In Search of Luise Adolpha Le Beau (Part II): An Estate in Ashes

In Search of Luise Adolpha Le Beau (Part II): An Estate in Ashes

Design: Elizabeth Van Os of Cavatina Creative

With the generous support of the Presser Foundation’s Presser Graduate Award, I traveled to Germany from late March until early June 2022 to compile and research the published and unpublished song repertoire of German Romantic-era composer Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927). This research will be integral to the completion of my DMA thesis/lecture recital project on Le Beau’s Lieder, which I plan to present in the spring of 2023.

“In Search of Luise Adolpha Le Beau” is an ongoing series. For more details about this project, click here.

Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927)

Portrait of Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927) Author Unknown; Alamy Photos

Born in Rastatt, Germany, Luise Adolpha Le Beau was raised in a musical family, and her parents devoted themselves to her education. She later developed a professional career as a composer, pianist, music critic, and pedagogue of female piano teachers, although she identified primarily as a composer. She wrote in large-scale forms, such as symphonies, operas, and choral works, but also embraced smaller-scale Lieder and instrumental chamber music. During the 1870’s and 1880’s in Munich, Le Beau was successful in publishing and seeking performances of her newest works. In the decades that followed, however, she struggled to find further performance opportunities, moving to Wiesbaden, Berlin, and Baden-Baden to seek more fertile collaborative landscapes. Le Beau’s memoirs, Lebenserinnerungen einer Komponistin (Memoirs of a Woman Composer), published in 1910, detail her frustrations with the sexism and lack of acceptance she faced as a woman composer, which directly contributed to Le Beau’s withdrawal from her public composition career in the early 1900’s.

Upon her passing in 1927, although she meticulously organized and catalogued her manuscripts and personal papers, Le Beau’s music was simply “forgotten.” While more recent scholarship and recordings have highlighted her instrumental chamber music, there is little to no scholarship about her Lieder repertoire (or other parts of her oeuvre), few of her published Lieder scores are available to the public, and to my knowledge, only one recording of several Le Beau Lieder exists.

The Geo-Politics of a Manuscript Score

Throughout my first three weeks at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, my drive to “discover” the Lieder of Luise Adolpha Le Beau was often obscured. I planned to compile her song scores, guided by a basic English translation I had made of her autobiography, as well as to gather copies of her letters and journal entries that related to her song compositions. As I finally held one of Le Beau’s string-bound scores in my hands, the act of simply opening its cover revealed another layer of historical and socio-cultural context that I had not anticipated and would now need to decipher. While my research still centered itself on “the music” and Le Beau’s scores that she had copied so neatly as an ultimate act of self-preservation, I realized that the layers of meaning encasing her music, most of which had accumulated in the century after her death, could not be ignored. In fact, tracing whatever happened to the materials in her estate over the past century, which inevitably led me to questions about Germany’s twentieth-century past, is as relevant as anything that occurred during Le Beau’s lifetime.

This fact began to dawn on me as I learned to use the various archival tools that the library had to offer, namely a microfilm reader and a digital scanner. Each slide of microfilm represented one page of Le Beau’s musical materials, and since none of her Lieder compositions were particularly long, each opus fit onto its own roll of film with book-ended title slides. These slides listed identifying features of the musical work, such as its title, date of composition, and the date and location of its transfer onto microfilm. I soon noticed that the title slides on Le Beau’s Lieder compositions consistently listed their date of transfer in the 1980’s and their transfer location as the Deutsches Staatsbibliothek Berlin (DDR). 

 

Le Beau in the GDR

After the surrender of the German military and the fall of the Third Reich in 1945, Germany was divided into four Allied occupation zones, each controlled by the United States, Great Britain, France, or the Soviet Union. In 1949, the American, British, and French zones merged to later form the Federal Republic of Germany, a parliamentary democracy. In turn, the German Democratic Republic (GDR; known in German as the DDR) was constituted from the Soviet occupation zone in northeastern Germany. Ruled by the oppressive Socialist Unity Party as a satellite Marxist-Leninist nation of the Soviet Union, the GDR contained Berlin, Germany’s former capital, whose post-war fate had played out similarly to the rest of the nation. West Berlin remained part of the Federal Republic of Germany, a tiny enclave of democracy, while East Berlin became the de facto capital of the GDR itself. Berlin was now a divided city of two nations and the ultimate breeding ground for the Cold War’s political and cultural battles. In 1961, as a barbed-wire fence was built through the city overnight by the East German government, the division of West and East Berlin was further entrenched. To thwart the constant flight of East German citizens into West Berlin (and therefore, West Germany), the Berlin Wall transformed into a concrete fortress with armed guards instructed to “shoot to kill” anyone who illegally tried to escape from the east. Due to the Friedliche Revolution (Peaceful Revolution), the Wall fell incredibly without violence in 1989, as the government of the GDR collapsed.

Where then do we find Le Beau’s estate as it was partially transferred onto microfilm in the 1980’s at the Deutsches Staatsbibliothek Berlin (DDR)? It seems that the post-World War II consequences for Germany’s largest library also mirrored that of its capital. After the defeat of the Nazi regime and the partitioning of Berlin, the library found itself once again as a contested socio-cultural space where struggles over political ideology dominated. Its collections were now divided and claimed by two separate countries: the Deutsches Staatsbibliothek of the GDR and the Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz of the Federal Republic of Germany. Le Beau’s estate, housed in the Musikabteilung (music department) on Unter den Linden, now lived in East Germany under another iteration of a totalitarian regime.

Propaganda poster by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, featuring a flag with images of Karl Marx (1818-1883), Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924), and Joseph Stalin (1878-1953); 1950.
Image: invaluable
West Berliners watch at the Berlin Wall while an East German soldier patrols on the other side; 1961.
Photo: Paul Schutzer/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images
West and East Berliners celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate; 1989.
Photo: Unknown; Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The Nazi Regime & World War II

How, though, did Le Beau’s estate survive World War II? What happened to the library’s holdings during the terrors of the Nazi regime? Per her own instructions, Le Beau’s estate was divided between the state libraries of Berlin, Karlsruhe, and Munich. Less than a decade after her death in 1927, the Nazi regime censored the (then-named) Preußische Staatsbibliothek’s collections, obstructing the staff’s ability to acquire new materials and inciting the 1933 public burning of over 20,000 books by students in the neighboring Bebelplatz. Library staff were fired, silenced, and persecuted. The Nazi regime also expanded the library’s holdings through wide-scale theft and seizure of property. In 2019, the Berlin Central and Regional Library (ZLB) estimated that as much as a third of their 3.5 million volumes may have been stolen by the Nazis, who looted the property of Jewish families, libraries, and organizations, as well as Masons, Catholics, Communists, Socialists, Slavs, and anyone who dared to criticize the Nazi regime.

Students publicly burn “un-German” literature on the Opernplatz of Unter den Linden in Berlin; 1933.
Photo: Georg Pahl; German Federal Archives

As war raged from 1940 to 1945, Berlin sustained heavy bombing with large swathes of the city reduced to rubble. Prior to the war, Unter den Linden, the library’s home since 1914, had already experienced a radical transformation. Throughout the nineteenth century, this iconic boulevard, considered one of the most elegant promenades in Europe, had been lined with linden trees, a cultural symbol of truth, love, and memory. Under their authoritarian grip, the Nazi regime dug up its trees, replacing them with immense Nazi flags and propaganda. In 1945, Unter den Linden was left in ruins by one of the largest American air raids on Berlin.

Earlier in 1941, after Allied bombing damaged the Preußische Staatsbibliothek, the Nazi regime evacuated the library’s collections. Millions of volumes of printed materials and media, which presumably included seventy-nine of Le Beau’s manuscript scores, were transferred to thirty secret locations throughout eastern Germany, including caves, monasteries, abandoned mines, and castles. After the defeat of the Third Reich in 1945, these cultural materials were scattered. Many library staff had fled or died during the war. The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin estimates that between 335,000 to 400,000 items were destroyed, and over 300,000 are missing to this day. While Le Beau’s estate survived in Berlin, she was less fortunate at the Badische Landesbibliothek in Karlsruhe, a city that held personal significance for Le Beau and her family. Located in Baden-Württemberg, a region in southwestern Germany east of the Rhine River, Le Beau had spent her childhood in Karlsruhe and later Baden-Baden; it seemed a fitting choice to bequeath the more personal items in her estate to the region’s largest library. In 1942, the Badische Landesbibliothek was collateral damage in a British air raid, and firebombs destroyed the building and much of its holdings (at the time, 360,000 volumes). The fires consumed a sizable portion (though not all) of Le Beau’s personal estate, including her diaries.

In Berlin, however, Le Beau’s estate was ultimately returned to its former home on Unter den Linden, a bombed-out shell of its former self and the soon-to-be national library of the GDR.  In 1989, with reunification on the horizon, the two Berlin libraries discussed their desire to unite as one institution. In 1992, after nearly fifty years as separate entities, irrevocably altered by the brutality of totalitarian regimes, the devastations of war, and the tumult of geo-political events, the two state libraries merged to form the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, in whose building I now sat.

An Estate in Ashes

While far greater atrocities occurred during the Nazi regime, the Holocaust, World War II, and the subsequent rise and fall of the GDR than the potential of losing Le Beau’s estate, I believe that tracing the fate of her materials throughout this brutal history lays bare one of the many twisted aims of totalitarianism — it seeks to destroy knowledge by erasing the historical archive and rewriting it in its own terrifying image. By following the microcosmic trajectory of Le Beau’s musical scores, we also reveal the extent to which hatred, cruelty, and ignorance can ripple throughout a society, leaving nothing, not even the smallest of cultural items, unscathed.

In the foreword of her memoirs, Lebenserinnerungen einer Komponistin, Le Beau articulates how, although thwarted as a composer in life due to gendered prejudice, she desired that her musical legacy would survive and earn a fairer assessment from future generations.

“Whatever gifts I was given, I have nurtured with all my strength; no one can do anything more! I did not disdain even the smallest gifts, but rather, I took delight in all musical works as long as they were artistically serious and true… The royal libraries in Munich and Berlin already preserve all my printed works and will later also receive my manuscripts, which I will leave them. Historians and all those whom I wish to present with this consideration can judge the collection of my works, yes, and they will certainly do so with more impartiality and fairness than my contemporaries… Should one or another of my compositions please later generations, I have not written in vain.”

Young woman, seated at a desk from 1862 journal.
Photo: JonnyJim/iStock

Le Beau entrusted her estate to these historic institutions, believing that they would act as a bulwark in preserving her legacy; less than two decades after her death, some of her materials were already in ashes. Despite this chaos, her manuscript scores endured, including her song compositions. Although few have been publicly heard since the late nineteenth century, I intend to make it so that they are considered once again with “more impartiality and fairness” (unparteiischer und gerechter), as Le Beau herself intended.

Sources

  1. “Geschichte,” Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz, accessed on August 2, 2022, https://staatsbibliothek-berlin.de/die-staatsbibliothek/geschichte.
  2. Katherine Quinlan-Flatter, “One Story, Different Voices – The Bombing of Karlsruhe,” Imperial War Museum Blog, March 2, 2021, https://www.iwm.org.uk/blog//partnerships/2021/03/one-story-different-voices-bombing-karlsruhe-guest-blog-katherine-quinlan.
  3. Milton Esterow, “The Hunt for the Nazi Loot Still Sitting on Library Shelves,” The New York Times, published on January 14, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/14/arts/nazi-loot-on-library-shelves.html.

Stay Tuned…

Keep an eye out for my next installment of “In Search of Luise Adolpha Le Beau: Part III” in September and remember to subscribe (it’s free!) for a monthly update in your inbox. Also, feel free to share any comments or questions in the section below.

In Search of Luise Adolpha Le Beau (Part I): My Mother in the Library

In Search of Luise Adolpha Le Beau (Part I): My Mother in the Library

Design: Elizabeth Van Os of Cavatina Creative

With the generous support of the Presser Foundation’s Presser Graduate Award, I traveled to Germany from late March until early June 2022 to compile and research the published and unpublished song repertoire of German Romantic-era composer Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927). This research will be integral to the completion of my DMA thesis/lecture recital project on Le Beau’s Lieder, which I plan to present in the spring of 2023.

“In Search of Luise Adolpha Le Beau” is an ongoing series. For more details about this project and a short biography of the composer, click here.

Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927)

Portrait of Luise Adolpha Le Beau.
Photo: Author Unknown; Alamy Stock Photos

Born in Rastatt, Germany, Luise Adolpha Le Beau was raised in a musical family, and her parents devoted themselves to her education. She later developed a professional career as a composer, pianist, music critic, and pedagogue of female piano teachers, although she identified primarily as a composer. She wrote in large-scale forms, such as symphonies, operas, and choral works, but also embraced smaller-scale Lieder and instrumental chamber music. During the 1870’s and 1880’s in Munich, Le Beau was successful in publishing and seeking performances of her newest works. In the decades that followed, however, she struggled to find further performance opportunities, moving to Wiesbaden, Berlin, and Baden-Baden to seek more fertile collaborative landscapes. Le Beau’s memoirs, Lebenserinnerungen einer Komponistin (Memoirs of a Woman Composer), published in 1910, detail her frustrations with the sexism and lack of acceptance she faced as a woman composer, which directly contributed to Le Beau’s withdrawal from her public composition career in the early 1900’s.

Upon her passing in 1927, although she meticulously organized and catalogued her manuscripts and personal papers, Le Beau’s music was simply “forgotten.” While more recent scholarship and recordings have highlighted her instrumental chamber music, there is little to no scholarship about her Lieder repertoire (or other parts of her oeuvre), few of her published Lieder scores are available to the public, and to my knowledge, only one recording of several Le Beau Lieder exists.

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning…

After more than a year of planning, I found myself barreling towards the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin on Unter den Linden. With its grand neo-Baroque façade and imposing marble staircase, I felt instantly dwarfed by the sheer size and space of such an historic building. I prepared myself for what I could encounter next – would Luise Adolpha Le Beau’s archive reveal what I hoped and expected it to? Through my online research, I knew that I would find her Nachlass (estate) at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, which included seventy-nine score manuscripts and some of her personal correspondence. Several letters had been digitized, but Le Beau’s score manuscripts remained in their original or microfilm forms, accessible only on site. While I had cross-checked online resources to create an initial list of her song opuses, both published and unpublished, I could only verify my theories in person.

As I registered for my Bibliotheksausweis (library card), I suddenly felt intimidated. I heard the faint whispers of an “impostor devil” in my ear, wondering whether I really planned to waltz into the Musikabteilung (Music Department) with my awkward German and order the entire estate of Luise Adolpha Le Beau. I had never embarked on archival research before, let alone in another language – what did I think I was doing?

Façade of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin on Unter den Linden.
Photo: Noelle McMurtry
Entrance Hall to the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.
Photo: Noelle McMurtry

After an initial week of engaging with Le Beau’s estate materials, I began to feel more at ease in my burgeoning role as an archival researcher, in part due to the direct, but sympathetic guidance of the Music Department staff. I observed certain characteristics that they all shared – an attention to detail, their acknowledgment that no “small” thing should go untouched, their sense of responsibility as custodians of history, and an indefatigable desire to help visitors like myself. They were all vaguely familiar characters, as if I had met them before. I realized then that they reminded me of my mother.

My Mother in the Library

My mother and I at the National Zoo in Washington, DC; 1987.
Photo: Vanda McMurtry (my father)

In 1976, Maria Emma Vergara, my mother, graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park with a Master’s degree in Library Science. After emigrating to the United States from Colombia as a child, my mother carried with her a love of literature and the legacy of a family of writers, including José María Vergara y Vergara (1831-1872), my mother’s great-great grandfather who penned the first Spanish literary history of Colombia. Since her career as a librarian and archivist occurred mainly before I was born, it took me several weeks of research at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin to connect my mother’s story with my own search for Luise Adolpha Le Beau and her music.

Upon my parents’ marriage in 1972, my mother was nineteen years old. They soon moved cross-country from southern California to Upstate New York where my father pursued a PhD in Philosophy at Cornell University. They sold my mother’s Volkswagen Beetle to pay for her first semester’s-worth of tuition at Ithaca College. Originally, she hoped to study Speech Pathology, but after a single semester, they simply did not have the funds for my mother to continue her studies. Without a full scholarship, she faced the real possibility of abandoning her college degree. After interviewing at nearby SUNY Cortland, the university awarded my mother the funds that she so desperately needed, setting her on course to later become a librarian. Since SUNY Cortland did not offer a concentration in Speech Pathology, my mother changed her fields of study to include Social Science and Spanish Literature. In upstate New York of the early 1970’s, my mother was one of the first Latina students and native Spanish-speakers in the Spanish department, as well as the university.

After graduating summa cum laude from SUNY Cortland, my mother scheduled a meeting with her advisor to discuss future career prospects. This advisor, who was also a woman in a university landscape with scant female professors or administrators, offered my mother a piece of advice: she should pursue secretarial work. Infuriated and defeated, my mother cried for a week, but continued with her plans to pursue a graduate degree in Library Science. After moving to Washington DC and graduating from the University of Maryland in 1976, she worked at the Library of Congress as an Assistant Librarian in the Hispanic Division, cataloguing materials related to human rights abuses in Central and South America. Sexual harassment was an overt and commonplace occurrence for women employees, but my mother persisted with her work, serving as a cataloguist for DC-based organizations, such as USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development). There, she archived information on oral rehydration of infants, as well as maternal nutrition and health throughout Africa and Asia.

My mother and her sister wearing their first winter coats after emigrating to the US in Bordentown, NJ; 1961.
My parents’ wedding in the backyard of my grandmother’s house in Orange, California; 1972.
My mother and father newly arrived in Upstate NY at Lake Cayuga; 1972.

Over the past three months in Germany, as I have found myself in the stillness of library reading rooms, it is clear to me that my mother’s work has, in part, guided me into these fraught, and yet important, literary spaces which have historically excluded women. And so, as I am “in search of Luise Adolpha Le Beau,” I see now that I will encounter many others along this path, whose lives and work intertwine with a nineteenth-century composer and a twenty-first century me. Although the story of this project begins long before I traveled to Germany, I find it best to start my first post at the exact moment where I grasp my library card and walk through the heavy wooden doors of the Musikabteilung at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.


Stay Tuned…

Scene of destruction in street near Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin on July 3rd, 1945, three months after the fall of Nazi Germany
A. Wilkes, Imperial War Museum; Public Domain

As I continued my research over the subsequent weeks at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, I realized that tracing whatever happened to the materials in Luise Adolpha Le Beau’s estate after her death in 1927 was as relevant as anything that occurred during her lifetime. Per her own instructions, Le Beau’s meticulously curated estate was divided between state libraries in Berlin, Karlsruhe, and Munich. Through my examination of her manuscripts, I discovered the twentieth-century history of the library itself embedded into her scores. As a contested socio-cultural space, the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin was irrevocably altered by the brutality of totalitarian regimes, the devastations of war, and the tumult of geo-political events, which wreaked havoc upon the library’s collections and its curators.

Keep an eye out for my next installment of “In Search of Luise Adolpha Le Beau: Part II” in August and remember to subscribe (it’s free!) for a monthly update in your inbox. Also, feel free to share any comments or questions below.

The Woman Within the Portrait:  Ria & Mizzi

The Woman Within the Portrait: Ria & Mizzi

Reflections on Lacy Rose’s cycles Ria (2018) and Hope I (2017)

Lacy Rose’s Ria and Hope I were performed as part of Portraits: The Self Illuminated. For more information about the program, including full recordings of both works, check out my projects.

Portrait of Gustav Klimt (1914) by Anton Josef Trčka

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)

Gustav Klimt was an Austrian painter and leader of the Vienna Secession, an artist collective who rebelled against what they viewed as nineteenth-century historicism in favor of an Art Nouveau style. With Klimt, the Art Nouveau style manifested itself in colorful, mosaic-like canvases, often populated by human figures, intertwined with one another in fluid and erotic positions. Although the Viennese establishment was scandalized by his “risqué” paintings and public murals, Klimt financed his career as portrait painter of the Viennese elite.

Within lush home interiors, Klimt’s portrait subjects peer out through the canvas, expressing elements of their personalities and desires through the artist’s “exoticizing” lens. He was particularly interested in women as portrait subjects, claiming, “I am less interested in myself as a subject for painting than I am in other people, above all women.” [1] These “interests” were sometimes romantic or sexual, and he had numerous relationships with the models of his works. It is claimed that, while he remained unmarried, Klimt fathered fourteen children with his partners.

Maria “Ria” Munk (1887-1911)

At 24 years of age, Maria (“Ria”) Munk committed suicide on December 28, 1911, after the poet and writer Hanns Heinz Ewers broke off their engagement. Her mother, Aranka Pulitzer Munk (1862-1941), wished to commission a death-bed portrait of her deceased daughter, a genre that was en vogue in turn-of-the-century Vienna. Since Ria’s sister, Serena Lederer, was a patron of Gustav Klimt, she arranged for the artist to paint her sister’s portrait. Ria Munk am Totenbett (Ria Munk I), or Ria Munk on her Deathbed, was finished in 1912 and subsequently rejected by Aranka Munk. She found the portrait too realistic and upsetting to view. Aranka decided that Ria should be depicted as youthful and joyful, as she was when living. Die Tänzerin (Ria Munk II), or The Dancer, followed, but was also rejected by the family. Their exact reasoning has never been revealed, but after their refusal of the painting, it is most likely that Klimt altered the original to resemble Johanna Jusl, a dancer at the Vienna Hofoper and an artist’s model.

Ria Munk am Totenbett (Ria Munk I) (1912) by Gustav Klimt
Die Tänzerin (Ria Munk II) (1916-1918) by Gustav Klimt
Frauenbildnis (Ria Munk III) (1917, Unfinished) by Gustav Klimt

Ria Munk’s final portrait, Frauenbildnis (Ria Munk III), or Woman’s Portrait, was left unfinished due to Klimt’s sudden death in 1917. In Ria Munk III, Ria is presented in profile, smiling, her cheeks slightly flushed, her body enveloped by the colorful patchwork interior behind her.  Bouquets of flowers, akin to her death-bed portrait, still frame her face.

The life of Ria Munk III, however, does not end with Klimt’s passing. Aranka Munk hung her daughter’s portrait at her villa, Bad Aussee, until the Nazis seized her family’s property in 1942. The Munk family was Jewish, and Aranka was deported to Lodz, a Nazi concentration camp in Poland, where she was murdered in 1942. That same year, Ria’s sister, Lola, was murdered at Chelmno in Poland.  

Frauenbildnis (Ria Munk III) was eventually passed to art collector and dealer William Gurlitt, who sold the painting in 1953 to the Lentos Museum in Linz, Austria. The painting remained at the museum until 2009, when the city council of Linz finally voted to return Ria Munk III to its rightful owners, the descendants of the Munk family. [2]

NYC-based composer and singer Lacy Rose (b. 1990) composed her cycle Ria for voice and string quartet to illuminate the personhood of Ria Munk as it evolves from portrait to portrait. In describing the narrative flow of Ria (with text that she herself wrote), Rose writes:

The first movement begins inside the painting, “Ria Munk I,” with Ria asking her bereaved to “close and coin her eyes.” In the second movement, inspired by “Ria Munk II” (also known as “The Dancer”), the woman “who holds the marigolds with swan-soft hands” asks the spectator to ponder her double identity and origin of inspiration. For the third movement, the unfinished figure in Ria Munk III exclaims that she “begins and ends in death.” [3]

Listen

Ria Munk II, from Ria by Lacy Rose

Christopher Ciampoli, violin
William Weijia Wang, violin
Flavia Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola
Alexander Cousins, cello

Maria “Mizzi” Zimmermann (1879-1975)

Schubert at the Piano (1899) by Gustav Klimt, destroyed by the Nazis in 1945
Hope I (1903) by Gustav Klimt

Maria “Mizzi” Zimmermann was an artist’s model and romantic partner of Gustav Klimt. In 1887, at 18 years old, she first met Klimt, then 35 years old, in passing on the street, and their professional and romantic relationship began soon afterwards. Mizzi posed for many of Klimt’s paintings as a model. Since she often appeared as an unnamed representation, Mizzi occupied a less publicly visible role in Klimt’s creative process than his wealthier portrait subjects.

In Klimt’s Schubert at the Piano, a painting commissioned by Greek industrialist Nikolaus Dumba in 1898, we find Mizzi standing at the far left of the canvas, illuminated by candlelight, intently watching Franz Schubert, Klimt’s favorite composer, perform. Zimmermann and Klimt had two sons, Gustav (1889-1976) and Otto, who was born in 1902 and died within the same year. While Klimt lived a modest lifestyle as a freelance artist, he rented Mizzi and their children a small apartment. When their relationship ended, he provided financially for his son, Gustav, until his death. Klimt left Maria Zimmerman a small sum in his will, but he did not legally identify any of his children as heirs. Although she lived to be 96 years old, Mizzi never owned a single painting by Klimt or benefited from the sale of his works posthumously, even though her body and likeness were frequently represented. [4]

Mizzi’s relationship to Hope I (1903), however, is not as direct as the painting may suggest. Indeed, she was not the actual model for this painting, although she was heavily pregnant and gave birth to Otto during the period of its creation. Instead, the model Herma, who is known to history only by her first name, represents Hope with the promise of new life within her.

Mizzi’s “essence,” though, pervades the painting through historical speculation. Originally, Klimt sketched a male figure in the painting, comforting Hope. After Otto’s death, he re-configured the painting’s images, removing its male figure. Instead, Hope stands alone with her baby, still surrounded by a halo of light, but now menaced by skeletons and ghouls behind her. She is either unafraid, or unaware of these deathly forces.

Lacy Rose writes of her impetus to compose the cycle Hope I for voice, string quartet, and piano:

Mizzi represents so many of the women in the paintings whose names and lives are lost to time but whose images are immortalized by the painters, often male painters whose names we still remember. For me, I felt it my duty to help Mizzi reclaim her personhood… This is the story of Maria “Mizzi” Zimmermann. [5]

Listen

Hope III, from Hope I by Lacy Rose
Eunchan Kim, piano
Christopher Ciampoli, violin
William Weijia Wang, violin
Flavia Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola
Alexander Cousins, cello

As we encountered the three Ria Munks in Ria, in Rose’s Hope I, we now meet several versions of Mizzi, all through the lens of portraiture. In the first movement, an elderly Mizzi reflects on the painting that she once inspired. The second movement derives from the perspective of the woman inside the painting, another version of Mizzi who describes the demons that surround her. The final movement is drawn from Mizzi herself, who pleads with the spectator to truly see her and free her from the painting.

Notes

  1. Alexxa Gotthardt, “What You Need to Know about Gustav Klimt.” Artsy.net. March 26, 2018. https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-gustav-klimt.
  2. Allison McNearney, “How Gustav Klimt’s Unfinished ‘Ria Munk III’ Finally Escaped the Nazis.” Daily Beast. Updated April 7, 2018. https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-gustav-klimts-unfinished-ria-munk-iii-finally-escaped-the-nazis.
  3. Lacy Rose, Liner Notes to Ria. Released by Lacy Rose, 2018.
  4. Georg Markus, „Sensationeller Fund: Klimts Geliebte spricht.“ Kurier. January 1, 2018. Accessed November 21, 2019. https://kurier.at/kultur/klimts-geliebte-spricht/307.523.783.
  5. Lacy Rose. Liner Notes to Mizzi. Released by Lacy Rose. 2017.
A Song for Turbulent Times: Melissa Dunphy’s “Farewell, Angelina”

A Song for Turbulent Times: Melissa Dunphy’s “Farewell, Angelina”

Reflections on Melissa Dunphy’s Farewell Angelina (2019)

Farewell, Angelina was included on the recital-film project, I take the long way there. For more information about this program, check out my projects.

Bob Dylan (b.1941) & Joan Baez (b.1941)

“Farewell, Angelina” was first recorded by poet, musician, and composer Bob Dylan (b. 1941) as an outtake from the recording session for his 1965 fifth studio album, Bringin’ It All Back Home. Originally recorded under the working title of “Alcatraz to the 5th Power,” Dylan rejected it from the album’s final song list, giving “Farewell, Angelina” to musician, singer, and performer Joan Baez (b. 1941), who was also Dylan’s partner at the time. Throughout his career, Dylan has never performed “Farewell, Angelina” in public, and in interviews, he has often demurred from offering a concrete explanation. In October of 1965, Baez recorded “Farewell, Angelina” for the release of her sixth studio album, and the song’s title eventually became the record’s title. Baez’s album “Farewell, Angelina,” which also included three other Dylan songs, signaled a shift from her prior focus on American folk songs and ballads to a more “contemporary” sound with the inclusion of bass and electric guitar.

“Farewell, Angelina” peaked at # 10 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart, and Baez became associated with the song, even more so than Dylan. In the ensuing decades, “Farewell, Angelina” has been famously interpreted by a variety of artists, including Judy Collins, John Mellencamp, the Grateful Dead, and Jeff Buckley.

Folk singers Joan Baez and Bob Dylan during the Civil Rights March on August 28th, 1963 in Washington, D.C.
Album cover for Joan Baez’s Farewell, Angelina (1965)

In Dylan’s “Farewell, Angelina,” its melody was potentially inspired by several sources, including “Farewell to Tarwathie,” a mid-nineteenth-century Scottish ballad by George Scroggie, which in turn inspired the “Wagoner’s Lad,” an American folk song that Baez performed on her second studio album. American cowboy songs from the Lomax Collection, such as “I Ride An Old Paint,” “The Railroad Corral,” and “Rye Whiskey,” may also have played a role in shaping the strophic contour and melodic material of “Farewell, Angelina.” Dylan’s poetry details the mindset of a protagonist’s “everyday love… set against the backdrop of a derailing, unhinged world.” [1] Throughout the six verses of “Farewell, Angelina,” each with nine lines, the protagonist warns Angelina that they must part from one another. With ominous descriptions of the sky’s transformation from on fire, to trembling, to folding, to changing color, to being embarrassed, and then finally, to erupting, a foreboding sense of an imminent apocalyptic event provides the song’s cohesive narrative arc. 

“Farewell, Angelina” performed by Joan Baez
℗ 1990 Vanguard Records, a Welk Music Group Company
Les Surprises et l’Océan (1927) by René Magritte

Beyond the protagonist’s unsettling farewell to Angelina, Michael Gray in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia observes that the remaining imagery in “Farewell, Angelina” is surreal, juxtaposing unrelated images and events to evoke feelings of ambiguity and uncertainty in the listener. Without explanation, a table stands empty by the edge of the sea. A host of card-like characters, jacks, queens, the deuce, and the ace, “forsake the courtyard,” but for what reason is unclear.

Menacing “cross-eyed pirates” shoot tin cans with a sawed-off shotgun as their neighbors gleefully applaud. On nearby rooftops, unique figures materialize; King Kong tangos with “little elves.” The final stanza of “Farewell, Angelina” climaxes with a terrifying hellscape from which the protagonist must flee. Dylan writes,

The machine guns are roaring

The puppets heave rocks

The fiends nail time bombs

To the hands of the clocks

Call me any name you like

I will never deny it

Farewell, Angelina

The sky is erupting

I must go where it’s quiet

It is impossible, however, not to observe the political and cultural critique of the violence, inequality, and corruption within 1965 American society inherent in Dylan’s text. In the year Dylan composed “Farewell, Angelina,” the United States was confronting the effects of the draft, the Vietnam War, as well as the increasing momentum of the civil rights movement. As President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed his vision of America as the “Great Society,” Malcolm X was assassinated in Manhattan. In Selma, Alabama, hundreds of peaceful civil rights protestors, demanding equal voting and Constitutional rights for Black Americans, were brutally beaten by state troopers on Bloody Sunday. Draft cards were burned publicly at anti-war rallies, while the US government increased troop numbers in Vietnam to 125,000, as draft numbers doubled.

As civil and voting rights protests spread across the nation, white supremacist and state-sanctioned violence against civil rights activists escalated. Again, it is difficult not to imagine that the puppets, fiends, pirates, cheering neighbors, and the makeup man who “shut[s] the eyes of the dead not to embarrass anyone” in Dylan’s poetry embody these pro-war, white supremacist factions within American society, who were committed to upholding their twisted vision of the “status quo” at all costs. 

Protesters march against the Vietnam War at the U.S. Capitol on November 15th, 1969
Photo: Associated Press
John Lewis (later U.S. Congressman) is beaten by a state trooper in Selma, Alabama, on March 7th, 1965
Photo: Associated Press

In 2019, composer Melissa Dunphy arranged Farewell, Angelina for solo voice and viola, commissioned by soprano Elise Brancheau for a concert benefiting coLAB Arts in Philadelphia, PA. Brancheau describes her impetus for the commission as follows,

The words, while strange and surreal, seemed to perfectly depict the sense of unrest and violence that fills our world today. The intimacy of the repeated ‘farewells’ to a loved one while the world literally falls apart feels especially poignant; the almost absurd contrast between lines like ‘I’ll see you in awhile’ and ‘the sky is falling’ reminds me of the feeling of wanting to draw inward and deny the frightening things happening around us while also being unable to ignore them. I began imagining what the music would sound like if it reflected the sense of chaos and destruction of Dylan’s poetry, and commissioned Melissa Dunphy to compose such an arrangement for voice and viola.

Protestors gather at the U.S. Capitol to march against police brutality and racial injustice on June 6th, 2020
Photo: Getty Images/AFP/R. Schmidt
Funeral director Omar Rodriguez looks over caskets of those who died from COVID-19 in Queens, New York (2020)
Photo: REUTERS/Bryan R. Smith
Protestors march on Juneteenth across Brooklyn Bridge in support of Black Lives Matter (2020)

Like Brancheau, I was drawn to Dunphy’s arrangement of Farewell, Angelina for both musical and textual reasons. Musically, Dunphy’s setting for voice and viola created a taut dialogue, in which the voice engaged with repetitive text and a strophic melody. In turn, the viola imbued each stanza with its own distinct musical motif, as the repetition of the melody and text coasted above the evolving viola line. Textually, I agreed with Brancheau that Farewell, Angelina “perfectly depict[ed] the sense of unrest and violence that fills our world today.”

I could not help but relate Dylan’s poetry to 2020, the year of the pandemic. It was a year of helplessly watching the number of COVID-19 fatalities in the United States rise to over 565,000 of a global death toll of 2.9 million human beings, the fear and trauma sustained by health care and front-line workers, the loss of jobs, opportunity, and stability for so many, and the powerlessness of having an administration that not only had no plan to save our lives, but filled the airwaves with lies and took no responsibility for their ineptitude, bigotry, and the cruelty of their actions. It was the year of witnessing the brutal killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement, which culminated in a summer of sweeping and powerful civil rights protests. It was the year of the presidential election as proponents of active voter suppression, conspiracy theorists, peddlers of misinformation, as well as foreign entities joined forces to undermine our democracy. I find that the hellscape of Dylan’s imagination in “Farewell, Angelina,” although composed over 55 years ago, does not feel so completely surreal considering the past year’s events.

In the week after Thanksgiving, our original plan was to film Dunphy’s Farewell, Angelina on the National Mall amongst the monuments. By connecting this musical work to the Mall’s highly charged historical and political landscape, we wished to be, at least obliquely, in conversation with the cultural critique embedded in Dylan’s poem. We also, though, desired to connect Farewell, Angelina to our experiences creating art and confronting our roles as artists during the pandemic. We wanted this short film to explore our protagonist’s compulsion to create something from their lived experiences during these uncertain times.

For our concept, Flavia, the violist, busks to earn extra money from the scant tourists that still manage to visit the National Mall. As she and I pass through the monuments, we each have a different aim: she, to find her busking spot, and me, to simply take a walk on a sunny day. In doing so, we share the same path, our lives intertwining without our knowledge. I linger, listening to her music-making, and that, in and of itself, bonds us for a moment. As the Capstone plans solidified, however, we encountered COVID-19-related obstacles, and the shoot was cancelled two weeks prior. Still committed to our original concept, we rescheduled the film shoot in Washington DC for the week of January 11th.

Still of violist Flavia Pajaro Van-de Stadt from Farewell, Angelina
Photo: Elizabeth Van Os

Five days prior, on January 6th, 2021, the insurrection at the Capitol occurred. I watched, only a few miles away, as the violence unfolded on television. I felt a mixture of utter sadness and numbness. With little time to reflect on the insanity of our national situation, I turned to the film shoot, scheduled for five days later. Over the next week, National Guard troops amassed in the city by the tens of thousands to ensure a safe and peaceful inauguration of President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Pro-Trump insurrectionists attack the Capitol Police on January 6th, 2021
Photo: Roberto Schmidt/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

I remember feeling ridiculous: were we really going to push ahead with our creative plans a week after an attempted coup against our government, not to mention the pandemic raging throughout the country? Were we intrepid, or terribly out of touch? I suppose, a combination of both. I am not yet quite sure how to define what we were in that moment, but regardless, we chose to set off for the Mall on January 13th. For safety concerns, however, we did not venture past the Washington Monument. Flavia and I traced a particular path: beginning at the Lincoln Memorial, walking along the Reflecting Pool, past the World War II Memorial, and finishing at the Washington Monument.

Six days later, on January 19th, President-elect Biden would stand on the path we had tread. In front of the Lincoln Memorial, he would mark the first instance of televised national mourning for the loss of 400,000 Americans to COVID-19. Along the Reflecting Pool, lanterns were lit against the backdrop of night falling, representing the lives of those who had died. Vice President-elect Harris, who days later would become the first woman and person of color to hold her national office, spoke, “For many months, we have grieved by ourselves. Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together.” [3]

President-elect Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff during a COVID-19 memorial at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool (2021)
Photo: Associated Press

Watch

Farewell, Angelina by Melissa Dunphy from I take the long way there

Notes

  1. Tony Attwood, “Farewell Angelina: How come Bob Dylan never played it again?” Untold Dylan, December 11, 2018, https://bob-dylan.org.uk/archives/9277. 
  2. Melissa Dunphy, “Farewell, Angelina (2019),” Melissa Dunphy: Composer|Mormolyke Press, https://www.melissadunphy.com/composition.php?id=92.
  3. Associated Press, “Biden Marks Nation’s COVID Grief Before Inauguration Pomp,” U.S. News & World Report, January 19, 2021, https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2021-01-19/biden-harris-take-break-from-inaugural-prep-to-mark-mlk-day.
Suffragist Series: Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954)

Suffragist Series: Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954)

Suffragist Series highlights the fascinating suffrage activists that I researched as dramaturg for A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza! (AWSSE!), a new vaudeville-inspired revue about the history of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. It has been an eye-opening experience to confront how little I knew about the history of the women’s suffrage movement, and I look forward to sharing more about the lives and contributions of these remarkable activists. For more information about AWSSE! and to follow its newest developments, check out my projects.

Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954)

Mary Church Terrell was an eminent Black writer, educator, and civil rights activist, who co-founded the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and was an original signatory of the charter to establish the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Born in Memphis to an affluent family, her parents, who were both formerly enslaved, were successful entrepreneurs. Her mother, Louisa Ayres Church, owned a hair salon, and Terrell’s father, Robert Reed Church, was the first African American millionaire in the South. Terrell’s parents stressed the importance of education, and Terrell attended Oberlin Academy and Oberlin College, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Languages, as well as a Master’s degree. Upon graduation, Terrell taught at Wilberforce College in Ohio, and in 1887, she moved to Washington DC to teach at the M Street Colored High School (which later became Dunbar High School).

Mary Church Terrell, ca. 1880-1900
Photo: Library of Congress

In 1892, Terrell grieved the loss of a close friend from Memphis, Thomas Moss, who was violently lynched by a white mob over the success of his business. Between 1877 and 1950, Moss was one of approximately 4,000 victims of lynching in the southern United States. [1] This tragedy spurred Terrell’s activism: she collaborated with her friend and famed journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931) to organize national anti-lynching campaigns, as well as lobbied President Benjamin Harrison with civil rights activist and author Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) to condemn lynching.

NAACP Silent Protest Parade, Fifth Avenue in New York City (1917)
Photo: Underwood and Underwood; Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Ida B. Wells, ca. 1893-1894
Photo: Ida B. Wells Papers; University of Chicago Library

In 1896, Terrell co-founded the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), serving as its first president. The NACW adopted her motto, “Lifting As We Climb,” which exemplified Terrell’s philosophy of community uplift to improve the daily lives of Black Americans and combat the virulent racial discrimination that they faced through education, activism, and employment opportunities.

“Lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go, struggling and striving and hoping that the buds and blossoms of our desires will burst into glorious fruition ere long … Seeking no favors because of our color nor patronage because of our needs, we knock at the bar of justice and ask for an equal chance.”


Mary Church Terrell, “What Role Is the Educated Negro Woman to Play in the Uplifting of Her Race?” (1902)
Banner with motto of Oklahoma Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Photo: National Association of Colored Women (1896)
Mary Church Terrell (fourth from left) with activists picketing outside Murphy’s five-and-dime for refusing to serve African Americans (early 1950’s)
Photo: Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University Archives
Portrait of Mary Church Terrell
by Betsy Graves Reyneau (1888-1964);
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

In service of education for all African Americans, Terrell served on the Washington Board of Education from 1895 to 1901 and from 1906 to 1911. She was also a passionate advocate for women’s suffrage. Undeterred by the racism that coursed through the women’s suffrage movement, Terrell advocated for the voting rights of Black women, stating that suffrage was not only an essential tool for self-enfranchisement, but would also uplift all African Americans. At the biennial meetings of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), Terrell spoke in 1898 and 1900, stressing that Black women were forced to confront the double barriers of racial and gender discrimination. Terrell’s intersectional outlook deeply informed her activism as a suffragist; she picketed Woodrow Wilson’s White House with members of the National Woman’s Party and spoke at the International Council of Women in Germany in 1904, presenting her speech in German.

Terrell became a sought-after speaker and writer in the United States and abroad, and in 1940, she published her autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World, which described the successes, challenges, and discrimination she faced throughout her career as a Black woman activist and educator. After World War II, Terrell’s fight for social justice continued, and she worked to end legal segregation in Washington DC. While DC had passed anti-discrimination laws in the 1870’s, twenty years later, these laws had been eroded. African Americans were banned and excluded from public places, such as restaurants. In 1950, Terrell and her activist colleagues entered segregated Thompson Restaurant, asking to be served. The group was refused, and they sued. Terrell continued to target segregationist polices through boycotts, picketing, and sit-ins. In 1953, segregated eating places were declared unconstitutional in Washington DC, and in 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.

That same year, at the age of ninety-one, Terrell died in Highland Beach, Maryland. In the face of violence, ignorance, and prejudice, Mary Church Terrell tirelessly devoted her life to the advance of equal rights for Black Americans through supporting anti-lynching legislation and women’s suffrage, dismantling segregation laws, and advocating for equal access to education and economic opportunities for all.

Notes

  1. Kendra Kneisley, “Lifting As We Climb: The Life of Mary Church Terrell,” She Shapes History: Berkshire Museum, https://explore.berkshiremuseum.org/digital-archive/she-shapes-history/lifting-as-we-climb-the-life-of-mary-church-terrell.
  2. Tyina Steptoe, “Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954),” Black Past, January 19, 2007, https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/terrell-mary-church-1863-1954.
  3. “Mary Church Terrell,” National Park Service, January 16, 2020, https://www.nps.gov/people/mary-church-terrell.htm.
  4. Debra Michals, “Marcy Church Terrell,” National Women’s History Museum, 2017 https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/mary-church-terrell.
  5. Allison Lange, “National Organization of Colored Women,” National Women’s History Museum, 2015, http://www.crusadeforthevote.org/nacw.