Saturday, 16 June 2018


*CLICK TO ENLARGE* Earliest surviving program of Marian Anderson - The People's Choral 
 Society concert for a production of Handel's Messiah, Philadelphia, PA, April 6, 1916. 
Marginalia: "$55.00 Tickets sold..."  Mini-biography on Anderson reads: “Marion [sic] E. 
Anderson, of Philadelphia, Contralto, is a young singer of great promise and has a rich 
contralto voice of large range and volume. She is a pupil of one of the best teachers in the 
city, and has made remarkable strides in a short time.” UPenn Archive
It’s one of the more gratifying signs of the times: the collective digitization of archive material pertaining to major composers and performers, each representing the best of Western classical music and opera.

In early 2018, it was announced Chopin (who was Polish but thrived in France) would lead the way for artists to come across the globe - becoming a pioneer of the effort to bring together scores, dust off old archival manuscripts and regalia and enter them into the universal database of the future – and not just selected material – entire oeuvres.

Now, both the United States and Germany are attempting to follow suit, with the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) digitizing their archive of one of the institute's most prized donors, the African-American contralto Marian Anderson (who first donated materials to university in 1977 (Almanac April 12, 1977), continuing until her death in 1993 (Almanac April 13, 1993); and, in Germany, a historic effort is underway to make formerly semi-private accessibility of Wagner material available to the public at large by digitizing material related to the composer presently holed up at the Wagner National Archive at Wahnfried House – currently the largest collection of Wagner regalia in the world. Previously, one seeking to view scores, documents or other related material had to “fill out application forms proving that they were doing professional research. In addition, visitors had to travel to the Richard Wagner Museum in Bayreuth themselves to view the documents.” (Deutsche Welle). Soon, even the private the correspondence and personal journals of the Romantic era icon will be added to the estimated 16,000 pieces in the institute's private holdings slated to join this exciting wave of the future.

Listen below to Philadelphia native Marian Anderson perform J.S. Bach's "Erbarme dich, mein Gott" (Matthäus-Passion BWV 244):

Whilst not quite as inclusive as the effort underway in Poland with the Fryderyk Chopin Institute (NIFC)'s commendable full-oeuvre undertaking, the decision to digitize the archives of Anderson - a woman of color who shattered barriers in the segregated operatic world of the early 1900’s - and that of Wagner, whose material, astonishingly, remained censored from the greater public well into the 21st century, will prove a great boon to the integration and inclusivity movements and doctrines so highly valued in the West.

As for UPenn, the existing digital archive of Anderson will be greatly added to, with focus aimed at personal documentation – diaries, programs, scrapbooks, interviews and home studio performances formerly belonging to the late singer and activist, including rare, never-before publicly viewed or heard interviews transferred from fragile cassette and reel-to-reel.

According to the University’s website,

“An estimated 5,000 individual items, spanning most of Ms. Anderson’s life as a singer and social justice advocate, will be included in the project. The collection has 1,200 recital and performance programs, 146 notebooks and diaries, 34 scrapbooks, 34 interview transcriptions and 277 hours of recordings.”

The massive undertaking, which is expected to wrap up in May 2019, will provide both scholar and student greater access to material related to the singer than ever before possible.

The Wagner Archive at Bayreuth will prove even more resourceful – for the first time enabling worldwide access to both scholar and layman alike to the massive archive housed there. High-resolution color scans will be included in the digital archive, which as of posting, has no estimated date of completion.

Listen below to the great Wagnerian soprano Kirsten Flagstad perform "Allmächtige Jungfrau" from Wagner's Tannhäuser:

[1]Deutsches Radio SWR2: Wagner bald online (Nachrichtenartikel auf Deutsch)
External links:
- Rose.

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