In Search of Luise Adolpha Le Beau

In Search of Luise Adolpha Le Beau

Description

My musicological research focuses on the song repertoire of women composers, particularly those from the nineteenth century. By challenging gendered historiographical narratives that surround “canon” creation, I work to dismantle socio-cultural constructs and biases that continually diminish the historic contributions of women creators within classical vocal repertoire.

19th-century engraving of women making music in the drawing room
World History Archive | Alamy Photos

In 2021, I conceived of In Search of Luise Adolpha Le Beau, a multifaceted project to research the Lieder (songs) of German composer Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927), a body of vocal repertoire that remains overlooked to the present day.

Le Beau’s entire oeuvre contains over sixty works, including nineteen song opuses with a total of fifty-seven songs, vocal duets, and vocal trios. Ten Lieder opuses were published between 1877 and 1898, while nine Lieder opuses, composed between 1880 and 1921, remain unpublished. Le Beau’s Lieder aesthetic aligns itself most readily with Lieder practices of the 1830s to 1850s, akin to those of composer Robert Schumann (1810-1856), and Le Beau composed strophic and through-composed songs with texts by twenty-seven individual poets.

Historical Background

1893 photograph of Le Beau, printed in her 1910 memoir Lebenserinnerungen einer Komponistin

Born in Rastatt, Germany, Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927) was raised in a musical family, and her parents devoted themselves to her education. She later cultivated her professional career as a composer, pianist, music critic, and piano pedagogue, although she identified primarily as a composer. Le Beau wrote in large-scale forms, such as symphonies, operas, and choral works, but also embraced small-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.

In her 1910 memoir Lebenserinnerungen einer Komponistin (Memoirs of a Woman Composer), Le Beau outlines the trajectory of her career as a German woman composer of the late nineteenth century. Ultimately, the author reveals how gender prejudice hindered the public success of her musical works and thwarted her career ambitions as a composer. To combat the gendered bias that had obstructed her professional efforts, Le Beau self-consciously preserved her own musical legacy. By bequeathing her Nachlass (estate) to the state libraries in Karlsruhe, Munich, and Berlin, Le Beau hoped her music and life story would survive to earn an “unparteiischer und gerechter” (“more impartial and fairer”) assessment from future generations. [1]

Upon her death in 1927, the composer’s act of self-preservation proved prescient. Le Beau and her music were simply “forgotten,” a cultural erasure precipitated by the partial destruction of Le Beau’s estate at the Badische Landesbibliothek during the bombing of Karlsruhe in World War II. While more recent scholarship has explored her large-scale works and instrumental chamber music, there is little to no scholarship about Le Beau’s Lieder repertoire, only a handful of her ten published Lieder opuses are readily accessible to the public, and to my knowledge, no professional recordings of Le Beau’s Lieder exist.

Memorial plaque for Luise Adolpha Le Beau in Baden-Baden at Lichtenthaler Straße 46; as of 2021, the plaque has been removed from the building after renovation
Photo: Gerd Eichmann | Wikimedia Commons

Lebenserinnerungen einer Komponistin
(Memoirs of a Woman Composer)

If I now, at the age of fifty-nine, try to describe my experiences as objectively as possible, it is not done out of vanity or arrogance, but rather, from other motives. Firstly, it was a wish of my dear, blessed father that I would point out the many difficulties that stand in the way of a woman in the field of musical composition, the envy and resentment of my colleagues, as well as the prejudice and misunderstanding in the advice of those who were the most qualified and best situated to nurture a talent, and that I speak the truth loudly without shyness or regard for well-known individuals – however, I was also supported by others, who played a role in my life as an artist, who encouraged me to tell my story…

In his encyclopedia of music history, Herr Ritter compares the making of music in the nineteenth century with a large forest that is covered with all kinds of trees and says, that not only do a few giant trees make up the forest, but rather, the small trees, bushes, grasses, flowers, and mosses are essential to giving it its real character… 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… Should one or another of my compositions please later generations, I have not written in vain. I have never wished for more recognition than I deserve! Finally, I thank all those who are still living or have already led the way to a better land, all those who have given me the gift of interest and friendly encouragement for my striving!   

Excerpted from “Foreword” in Lebenserinnerungen einer Komponistin (1910) by Luise Adolpha Le Beau
Translation by Noelle McMurtry

Cover for Le Beau’s autobiography, Lebenserinnerungen einer Komponistin (1910)

Woman Walking Through A Forest (1878)
Peter Mønsted (1859-1941)
Brave Fine Art

Archival Research in Germany

With support from The Presser Foundation, I traveled to Germany from March to early June 2022, where I collected materials relevant to Le Beau’s song practice from the composer’s self-curated Nachlass (estate) at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, the Badische Landesbibliothek Karlsruhe, and the Stadtbibliothek Baden-Baden.

In April 2023, I completed my DMA thesis at Peabody Institute, titled Unearthing a Self-Curated Nachlass: A Survey of Luise Adolpha Le Beau’s Published Lieder. I presented a lecture recital on Le Beau’s published songs with pianist Hui-Chuan Chen, as well as performed excerpts from Le Beau’s vocal duets and trios with sopranos Julie Bosworth and Claire Galloway Weber on the January 2023 chamber music recital, Sauvez-moi de l’amour. Watch our performance in the multimedia section below.

My future plans for In Search of Luise Adolpha Le Beau include finishing a monograph on Le Beau’s Lieder practice and oeuvre, presenting public concerts of Le Beau’s Lieder in both Germany and the US, and recording an album of Le Beau’s song repertoire.

Le Beau Lieder Publishing Project

Since spring 2022, composer Līva Blūma and I have collaborated to create a collected edition of Le Beau’s Lieder, vocal duets, and vocal trios. Using Sibelius Notation software, Līva has engraved Le Beau’s nine unpublished Lieder manuscripts into working scores. Throughout the transcription process, we have encountered some unexpected (and interesting!) challenges. Le Beau exclusively wrote in Kurrentschrift, a cursive script standardized throughout Germany from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. Kurrentschrift uses a distinct alphabet, and due to the interconnected nature of its letters, Le Beau’s song texts are challenging for the contemporary reader to decipher. In order to read and ultimately translate Le Beau’s song lyrics into English, we sought assistance from independent scholar and Kurrentschrift translator Christina Petterson, who translated Le Beau’s Kurrentschrift lyrics into German Roman script.

In the coming year, Līva and I plan to publish a collected edition of Le Beau’s Lieder, vocal duets, and vocal trios, as well as to create a digital humanities project that contextualizes Le Beau’s song repertoire for a wider audience online. Check out this space for updates on our progress!

Collaborator Spotlight

Līva Blūma

Līva Blūma (b. 1994) is a Latvian composer and singer. Her work as a composer incorporates varied extra-musical sources such as poetry, visual art, spam emails, and boxing matches. Curiosity and collaboration are instrumental parts of her creative process, be it a piece for string orchestra, vocal a cappella or music for a shadow theatre performance engaging patients from a local mental health facility. As a singer, Līva performs solo art song and choral music. She sings everything from the medieval to the contemporary. Līva has been singing full-time with the State Choir LATVIJA since September 2022.

Līva holds a Bachelor’s degree in composition from Jazeps Vitols Latvian Music Academy. She completed her Master’s in Composition at the Peabody Institute Of Johns Hopkins University, under the tutelage of professor Michael Hersch in 2021. Currently, Līva is based in Rīga, Latvia where in November 2023 she premiered her first chamber opera MONSTERA DELICIOSA for four singers, piano, and percussion. This opera centers on stories of Baltic women and plants. Listen to examples of Līva’s music on Soundcloud.

Līva is also sincerely interested in engraving the works of historic women composers. This interest stems from a personal conviction that amplifying the voices of historically marginalized composers is of true necessity. For Līva, making historic manuscripts into performance-ready editions raises awareness about voices that have been silenced by the political climate and other societal issues.

Multimedia

Excerpts from Zwei Duette, op. 6 and Vier Terzette, op. 5 by Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927)
i. “Frühlingsanfang” from Zwei Duette, op. 6 (1877) | ii. “Zur Nacht” from Vier Terzette, op. 5 (1877) | iii. “Abendlied” from Zwei Duette, op. 6 (1877) | iv. “Gefunden” from Vier Terzette, op. 5 (1877)
Noelle McMurtry (soprano), Julie Bosworth (soprano), Claire Galloway Weber (soprano) & Hui-Chuan Chen (piano)
Peabody Institute | January 2023

Notes

1. Luise Adolpha Le Beau, Lebenserinnerungen einer Komponistin (Baden-Baden: E. Sommermeyer, 1910), 8-9. Translation by Noelle McMurtry.

German Romantics: Clara

German Romantics: Clara

Description

What names come to mind when you think of the songs of German Romantic composers? Schumann? Mendelssohn? Schubert? If you imagine Robert, Felix, or Franz, you may want to think again. With the film series “German Romantics,” The Pleiades Project challenges how we define this group of composers by insisting that we not forget the women.

Clara Schumann (1819-1896) was a virtuosic pianist, composer, and piano pedagogue.  From the age of eleven, she maintained a sixty-one-year concert career, touring throughout Europe. Her success as a concert artist secured essential income for her family, including her husband, the renowned composer Robert Schumann (1810-1856), and their eight children. She began composing as a child, and her compositions later included solo piano pieces, chamber music, choral works and songs (or Lieder).

For German Romantics: Clara, The Pleiades Project re-conceptualizes the three Lieder of Clara’s Op. 12, originally part of a twelve-song collection jointly published by Clara and Robert to poetry by Friedrich Rückert. In 1841, soon after their marriage, Robert urged his wife to collaborate on a compositional project. Although she was initially ambivalent about composing, Clara began to work on the songs of Op. 12.

While these songs may have marked the beginning of Clara and Robert’s union, the protagonist of German Romantics: Clara navigates Op. 12 as she copes with the end of an important relationship. As she confronts the end of this chapter in her life, her imagination travels to vibrant fantasy worlds of the past. In becoming the heroine of her own story, our protagonist reaches closure and the ability to move forward.

For more information about Clara Schumann and Op. 12, read “one heart and one soul”: The Songs of Clara and Robert Schumann on my blog She Is Song.

German Romantics: Clara – Full Version
For more episodes, check out the Multimedia section below.

Performance History

German Romantics was made possible by the generous support and in collaboration with Washington-DC based opera company, IN Series

German Romantics was conceived to be watched on INVision: The Logan Opera House Without Walls.  Created in response to performance restrictions imposed by COVID-19 and embracing the opportunity to collaborate broadly and reach worldwide audiences, INVision is IN Series’ first-of-its kind multi-venue digital performing arts center dedicated to disseminating new, transformative works of operatic theater free of charge.

Click here for more information on the two other series’ installments, German Romantics: Louise and German Romantics: Fanny, and watch a YouTube playlist of all three installments here.

Multimedia

“Liebst du um Schönheit”
from German Romantics: Clara
“Er ist gekommen”
from German Romantics: Clara
“Warum willst du and’re fragen”
from German Romantics: Clara
A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!

A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!

Nannie Burroughs holding banner reading, “Banner State Woman’s National Baptist Convention”
Photo: Library of Congress (1905-1915)

Photo: Unknown Author (1917), Public Domain
Sisters of the world, let’s gather our power, and shock the men who belittle us by saying, ‘What can women do’?



Komako Kimura (1887-1980), from “The New Real Woman’s Society”

Photo: Unknown Author (1917)



Description

In our November 2021 staged readings of A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!, Maestra Impresaria and her dynamic vaudeville troupe present the stories of the trail-blazing leaders and watershed moments of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. Through unique adaptations of suffrage propaganda, popular music from the Library of Congress Songs of Suffrage Archive, and new songs from NYC-based composers Lacy Rose and November Christine, we endeavor to display the breadth and diversity within this eight-decade long struggle, including the pivotal contributions of suffragists of color, who have been continually marginalized and erased from our collective re-telling of the history of the women’s suffrage movement.

Join us on an exhilarating jaunt to celebrate, explore, and problematize this historic fight to win women the vote! By examining the intersection of the voices of American women of the past and women of today, we ask ourselves and our audience to consider how the fight for equality continues in this quest for the enfranchisement of all citizens in our democracy.


Introducing… our Suffragists!

Synopsis

Led by our daring Maestra Impresaria, the “Great Women of History” will go head-to-head in a fight for the right to vote! The show starts with a bang as “The Sharpshootin’ Suff,” Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) duels with legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) over the 15th Amendment. Anthony’s quick on the draw—but her racist rhetoric misses the bullseye.

The next act is Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927) as “The Magician.” A true visionary, Woodhull is a medium, a newspaper editor and the first female presidential candidate. Her power to see the future has the audience mesmerized—until “The Anti Suffrage Sisters” burst on stage. Staunchly against women’s suffrage, The Antis threaten to steal the show with their catchy anti-suffrage tunes. But have no fear, Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) “The Tallest Woman in the World” is here! A world-famous anti lynching activist and leading Black suffragist, Wells truly towers above the rest.

Not to be outshone, enter Mabel Ping-Hua Lee (1896-1966), the “Teen Tamer of Fire.” Her magical lanterns illuminate the struggles of Chinese immigrant women who aren’t allowed US citizenship, let alone the right to vote. It’s a tough act to follow, but Rose Schneiderman (1882-1972), “Star of the Yiddish Stage,” is up for the challenge. A prominent Jewish American women’s trade union organizer, Schneiderman uses Yiddish song—and a bit of humor—to represent working women in the suffrage movement. Next up is Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947) as “The Ventriloquist.” Catt attempts to manipulate her dummy Woody (President Woodrow Wilson) into passing the 19th Amendment—but who’s pulling whose strings?

Impatient for the spotlight, Alice Paul (1885-1977) storms the stage as “The Strongwoman.” She flexes and grandstands, but can’t outmuscle the political system. The final act is Maria Guadalupe Evangelina de Lopez (1881-1977) as “The Spanish Rose.” Preferring unity over divisiveness, Lopez is a bridge between two worlds, using her gift of translation to ignite the suffrage movement in the Spanish-speaking community.

The moment of truth has arrived—will women win the right to vote? The Maestra employs the Vote-O-Meter to determine the verdict. Heavy hitter Susan B. Anthony strikes the mallet and…DING! They’ve won! But their victory is short lived…

To find out how it all ends for the ladies of A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!, stay tuned for updates on the development of our show and new performances!

Suffragists picketing the White House in 1917 
Photo: Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Cast & Creative Team

Press & Media

Collaborator Spotlight

November Christine
Co-Creator (Book, Music & Lyrics)

November Christine (she/her/hers) holds a degree in Cellular Biology and Molecular Genetics from the University of Maryland, as well as a BM in Musical Theatre from the East Carolina University School of Music. She produced her award-winning musical MIRROR, MIRROR at the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival, followed by a 3-week run in Los Angeles, CA. November’s historical hip-hop drama, LEGACY THE MUSICAL was showcased in London in 2017 and won “Best of Fest” at the 2018 New York Musical Festival.

Her other works include her play IDA, about the anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells, and A WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE SPLENDIFEROUS EXTRAVAGANZA! a vaudeville revue written in collaboration with The Pleiades Project. November is a BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop Lyricist, 2021 Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award Winner, and Co-chair of the NYCLU Artist Ambassador Program.

Caroline Miller
Co-Creator (Book & Lyrics)

Caroline Miller is Co-Founder & Artistic Director of The Pleiades Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to championing women’s stories through opera, film, and original music-theater projects. With The Pleiades Project, Caroline has expanded her artistic talents outside of performance, embracing her interdisciplinary skills as a director, writer, programmer, and producer. She produced and starred in the short-film Così, excerpted from W.A. Mozart’s Così fan tutte, which was named an official selection of the NY Indie Theatre Film Festival. Caroline directed the entirety of the 24 Series, a collection of videos based on the 17th and 18th-century song collection, Twenty-Four Italian Songs & Arias.

For the 2020-2021 season, Caroline directed the premiere A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!, a vaudevillian revue celebrating and problematizing the US women’s suffrage movement, through a generous grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

Suffragists demonstrating against Woodrow Wilson in Chicago, 1916
Photo: National Woman’s Party Records, Library of Congress
A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza! is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and administered by LMCC.
I take the long way there

I take the long way there

Description

I take the long way there: A Capstone Project (2021) is a classical music concert-film, created during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through experimental music videos, this film project engages with making art and rediscovering the everyday moments that sustain us through turbulent times. I take the long way there features Noelle McMurtry (voice) and a vibrant cast of instrumental and vocal collaborators as they interpret the works of historic and living women composers in classical music, including Melissa Dunphy, Jessica Krash, Lori Laitman, Clara Schumann, Maddalena Casulana, and Vittoria Aleotti. I take the long way there was awarded Honorable Mention in Boston-based Guerilla Opera Underground’s 2022 Film Series.

I take the long way there: A Capstone Project (2021)
Original Version
I take the long way there: A Capstone Project (2021)
Alternate Version with Lori Laitman’s “The Sunflowers”

Artist Statement

Like so many of us, I have gained and shed all types of baggage throughout the past two years.

In August of 2020, as it sunk in that live performance was no longer a viable option due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I began to work on I take the long way there. With the support of collaborators, teachers, and coaches, a concert that was originally planned for a live audience in fulfilment of my Doctoral degree transformed into a virtual film project. Due to pandemic-related delays and set-backs, I take the long way there took over nine months to complete. In the process, it was reconfigured from an academic obligation into a creative and personal reaction to the events, experiences, and emotions of this tumultuous period in our history.

By attempting to safely create art and make music in this chaotic time, I was forced to confront my artistic values and mission through technology in unexpected ways. I renewed my commitment to the voices of women in classical music, past and present. Composers like Melissa Dunphy, Lori Laitman, Clara Schumann, Maddalena Casulana, and Vittoria Aleotti continually served as my creative guides. Through this process, I also deepened collaborative partnerships with longtime friends and colleagues, a group of fantastic multi-hyphenates. Together, we navigated bringing our often-acoustic art form into a digital realm.

As I described to her the myriad twists and turns of the creative process behind I take the long way there, Mary Maxwell, translator of Sulpicia’s poetry in Jessica Krash’s Sulpicia Songs, observed to me that “sometimes the long way uncovers things we wouldn’t have discovered if we’d been able to take the direct road.”

Noelle McMurtry
Washington DC, 2021

Creative Team & Ensemble

  • Noelle McMurtry; voice, co-director, dramaturg & writer
  • Caroline Miller; voice, co-director & audio editing
  • Elizabeth Van Os; voice & director of photography
  • Marina Iwao, piano
  • Paula Maust, baroque organ
  • Flavia Pajaro-Van de Stadt, viola
  • Eric Sedgwick, piano

Program

Collaborator Spotlight

Caroline Miller

Caroline Miller is Co-Founder & Artistic Director of The Pleiades Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to championing women’s stories through opera, film, and original music-theater projects. With The Pleiades Project, Caroline has expanded her artistic talents outside of performance, embracing her interdisciplinary skills as a director, writer, programmer, and producer. She produced and starred in the short-film Così, excerpted from W.A. Mozart’s Così fan tutte, which was named an official selection of the NY Indie Theatre Film Festival. Caroline directed the entirety of the 24 Series, a collection of videos based on the 17th and 18th-century song collection, Twenty-Four Italian Songs & Arias.

For the 2020-2021 season, Caroline is directing the premiere A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!, a vaudevillian revue celebrating and problematizing the US women’s suffrage movement, through a generous grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. She co-created AWSSE! in collaboration with Noelle McMurtry and November Christine. 

Elizabeth Van Os

Soprano Elizabeth Van Os is one of New York City’s most dynamic performers, making waves not only as soloist and ensemble member but also as a co-founder of the non-profit Pleiades Project. For her efforts, the opera-zine parterre took notice of her “striking impression,” with additional praise from Voce di Meche for her “lovely, affecting” voice and “justifiable passion.” 
 
A lover of concert work, Elizabeth has appeared as soloist with the American Symphony Orchestra, the Berkshire Bach Society, The Astoria Choir, the Collegiate Choir, Ars Musica, and more. In opera, notable roles have included that of Margeurite in Faust and Mimi in La Bohéme, both as Sing Through Central productions. She is a regular invited guest at Bard SummerScape Festival, where she has performed in productions like Anton Rubenstein’s Démon, Dvorâk’s Dimitrij, Pietro Mascagni’s Iris, and Dame Ethel Smyth’s Wreckers
 
With an eye towards growing the repertoire, Van Os’s career has a particular focus on collaboration with select contemporary music composers, including recent premieres of work by Matthew Brown with The Astoria Choir, and Katherine Hoover, where she was a featured soloist with the New York Virtuoso Singers. Offstage, Van Os creates new performance opportunities for female artists as the co-founder of The Pleiades Project, a non-profit production company.  

Multimedia

“The Sunflowers” by Lori Laitman
June by Melissa Dunphy
Sulpicia’s Songs by Jessica Krash
German Romantics: Clara
Farewell, Angelina by Melissa Dunphy

I take the long way there is in partial fulfillment of the Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in Vocal Performance at Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University.