Waart, Edo de. 56 Wachmann, Eduard 56



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Wright, Robert


(b Daytona Beach, FL, 25 Sept 1914). American composer and lyricist. The first significant phase of Wright’s career with co-composer and co-lyricist George Forrest (b Brooklyn, NY, 31 July 1915), initially begun when both were teenagers, was their employment at the MGM studios in 1936. Over the next six years Wright and Forrest wrote lyrics, adapted music and occasionally composed new music for a series of film adaptations of successful stage musicals (mainly operettas). These included Sigmund Romberg’s Maytime and Rudolf Friml’s The Firefly (1937), Victor Herbert’s Sweethearts (1938), a film musical with Herbert Stothart and George Posford, Balalaika (1939), and Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s I Married an Angel (1942), also with Stothart. Three songs from their original film musicals received Academy Award nominations. Working from Hollywood, the team launched a second career when they began adapting the music of famous composers into popular staged musicals. The most skilful and popular of these adaptations were Song of Norway (1944), a fictional composer biography, and Kismet (1953), which used the music of Edvard Grieg and Alexander Borodin, respectively, as the foundation for major theatrical international successes. In contrast to the widespread practice of unacknowledged borrowings by other Broadway composers, Wright and Forrest clearly designated their sources in programmes, published scores and recordings; fittingly, it was Borodin rather than Wright and Forrest who received a Tony award for the Best Score in 1954. Later Broadway musicals adapted from Herbert’s Fortune Teller (Gypsy Lady, 1946) and the music of Heitor Villa-Lobos (Magdalena, 1948), Sergey Rachmaninoff (Anya, 1965) and Camille Saint-Saëns (Dumas and Son, 1967) shared the fate of Wright and Forrest’s original musicals and either never left the West Coast or closed out-of-town. Kean (1961) did reach Broadway, but quickly failed there. In 1978 Kismet returned as Timbuktu! with new songs and an African setting for a successful run. Most remarkably, 50 years after their adaptations at MGM studios, At the Grand, an original musical which closed in Los Angeles in 1958, was successfully resuscitated as Grand Hotel (1989) in a considerably revised version staged by Tommy Tune, with book revisions by Peter Stone and seven new songs by Maury Yeston.

WORKS


all are musicals; unless otherwise stated, dates are those of first New York performance, and music and lyrics with G. Forrest; librettists and lyricists in that order in parentheses

Thank you, Columbus, Los Angeles, Hollywood Playhouse, 15 Nov 1940

Fun for the Money, Los Angeles, Hollywood Playhouse, Aug 1941

Song of Norway (music after E. Grieg), orchd A. Kay, Imperial, 21 Aug 1944

Spring in Brazil (P. Rapp), Boston, Schubert, 1 Oct 1945

Gypsy Lady (H. Myers, after V. Herbert), orchd Kay, Century, 17 Sept 1946

Magdalena (F.H. Brennan, H. Curran, after H. Villa-Lobos), Ziegfeld, 20 Sept 1948

The Great Waltz, San Francisco, Lazarus, 1949 [adapted from Walzer aus Wien, after J. Strauss (ii); rev. San Francisco, 14 Sept 1965]

Kismet (C. Lederer and L. Davis, music after A. Borodin, after play by E. Knoblock), orchd Kay, Ziegfeld, 3 Dec 1953 [incl. Stranger in Paradise; Baubles, Bangles and Beads; rev. as Timbuktu!, orchd C.H. Coleman and W.D. Brohn, Mark Hellinger Theater, 1 March 1978]

The Carefree Heart, Detroit, Cass, 30 Sept 1957

At the Grand (L. Davis), Los Angeles, Philharmonic, 7 July 1958; rev. as Grand Hotel, orchd P. Matz, Martin Beck Theater, 12 Nov 1989 [addl music by M. Yeston]

Kean (P. Stone, after A. Dumas and J.-P. Sartre), orchd P.J. Lang, Broadway Theater, 2 Nov 1961

Anya (G. Abbott, Guy Bolton, music after S. Rachmaninoff, after M. Maurette and G. Bolton: Anastasia), orchd D. Walker, Ziegfeld, 29 Nov 1965

Dumas and Son (Chodorov, music after C. Saint-Saëns), Los Angeles, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 1 Aug 1967

A Song for Cyrano (J. Ferrer), Mountainhome, PA, Pocono Playhouse, 4 Sept 1972

BIBLIOGRAPHY


G. Bordman: American Musical Theatre: a Chronicle (New York, 1978, 2/1992)

M. Gottfried: More Broadway Musicals since 1980 (New York, 1991)

GEOFFREY BLOCK


Wright, Thomas


(b Stockton-on-Tees, 18 Sept 1763; dWycliffe Rectory, nr Barnard Castle, 24 Nov 1829). English musician and inventor. Wright was instructed in music by his father, Robert, by John Garth and, as an articled apprentice, by Thomas Ebdon. On expiration of his articles about 1784, he succeeded Garth as organist at Sedgefield. In 1794 he married Elizabeth Foxton and set to music her operetta, Rusticity. In the ‘Advertisement’ to his Concerto for Harpsichord or Pianoforte (London, c1796), he promoted his invention of a pendulum for keeping musical time as more practicable than the timekeepers of Loulié, Sauveur and others. A model of the invention, owned by Wright’s granddaughter, Miss Edith Wright of Wakefield, was seen by Frank Kidson, when compiling his article for Grove’s Dictionary (3rd edn). In 1797 Wright succeeded his father as organist at Stockton. In 1817 he was organist at Kirkleatham near Redcar; but sometime after he returned to Stockton and remained there as organist, teacher and composer until his death.

BIBLIOGRAPHY


SainsburyD

A.B.: Letter to the Editor, Monthly Magazine, ix (1800), 110–11

J.C. Kassler: The Science of Music in Britain, 1714–1830 (New York, 1979), ii, 1083–4

JAMIE C. KASSLER




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