World Premiere Recording of Deems Taylor’s Peter Ibbetson

On July 28, Naxos of America and Seattle Symphony release the world premiere recording of Deems Taylor‘s 1931 opera Peter Ibbetson. Recorded live in Benaroya Hall, this concert performance features Music Director Gerard Schwarz conducting Seattle Symphony, and star tenor Anthony Dean Griffey in the title role, with soprano Lauren Flanigan as Mary, Duchess of Towers, and baritone Richard Zeller as Colonel Ibbetson.

Peter Ibbetson’s triumphant Metropolitan Opera premiere in 1931 featured an all-star cast that included American baritone (and movie actor) Lawrence Tibbett as Colonel Ibbetson; Canadian tenor-and later the Metropolitan Opera’s general manager-Edward Johnson in the title role; and Spanish soprano Lucrezia Bori as Duchess of Towers. Peter Ibbetson received 22 performances over four seasons from 1931 to 1936, a record for an American opera it held until Porgy and Bess entered the Metropolitan Opera’s repertory in 1985. Peter Ibbetson was such a commercial success in its day that Johnson, after becoming the Metropolitan Opera’s General Manager in May of 1935, commented that the money it generated during the Great Depression helped keep the company afloat.

The story, based on the novel by George Du Maurier, is of two star-crossed lovers who escape together to a mystical “dream world.” Immensely popular in the 1930s, the story inspired several a Broadway play starring John Barrymore and a Hollywood film starring Gary Cooper, in addition to Taylor’s successful opera.

Composer Deems Taylor was one of America’s most prominent musical figures in the 1920s-30s, and served as the president of ASCAP for six years; in 1967, ASCAP established the Deems Taylor award, which honors books, articles, broadcasts, and websites on the subject of music, in his memory. Taylor still is known to millions as the host of the original Disney Fantasia movie.

This is the first-ever commercial release for Peter Ibbetson, recorded in Benaroya Hall in 1999. Additional cast members on this disc include bass Charles Robert Austin, sopranos Terri Richter and Erin Clark, mezzo-sopranos Lori Summers, Emily Lunde, and Carolyn Gronlund, tenor Paul Gudas, baritone Barry Johnson, and bass Eugene Buchholz.