow Jack or Yellow Plague, is a viral disease transmitted to humans by the bite of female mosquitoes of the Aedes aegypti species. Most cases of Yellow Fever cause mild symptoms including fever, headache, and chills; however, approximately 15% of cases develop into toxic, severe stages of recurring fever, jaundice (yellowing of the skin) due to liver damage, abdominal pain, vomiting, and internal bleeding.

The city of New Orleans was plagued by several epidemics of Yellow Fever during the 19th century, the most deadly in 1853. Sadly, in a single year, 7,849 residents of New Orleans (population: 154,000) succumbed to the illness.

The Yellow Fever epidemic of 1853 led to further study of the viral disease and publication of The Cause and Prevention of Yellow Fever at New Orleans and Other Cities in America, a text investigating “the origin and mode of transmission of the great epidemic of last year, together with all causes affecting the salubrity of the city.”

The publication includes eight foldouts, each employing a map or chart to illustrate data.

Above: chart exhibiting the annual mortality of New Orleans

Local researchers conducted many experiments in an attempt to control the epidemic, including but not limited to, purifying the air by burning tar and firing canons throughout the city (a method only employed once). After identifying mosquitoes as the transmitters of Yellow Fever, efforts were launched to control the breeding of insects, particularly through extensive sanitation–an endeavor largely responsible for ending the crisis.

Interested in learning more about the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1853? Visit us in Monroe Library’s Special Collections & Archives Monday-Thursday, 9:00-4:30 or Friday, 9:00-12:00 where The Cause and Prevention of Yellow Fever at New Orleans and Other Cities in America and additional texts (like this one) are available for viewing!

I hope each of you have a wonderful holiday weekend (and don’t forget to wear a bit of bug spray)!

Found in the Archives is a recurring series of crazy cool stuff found in the Monroe Library’s Special Collections & Archives.

Happy birthday, Prufrock

T. S. Eliot’s seminal poem “The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock” was published 100 years ago this month. “Prufrock” made its first appearance in the June 1915 issue of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. That original publication can be viewed online at Brown University’s Modernist Journals Project. The poem was later published in 1917′s Prufrock and Other Observations and has since been included in most collections of Eliot’s work.

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Special Collections has a number of works by Eliot in the Robert Giroux Collection of 20th century American writers. Pictured above is the first page of the poem in Poems 1909-1925.

This particular copy, like many other works in this collection, was signed by Giroux.

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To see this, and other works by and about T.S. Eliot, visit the Booth-Bricker Special Collections & Archives Reading Room Monday-Thursday, 9:00-4:30 and Friday, 9:00-12:00.

SCA Shelves

Found in the Archives is a recurring series of crazy cool stuff found in the Monroe Library’s Special Collections & Archives.

Beachcombing in the Archive

Even though the official start of summer isn’t till Sunday, the creeping thermometer mercury is already making getting to the beach a priority for many. Being able to cool down in some water and relax is enjoyable… Yet, experiencing the details of the seashore can often bring delight.

The scurrying of hermit crabs, witnessing dolphin acrobatics out from shore, building sand castles, or beachcombing for seashells, driftwood and sea glass enchant the beach goer turned weekend naturalist.

In this spirit and appreciation for the flora and fauna of the seashore, today I offer you some illustrations of shell fossils.

These are from the Report on the Agriculture and Geology of Mississippi By, B.LC. Wailes. Wailes was the Geologist of Mississippi when this was published in 1854.

These lithographs document the shell fossil deposits found a good 160 miles from the Gulf Shore.

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Many of these fossils where found in strata revealed during the construction of railroads or the quarrying of stone for building in the area.

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With sharks teeth being found in the strata of a quarry eight miles south of Jackson and large sea mollusks in a creek bed emptying into the Pearl River.

You can also beat the heat by visiting our Special Collections & Archives Booth-Bricker Reading Room to view this book and comb through other interesting volumes on the Gulf Coast region Monday – Thursday, 9:00 – 4:30 and Friday, 9:00 – 12:00.

Here is musical lagniappe from the Beach Boys. Enjoy!

Community and Resilience

Community and Resilience: A Participatory Exhibit

As part of the 2015-2016 Common Experience surrounding the documentary film Bury the Hatchet, you are invited to submit materials for inclusion in Community and Resilience: A Participatory Exhibit, which will appear in Monroe Hall, 1st floor, from August 2015 – May 2016.

More information is available on the Common Experience website.

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Recent Acquisitions: Fine Press & Artists’ Books

Special Collections & Archives proudly presents Recent Acquisitions: Fine Press & Artists’ Books!

Curated to highlight several exciting new additions to our book collection, Recent Acquisitions: Fine Press & Artists’ Books features the work of five contemporary artisans who uniquely reimagine text, illustration, and “book” form to create engaging works of art.

The exhibition is on view in the Booth-Bricker Special Collections & Archives Reading Room through July 31, 2015.

As always, all are welcome to join us in Special Collections & Archives Monday-Thursday, 9:00-4:30 and Friday, 9:00-12:00.

Special Collections & Archives Projects Assistant, Rachel, installing the exhibition.

Fine Press & Artists’ Books

So, what exactly are Fine Press & Artists’ books?

Artists’ books harmoniously combine content (both the written word and visual imagery), design, and form to share a message. Artists’ books can employ a wide range of forms, including, but not limited to, scrolls, foldouts, accordion style pleating, or loose items contained in a box.

Simply stated, Artists’ books are not books about art—they are art expressed in book form.

A Spring Garden

Similarly, Fine Press books, often valuable and intrinsically beautiful, harken back to centuries preceding the advent of mass production. They are composed of artist-selected content and are created on a small scale, with a limited number of copies.

A Sound Beyond – Un suono al di là

Both Fine Press & Artists’ books are generally printed on high-quality paper using equipment controllable by a single individual, usually a hand operated press.

Interested in learning more? Visit the Booth-Bricker Special Collections & Archives Reading Room over the next seven weeks to view this summer’s Special Collections & Archives exhibition, Recent Acquisitions: Fine Press  & Artists’ Books!

Found in the Archives is a recurring series of crazy cool stuff found in the Monroe Library’s Special Collections & Archives.

Frankenstein Photos Found!

Today we take a look at a few interesting photographs we found while processing some of our University Archives images. These are from a drama department rehearsal for a production of Frankenstein in 1994.

The performance looks to have been a dynamic interpretation of the classic and fabled story written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly in 1818.

I did some preliminary research and was unable to find if a particular play was used for the basis of this performance.

The physicality in these photos does indicate perhaps that the direction was informed by The Living Theater version first performed in 1965.

The Living Theater production was known for being created collectively by the performers as well as for its inventive staging using a large scaffold.

Do any of our former drama students, faculty, or alumni remember this production? If so, please let us know in the comments.

Remember to check out our Research Guide for Theater and Dance and feel free to come check out the Special Collections and Archives this summer from 9-4:30 Monday through Friday and if you would like to see more images of Loyola’s past please visit our Digital Archives 24 hours a day.

“The dislocation of man in the modern age”

He was a novelist, a philosopher, a scholar, a professor, and a legend.

Walker Percy, born in 1916 in Alabama, didn’t begin his life as any of these things.  In fact, in 1937, he graduated from the University of North Carolina with a B.A. in Chemistry and went on to graduate from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in 1941.

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Twenty years later and his still-lasting legacy was born with the publication of his first novel, The Moviegoer, which won the National Book Award for Fiction.

He moved to Covington, Louisiana with his wife and went on to write a handful of books, fiction and nonfiction, ranging from topics of philosophy to semiotics to religion to science to life in the South.

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However, “the dislocation of man in the modern age” was what Percy called the overarching theme of his works.

While balancing his fight with tuberculosis, and eventually cancer, with his career as a published author, Percy taught and mentored young writers here at Loyola.

During his time here, he was one of the key members in getting John Kennedy Toole’s novel A Confederacy of Dunces published in 1980, more than a decade after Toole’s death. The novel went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

After the passing of both he (1990) and his wife, Mary (2012), a special collection was started in Monroe Library’s Archives dedicated to the life and works of Walker Percy.

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Including everything from handwritten notes and speeches to collected articles he authored to correspondents with other noteworthy authors to the checks he and his wife wrote on a daily basis, the entirety of the compilation spans across five different collections donated to Archives by both loved ones and collectors.

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Novelist Francine du Plessix Gray called Walker Percy, “our greatest Catholic novelist since Flannery O’Connor.” Many since agree.

If you’d live to find out for yourself and check out any of the Walker Percy collection, all of the materials are available for viewing in Monroe Library’s Special Collections & Archives Monday-Thursday, 9:00-4:30.

Found in the Archives is a recurring series of crazy cool stuff found in the Monroe Library’s Special Collections & Archives.

This post was compiled by student worker Mary Graci.

World’s Worst Singer?

“Some may say that I couldn’t sing, but no can say that I didn’t sing.”

So said Florence Foster Jenkins, considered by some to be the worst soprano the world has ever seen. The brief celebrity of the “Diva of Din” was a pre-American Idol example of the public ironically supporting the less-than-talented. Though the facts of Jenkins’ early life are much debated, what is known is that she was a wealthy socialite who funded her own debut at Carnegie Hall in 1944. 5,000 people showed up for a 3,000 seat venue, and scalpers were able to sell their two-dollar tickets for $20. Her triumph was short-lived as she passed away only a month later.

In 1946, the Melotone Recording Studio published a brochure about Jenkins written by Milton Bendiner. The brochure includes quotes from the press as well as Jenkins’ supposed complete discography.

One excerpt in the brochure details Earl Wilson of the New York Post discussing Jenkins with her PR rep.

“I asked her personal representative, Sinclair Bayfeld, ‘Why?’

‘She loves music,’ he said.

‘If she loves music, why does she do this?’ I asked.

He said she uses proceeds to assist young artists and, incidentally, she walked away with about 4 G’s last night. Maybe the joke’s on us. None of us walked away from that with anything except a dizziness, a headache, and a ringing in the ears.”

Just how bad was Florence Foster Jenkins? You be the judge. Two of her most “famed” performances were of Mozart’s “Queen of the Night” aria and Delibes’ “Bell Song.” You can also listen to Jenkins’ album The Glory (????) of the Human Voice through Loyola’s Naxos subscription.

Jenkins’ life has inspired two plays, Souvenir and  Glorious!: The True Story of Florence Foster Jenkins, the Worst Singer in the World, and an upcoming movie starring Meryl Streep.

This pamphlet can be viewed in Special Collections & Archives or in the Louisiana Digital Library.

Found in the Archives is a recurring series of crazy cool stuff found in the Monroe Library’s Special Collections & Archives.