Parsifal: The Return of an IU Tradition for the Bicentennial

Guest Blogger : Erin Chiparo is the Public Services Supervisor and Stacks Coordinator at the IU Libraries, William and Gayle Cook Music Library. 

Richard Wagner is an excellent case study in the failures of moral absolutism. The nineteenth-century German composer, thinker, and conductor did a lot of good things and a lot of bad things – and his actions have had a lasting legacy, even here at Indiana University. In preparation for the Jacobs School of Music’s upcoming production or Wagner’s opera Parsifal, I examined a number of items from three different libraries on campus: the William and Gayle Cook Music Library, the Lilly Library, and the Indiana University Archives. What I discovered are a series of objects that tell a fascinating, and complicated, story about Wagner, his music, and their connection to IU.

Color stage shot showing the Knights of the Holy Grail
Parsifal, March 1966. IU Archives image no. P0026422

I went to the Lilly Library first. In 1850 Wagner published his now infamous essay under a pseudonym, and that essay was reissued with his true name in 1869. The Lilly’s copy of Das Judenthum in der Musik (“Jewishness in Music”) is a first edition and still lies within its original pale green wrappers. Perhaps it is all in my head, but the physical object seemed to project a wicked aura. Within it, Wagner expounds upon his notorious Anti-Semitic views, insisting that musicians of Jewish descent cannot possibly live up to the intrinsic creativity of German culture. He also denounces two well-known Jewish composers, Felix Mendelssohn and Wagner’s nemesis, Giacomo Meyerbeer. To this day, Meyerbeer’s reputation still hasn’t completely recovered from this defamation. Given this level of reprehensibility, I was ready to give up on Wagner. But I decided to look at another item – a first edition full score of Wagner’s Parsifal.

Piano vocal score front title page for Richar Wagner's Parsifal: ein Bühnenweihfestspiel. Includes the following information in german: Vom Orchester fur das Klavier ubertragen von Joseph Rubinstein
Parsifal: ein Bühnenweihfestspiel – Piano vocal score, 1883 ed. William and Gayle Cook Music Library

At the William and Gayle Cook Music Library, I examined an 1883 edition of the piano vocal score for Wagner’s Parsifal. The copy features an elaborate title page and marbled end papers. It is still possible to see the impressions where the nineteenth-century plates were pressed onto the paper. As exquisite as this score is, the music is even more beautiful. Wagner first conceived of Parsifal in 1857, but the work did not premiere until 1882, just a year prior to his death. Rather than referring to the work as an opera, Wagner called it ein Bühnenweihfestspiel or a “Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage.” Parsifal premiered at Bayreuth Festspielhaus and was performed there exclusively until 1914. The work tells the story of the twelfth-century knight, Parsifal the “pure fool,” who in his youth witnesses the rite of the Holy Grail. The young man, filled with compassion, eventually overcomes the villain, Klingsor, in order to ultimately redeem the Knights of the Grail. Musically, Parsifal is a triumph. It contains some of the most powerful moments in opera.

In addition to the beautiful piano vocal score, I viewed another full score that belongs to the Lilly Library. This was a particularly special copy because it was previously owned by Fritz Busch, a great German conductor. Busch actually conducted another of Wagner’s operas at Bayreuth in 1924. The beauty of this particular score lies in the myriad colored pencil markings throughout, which outline Busch’s personal interpretation of the opera. Interestingly, Fritz Busch was forced out of his position with the Dresden State Opera in 1933, five weeks after Hitler came to power, because he opposed the Nazi regime and because he was perceived of as having too many Jewish friends and acquaintances.[1]

Program with the following text : INDIANA UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MUSIC Thirty-Second Season Parsifal: A Religious Music Drama in Three Acts by Richard Wagner An Indiana University Opera Production Palm Sunday, April 2, 1950 Act 1 - 4:00 pm Act 2 - 7:15 pm Indiana University Auditorium
IU School of Music – Parsifal program, April 2, 1950. IU Archives accn. 2001/031

But how does all of this relate to Indiana University? What impact have Wagner and his works had here? At the IU Archives, I found hundreds of photographs, concert programs, publications, and correspondence regarding Parsifal at IU. Beginning in 1950, the IU School Music performed Wagner’s Parsifal annually to correspond with the Lenten season. Dean Wilfred C. Bain, and director of orchestral music, Ernst Hoffmann launched a combined effort to spearhead the first performance. The two men felt that the opera was especially fitting for the IU Opera Theater stage because it could showcase the school’s strong wind section, strong tradition of choral singing, and mature male singers. Many of these students came to the school of music later in life as the result of the GI Bill.[2] Several of the original lead vocalists including D. Ralph Appelman, Margaret Harshaw, and Roy Samuelsen stayed on as school of music faculty. Fritz Busch’s son, Hans Busch, joined them as the IU Opera Theater Director for a number of years.

Red and black program with the following text "Indiana University Opera Theater - Parsifal March 19, 1967, 19th annual production"
Indiana University Opera Theater – Parsifal March 19, 1967 program

IU’s Parsifal became the first IU School of Music concerts for which tickets were sold. Some of the performances even included a Parsifal Supper so that audience members could come together for a meal at the Indiana Memorial Union between Acts I and II of the multi-hour production. IU students often performed the opera in English because according to Bain, “the only way to make it popular with large American audiences was to present it in intelligible English translations.”[3] The production received worldwide attention and accolades with reviews published in Opera News. The final annual performance ran in 1969, and the tradition ceased in order to save money and resources and in order to give music students the opportunity to experience a greater variety of repertoire.

Nevertheless, the impact of Parsifal is still palpable. The Jacobs School of Music is one of the best schools of music in the world and one of the finest aspects of IU. Perhaps some piece of that is because of Parsifal, in spite of Wagner’s questionable morals. In honor of Indiana University’s bicentennial anniversary, this November the Jacobs School will present its first production of Parsifal in decades. The opera, directed by Chris Alexander and conducted by Arthur Fagen, will feature a cast of professional vocalists and music students. No doubt it will be in interesting addition to IU’s operatic legacy. If you don’t have tickets yet, it looks like there are still some available!

To find out more about the history of productions of Parsifal on the IU Bloomington campus, contact the IU Archives.

[1] Michael H. Kater, The Twisted Muse: Musicians and Their Music in the Third Reich (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 79.

[2] George M. Logan, The Indiana University School of Music: A History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000), 160-161.

[3] Ibid., 164.

Sincerely Yours: The “removal question”

Black and white scan from the IU Arbutus yearbook. Image shows a man with dark hair and mustache wearing a suit and tie.
Daniel W. Biddle, Independent Literary Society group page, 1894 Arbutus

In this Sincerely Yours post, we will explore Indiana University and Bloomington through the eyes of Daniel W. Biddle, a student at IU between fall, 1893 and spring, 1985. Biddle was born on October 24, 1870 in Benton County, Indiana, and lived in the state his whole life. While in Bloomington, Biddle wrote frequently to his parents, as well as his friend Janie Bartee, whom he eventually married. These letters, recently donated to the University Archives by Biddle’s granddaughter, are a rich source on daily student life as well the “removal” controversy that rocked the university during his attendance.

In many of his early letters, Biddle describes his settling into campus. Biddle writes about his room on North Walnut Street that cost $1.50 per week “with everything furnished but wood and light”, and where he received his board, a half-mile away, for $2.25 per week. Two cords of beech and sugar tree wood at the time, according to Biddle, cost $4.00.

A reoccurring theme in all of Dan Biddle’s correspondence is how heavy his workload was.  Some of his courses included Latin, geometry, algebra, philosophy, physics, chemistry, poetry, and rhetoric. Due to this heavy courseload, Biddle’s daily schedule was as follows: wake-up at 5 or 5:30 AM, study until breakfast around 7:30, attend class until 1:00 PM, eat lunch, then study until retiring for bed around 9 or 10 PM, only breaking for supper. It seems as though D.W. Biddle did find time for leisure, however. In several letters, Biddle describes attending a lecture in Indianapolis by Joseph Cook and the annual contest of the Intercollegiate Oratorical Association of Indiana. Biddle also attended freshman “scraps,” which took various forms over the years – capture the flag, burning of books, or flatout brawls – all in good spirits, of course.

The 1890s saw many days off from school for birthdays and holidays, these included George Washington’s birthday and even the death of a trustee or the registrar. Additionally, sick days were a plenty. On more than one occasion, Biddle was too sick to attend classes. Between the “grippe” and general illness, good health was not a constant for Dan Biddle. Even Janie, many miles away, suffered illness- she however made a quick recovery according to letters.

One issue that caused quite a stir on campus in late January of 1895 was the “removal question.” This was the idea of moving the Indiana University campus from Bloomington to Indianapolis. According to Biddle, many of the students supported the relocation, while the citizens of Bloomington opposed it. On January 27, 1895 he wrote Janie about the controversy in detail:

This is a scan of a letter from January 27, 1895 in cursive handwriting.
Letter to Janie Bartee, January 27, 1895. C700 Daniel W. Biddle correspondence

Dear Friend:

Guess I’ll write you some more trash this morning.

Don’t you get tired of me writing so much about college? I don’t like to make you too tired but expect this letter will contain some college news you will, by such, get a better idea of college life which may be of advantage to your when you go to college.

You remember me saying that Friday was the day for dedicating the new building [Kirkwood Hall], and you have also, no doubt, heard something of the removal question. A majority of the students favor removal and the citizens, of course, are opposed to it. Thursday night the students (some of them I mean) had a number of badges gotten out on which was printed “1896 I.U. at Indianapolis.” Friday morning a number of the students appeared on the streets wearing these badges. The result was that some of the citizens got “hot.” This did not however diminish the number of badges worn, and by 10:30 when the extra brought in the Governor and 49 members of the legislature quite a profusion of such badges might be seen in the crowd at the depot. Just as the train stopped and the guests began to get off the following yell was given – “Remove I.U.! Remove I.U.! You’re the men to put her through!!” Everything went along pretty quiet until p.m. when the students, faculty, and guests marched two abreast to the old college chapel. A part of the militia that constituted the guard of honor for the Governor lined up on each side of the entrance and removed all “removal” badges on nearly all as the students passed. There was some resistance offered in some cases, but no one was seriously hurt. The students have been somewhat aroused by the conduct of the militia, and I fear the thing is not settled yet.

The speeches from the governor and the some of the legislature contained remarks disapproving the removal of I.U. and brought forth loud applause from the citizens, and in some cases hisses from the students.

Senator Gifford made a speech in which he said: “This is not a fit occasion for the discussion of the removal question. I am not here as a politician, but am here to assist in the dedication.” He was loudly applauded by the students. Rather a roast on the Governor, I thought.

The meeting at evening was conducted largely by the students and was a very nice service, being almost entirely free from allusions to the removal.

I enjoyed myself very much in the evening., five of us Sophs got back in the back part of the house and made and gave yells roasting the Freshman, i.e. before services began. There were a few removal badges worn in the evening, and some of the citizens wore a card on which was printed “1896 I.U. at Indianapolis I don’t think.”

Oh! no, I did not wear a removal badge, neither did Eli, but I succeeded in getting one for a souvenir.

My! just see how much I have written on this. Are you tired of it? Perhaps you have read about it in the papers. I will enclose a program….

Ever your friend, Dan

Obviously, in hindsight we know that Indiana University remained in Bloomington. Dan Biddle left IU in 1895 and obtained his teaching license, going on to teach in Benton County, Indiana. He soon married Janie and had two sons with her. He would go on to hold jobs in insurance and banking through the 1930s, in which he would obtain positions such as secretary, vice-president, and director, all in the state of Indiana. He died January 18, 1954 at his home in Remington, Indiana, at the age of 82.

To read the fascinating Daniel W. Biddle correspondence, contact the IU Archives to schedule an appointment.

Behind the Curtain: Jennifer Liss, Head of Monographic Image Cataloging

Behind the Curtain is a series highlighting IU Archives staff, partners from various departments of the IU Libraries, and students who make all of our work possible. 

Title and Role: Jennifer is the Head of Monographic Image Cataloging for the Cataloging Department at the Herman B Wells Library. The Cataloging Department helps IU Libraries’ users discover the collections curated, purchased, and licensed by IU Libraries through tools such as IUCAT, WorldCat, Archives Online, Image Collections Online, and Media Collections Online.

Educational background: Jennifer wanted to study everything as an undergraduate, which is perhaps why she was an English major, with a heavy focus in Anglo-Irish literature, and minors in history and biology. While earning her B.A. at Rutgers, Jennifer spent a few weeks in Ireland and became fascinated with special collections and, to her surprise, the art of science of special collections librarianship. She moved to Bloomington to complete a M.L.S. degree with the rare books and manuscripts specialization at Indiana University.

Work Experience: As a graduate student at IU, Jennifer had the good fortune of being able to work at the Chemistry Library, the E. Lingle Craig Preservation Lab, and the Owen County Public Library. Shortly after completing a fascinating cataloging internship at the Lilly Library, Jennifer accepted her first full-time appointment as a copy cataloger in the Wells Library Cataloging Department. Although it was not her initial plan to stay in the Midwest, she quickly learned that there was MUCH more to learn about cataloging and metadata—and IU is one of the best public universities in the Unites States to do just that. Jennifer worked as an original cataloger before accepting a faculty appointment as a Metadata/Cataloging Librarian, where she managed multiple digital collections metadata projects. In what has proven to be the biggest surprise in her career thus far, Jennifer found that she loved managing processes and helping her colleagues succeed in their respective roles. She has worked as a Cataloging Department manager since 2013.

Work with the IU Archives: Jennifer has worked with IU Archives since 2011, when the Cataloging Department first began cataloging collections curated by IU Archives. She remembers that time fondly, not only because she got to play in the archives, but because it was her first real taste of developing metadata strategy in an environment that was new to her. Compared with books, archival collections have different description and access needs and Jennifer enjoyed learning more about how users of primary sources find information.

Favorite experience working with the IU Archives: Jennifer notes that “My favorite experience working with the IU Archives involved researching the history of the IU women’s residence halls in the early twentieth century. What I enjoyed most was the opportunity to collaborate with IU Archives colleagues on the Indiana University women’s residence hall scrapbooks. IU Archives staff possess an immense wealth of knowledge of institutional history and human stories. Their ability to weave these independent threads of knowledge together into a complex, many hued fabric representing the history and culture of Indiana University is an outcome of their rigorous professional training, extensive experience, and individual commitments to intellectual inquiry. Any day that I can head up to the Archives is a good day!”

C631 Women’s Residence Halls scrapbooks – Forest Folio, 1938-1939

Favorite item or collection in the IU Archives: There are so many contenders but among my favorite is C631 Women’s Residence Hall scrapbooks mentioned above. I appreciated learning more about what it was like to attend a university, particularly as a woman, in the decades leading up to World War II. Which parts of those experiences were unique to IU? Which were typical of American higher education during that time? Fascinating!

Current project that relates to working with the IU Archives: Next up in my cataloging queue is the Parks House publications. The collection includes humorous publications created by the male student residents of the Wright Quadrangle on the Indiana University Bloomington campus from 1960 through at least 1980. As a cataloging manager, I find my time not only devoted to cataloging but also finding ways to shift the Cataloging Department’s resources toward providing access to unique, special collections, like those of the IU Archives. This is no easy thing to do, given that Libraries acquires and licenses more and more electronic resources, while still building its rich physical collections.

Learned by working with the IU Archives: Working with IU Archives led to insights in an area of my professional interest, the history of library discovery technologies. Although much of the early history of IU Libraries was lost to fires, IU Archives remains the best repository for information about how the Libraries operated.

Behind the Curtain: Walker Byer

Photograph of IU Archives graduate student Walker Byer in front of bookcaseTitle: Processor

Education: Walker holds a B.A. in International Studies and Anthropology from the University of Southern Indiana (USI) and recently graduated from IU with an M.L.S. in Archives and Records Management.

Work History: Before working at the IU Archives, Walker was a bookseller at Bloomington’s local Half Price Books Outlet.  Even though this was his first job working in the profession, he has visited lots archives and rare book libraries in the past!

In what ways do you work with the IU Archives?:  As a processor, Walker’s work primarily focuses on arrangement and description of the collections at the Archives with a particular focus on folklore collections and related topics.  In addition to processing, Walker also helps to write the Behind the Curtain staff features of this blog; assist with reference questions; and monitor the archives reading room.  Walker also helped curate the recent exhibit Collecting Folklore: Generations of Indiana University’s Folklore Institute.

Favorite collection or item in the Archives?: Walker’s favorite items are student journals from the Folklore Student Papers.  These journals were an assignment in an introductory class taught by John McDowell.  The students kept a journal for the entire month of October to record their observations on the folklore of Halloween.  Walker notes that “I love to study the way that folklore makes up our every day lives, whether it’s small social customs or larger holiday celebrations.”

Current projects that relate to working with the Archives?:  Walker is currently processing the collection of Dr. Fabio Rojas, who teaches sociology at IUB.  In addition, Walker is also assisting in a digital adaptation of the exhibit mentioned above.

Favorite experience working with the Archives?:  Of his many experiences at the Archives, Walker’s favorite was the opportunity to co-curate an exhibit.  “It was rewarding to see the joy it brought to members of the Folklore department.  It was a fun learning experience and I am very grateful for the opportunity.”

What is something you’ve learned by working with the IU Archivists?:  Working with the IU Archives has provided many learning experiences for Walker.  In addition to learning skills for a future career in archives, Walker has enjoyed learning the folklore that permeates the IUB campus.

From the Classroom: A stitch into the 1930s

From the Classroom is a new series featuring interviews with IUB students and faculty who are utilizing IU Archives’ collections for class assignments and inspiration. Follow here over the coming months for periodic posts about the various forms this can take! 

Name: Beth Maben

1930s style dress
1930s style dress made by IU senior Beth Maben for her History of Fashion class. Beth scoured Arbutus yearbooks at the Archives for inspiration

Background: I am from Bloomington, Indiana and grew up here as well. I wanted to stay in Bloomington for college because IU has good programs for what I wanted to major in. I’ll graduate in May 2018, with majors in Japanese Language and Fashion Design and a minor in Apparel Merchandising. I want to go into the fashion industry eventually, but first I have applied for jobs teaching English abroad in South Korea and Japan.

For my History of Fashion class (taught by Ashley Hasty, Senior Lecturer in the School of Art and Design) we visited the IU Archives to see how we could use their resources in our projects. I was making a 1930’s style evening dress and used the Arbutus yearbooks from IU Archives for my research to see what college students were wearing for formal events despite it being the Great Depression.

Other repositories she visited at IU: I have been to the Sage Collection which focuses on historical fashion as well as the Mathers Museum which has many items from all over the world.

Favorite item at the IU Archives: The 1933 Arbutus was my favorite because of the art deco theme.

What she wanted to tell her family and friends after visiting the IU Archives: They have almost everything on IU’s history! Even if you don’t have any relatives that attended IU, it is still really interesting to see the lives of students who were just like us.