<< -- 2 -- Howard Smith LARSEN'S LICENCE
Thousands greeted Jenny Lind's arrival in New York Harbour but they expected
to hear coloratura fireworks, not art songs of Mendelssohn. The adulation
was immense. Yet as the tour progressed and the star continued with her
classical arias, audiences steadily dwindled. She broke the contract with
Barnum and ended her tour in Massachussets, playing to classically aware
At that point Lind married her accompanist, flew to Europe, and spurned
further offers from America.
Larsen was inspired to write Barnum's Bird after reading a letter from
Lind to Harriet Beecher Stowe. 'The tone of that letter made me interested
in her as a person,' says Libby. 'She was a phenomenal talent, quite an
amazing business woman, and a real philanthropist.' Quite the opposite of
the grasping P T Barnum.
Barnum's Bird previewed at the Theatre de la Jeune Lune in April.
And audiences found Larsen had incorporated Minstrel idioms and music popular
throughout America in the mid 1800s.
Her cabaret opera was presented by 24 voices of the Minneapolis-based
Plymouth Music Series with soprano Esther Heideman as Lind and baritone
Gary Briggle playing Barnum. Librettist Bridget Carpenter prepared the text
and her roles required acting, dancing, and shameless Moliere-style comments
on entertainment, culture, and the marketplace.
Copyright © 1 July 2001
Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand
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