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By November 6, 2014 Read More →

AMERICAN BAYREUTH: The 1914 Peterborough Festival

[reposted from the Library of Congress: In the Muse Performing Arts Blog]

Peterborough Festival Program Cover

Program cover for the 1914 Peterborough Festival. Edward and Marian MacDowell Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

For five days in August in 1914, thousands of people descended on the tiny village of Peterborough, New Hampshire to attend the fifth summer festival of music and drama produced by the Edward MacDowell Memorial Association.  Inaugurated in 1910, these annual festivals were the brainchild of Marian MacDowell, the widow of composer Edward MacDowell, whose premature death from a crippling nervous disease in 1908 stirred the sympathy of the nation.  Marian MacDowell had promised her late husband that she would carry out their plan to turn their New Hampshire farm into an artists’ colony–today’s prestigious MacDowell Colony–and her summer festivals helped to spread the word and draw new talent to the creative community.  Critics praised the productions from the beginning, and speculated that Peterborough might become the “Bayreuth of America.”  But unlike the famous Bayreuth Festival, with its exclusive Wagnerian repertoire, the Peterborough festivals were more than a paean to Edward MacDowell.  They were designed to promote new talent, especially the works of living American composers.  The 1914 festival was the most ambitious yet. [read the full blog on the Library of Congress web site]