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<<  -- 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 Bostonians.

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.

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Copyright © 1 July 2001 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand






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