Why Simon Bolivar is important

The opera Simón Bolívar by Thea Musgrave was a joint commission by the Los Angeles Music Centre and Scottish Opera. Born in Scotland in 1928 Musgrave studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, knew Benjamin Britten, and has lived in the United States since 1974. For more on Thea Musgrave, and other women composers, follow this path.

Thea Musgrave's two act opera tells the story of the Venezuelan folk hero Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), who liberated six South American countries from Spanish colonial rule. Bolívar was a passionate idealist, and brilliantly successful freedom fighter (he is seen in the painting above finalising his campaign). But he failed to unite the liberated countries under one flag, and today they are the independent states of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, and Bolivia. In the 21st century Simón Bolívar is still revered for defeating the Spanish and liberating the region from colonial domination.

There is no commercial recording of the opera Simón Bolívar. But on Sunday (Aug 10) I will be playing Thea Musgrave's concerto for oboe and orchestra, Helios, in my Overgrown Path webcast on Future Radio, see below for webcast details. It is in another of my programmes of fine music that is rarely broadcast, yet alone heard in the concert hall. After last week's rare American symphonies, the music this week is all by British born composers. As well as Thea Musgrave's Helios there is Edmund Rubbra's Symphony No. 10 (see my post The Year is '72), and William Alwyn's Symphony No 5 'Hydriotaphia' (see my post Brain Music).

* Simón Bolívar, the opera by Thea Musgrave, was premiered by Virginia Opera (in the other Norfolk!) in January 1995. Stephen Guggenheim sung the title role, and the composer's husband, Peter Mark, conducted.

* Thea Musgrave's Two's Company is given its world premiere at the BBC Prom on August 31.
* The Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, with their conductor Gustavo Dudamel, are at the BBC Proms on August 19 playing Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony.
* The 224th anniversary of the birth of Simón Bolívar was celebrated around the world on July 24 2007.
* On July 22 2007 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavéz said that foreigners who publicly criticize him or his government while visiting the country will be expelled. In May 2007 Chavéz closed down an opposition run TV station.
* Now read about politician Hugo Chavéz and composer Carlos Carlos Chavéz in a tale of two Chavéz

My programme of Brain Music, including Thea Musgraves Helios, will be webcast between 5.00pm and 6.00pm British Summer Time, and is available on web radio. Convert on-air times to your local time zone using this link. Click here for the audio stream. Windows Media Player doesn't like the stream very much and takes ages to buffer, WinAmp or iTunes handle it best. Unfortunately the royalty license doesn't permit on-demand replay, so you have to listen in real time. If you happen to be in the Norwich, UK area tune to 96.9FM.

Painting of the meeting of San Martin(right)and Simon Bolívar(left)in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on July 26, 1822, at which was decided the campaign to liberate South America from Spanish control, from
Aceros-de-espana. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk


Unknown said…
You might have gathered I try to study Darius Milhaud - who also wrote a grand opera called Bolivar, in 1943. Now totally forgotten, like

Anthony and Cleopatra
Christoph Colomb
Die Harmonie der Welt
Karl V
The Midsummer Marriage
The Olympians
Simplicius Simplicissimus
Tobias and the Angel
Troilus and Cressida
We Come to the River


Pliable said…
Email recieved:

Thea Musgrave, in general, is unfortunately ignored. Her opera A Christmas
should be standard repertoire, but then, so should the operas of Werner Ehk.

David Cavlovic
Civic Center said…
Here's a vote for Musgrave's "Mary, Queen of Scots" opera which is stunningly good.

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