A Juilliard Rossini Premiere | Time Capsule

Tuesday, Feb 09, 2021
Juilliard Journal
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About 10 women in white, flowing dresses on stage in this archival photo from the opera production
Judith Raskin (center left) and Shirley Verrett-Carter (center right) in Rossini’s 'The Count Ory,' 1959 (Photo: Impact Photos Inc.)

Juilliard commissions a translation of a Rossini opera last seen in NY 130 years earlier

By Jeni Dahmus Farah

In the late 1950s, Juilliard Opera Theater commissioned New Yorker music critic and librettist Robert A. Simon to create an English-language adaptation of Gioacchino Rossini’s penultimate opera, The Count Ory. The two-act comic work had received its world premiere in Paris in 1828, and while it had been staged in Europe over the years, it hadn’t been seen in the U.S. since 1831. The commission was first performed in the summer of 1958 at Tanglewood, and in March 1959, it premiered at Juilliard.

The Juilliard Opera Theater production’s cast members included students Shirley Verrett-Carter, Perryne Anker, Harold Johnson, Marnell Higley, Estelle Tyner, and Gloria Berliner. They were joined by faculty member Paul Ukena (Diploma ’49, MS ’50, voice), and guest artists Judith Raskin, Nico Castel (who would later join the Juilliard faculty), and Ara Berberian, baritone.

The production featured sets and special effects designed by artist Saul Steinberg, a renowned New Yorker cartoonist; music direction by Frederic Waldman (faculty 1947-64); stage direction by Frederic Cohen (faculty 1947-63); and costumes by Leo van Witsen (faculty 1953-59).

Jeni Dahmus Farah is director of the Juilliard Archives