Monday, July 9, 2018

Mar-a-Lago Architect Joseph Urban Also Designed Sets at Met Opera


Summary: Mar-a-Lago architect Joseph Urban also designed sets at the Metropolitan Opera for almost 16 years, from November 1917 until his death in July 1933.


Joseph Urban's debut set design for the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Charles-François Gounod's Faust; Kenneth Macgowan, The Lesson of Urban, Shadowland (1919), page 18: Public Domain via Internet Archive

Mar-a-Lago architect Joseph Urban also designed sets at the Metropolitan Opera for almost 16 years, from his debut in November 1917 until his death in July 1933.
Vienna, Austria-born architect, illustrator and set designer Joseph Urban (May 26, 1872-July 10, 1933) made his Metropolitan Opera debut Nov. 17, 1917, as designer for the opera house’s new production of Faust by French Romantic Era composer Charles-François Gounod (June 17, 1818-Oct. 18, 1893). The Metropolitan Opera continued to revive Urban’s Faustian designs through the opera house’s 1950-1951 season.
The Metropolitan Opera Archives Database credits Urban with 55 production designs during his almost 16-year career as a Met Opera set designer. Ten of the productions comprised Metropolitan Opera premieres:
Boccaccio by Franz von Suppé (April 18, 1819-May 21, 1895);
Don Carlo by Giuseppe Verdi (Oct. 10, 1813-Jan. 27, 1901;
Don Quichotte by Jules Massenet (May 12, 1842-Aug. 13, 1912);
Donna Juanita by von Suppé;
Elektra by Richard Strauss (June 11, 1864-Sept. 8, 1949);
La Vestale by Gaspare Spontini (Nov. 14, 1774-Jan. 24, 1851);
Le Roi d’Ys by Édouard Lalo (Jan. 27, 1823-April 22, 1892);
Luisa Miller by Verdi;
Oberon by Carl Maria von Weber (Nov. 18/19, 1786-June 5, 1826);
Pelléas et Mélisande by Achille-Claude Debussy (Aug. 22, 1862-March 25, 1918).
Fourteen of Urban’s production settings were designed for the Metropolitan Opera’s staging of U.S. premieres:
Così Fan Tutte by Wolfgang Mozart (Jan. 27, 1756-Dec. 5, 1791);
Die Ägyptische Helena by Strauss;
Eugene Onegin by Pyotr Tchaikovsky (May 7, 1840-Nov. 6, 1893);
Fra Gherardo by Ildebrando Pizzetti (Sept. 20, 1880-Feb. 13, 1968);
Il Signor Bruschino by Gioachino Rossini (Feb. 29, 1792-Nov. 13, 1868);
Jonny Spielt Auf by Ernst Krenek (Aug. 23, 1900-Dec. 22, 1991);
La Campana Sommersa by Ottorino Respighi (July 9, 1879-April 18, 1936);
La Cena delle Beffe by Umberto Giordano (Aug. 28, 1867-Nov. 12, 1948);
La Rondine by Giacomo Puccini (Dec. 22, 1858-Nov. 29, 1924);
La Vida Breve by Manuel de Falla (Nov. 23, 1876-Nov. 14, 1946);
Saint Elizabeth by Franz Liszt (Oct. 22, 1811-July 31, 1886);
Schwanda the Bagpiper by Jaromír Weinberger (Jan. 8, 1896-Aug. 8, 1967);
Turandot by Puccini;
Violanta by Erich Korngold (May 29, 1897-Nov. 29, 1957).
Two of Urban’s sets were designed for the Metropolitan Opera’s staging of world premieres of two operas by American composer Joseph Deems Taylor (Dec. 22, 1885-July 3, 1966). The King’s Henchman, with an English libretto by American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (Feb. 22, 1892-Oct. 19, 1950), premiered Feb. 17, 1927. Peter Ibbetson, inspired by Franco-British author George du Maurier’s (March 6, 1834-Oct. 8, 1896) same-named novel (1891), premiered Feb. 7, 1931.
Urban designed sets for 29 new stagings of operas already in the Metropolitan Opera’s repertoire:
Carmen by Georges Bizet (Oct. 25, 1838-June 3, 1875);
Der Barbier von Bagdad by Peter Cornelius (Dec. 24, 1824-Oct. 26, 1874);
Der Freischütz by Weber;
Don Giovanni by Mozart;
Ernani by Verdi;
Falstaff by Verdi;
Faust by Gounod;
Fedora by Giordano;
Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven (bapt. Dec. 17, 1770-March 26, 1827);
Hänsel und Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck (Sept. 1, 1854-Sept. 27, 1921);
Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Rossini;
La Juive by Fromental Halévy (May 27, 1799-March 17, 1862);
La Sonnambula by Vincenzo Bellini (Nov. 3, 1801-Sept. 23, 1835);
La Traviata by Verdi;
L’Africaine by Giacomo Meyerbeer (Sept. 5, 1791-May 2, 1864);
L’Amico Fritz by Pietro Mascagni (Dec. 7, 1863-Aug. 2, 1945);
Le Prophète by Meyerbeer;
Les Contes d’Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach (June 20, 1819-Oct. 5, 1880);
Lohengrin by Richard Wagner (May 22, 1813-Feb. 13, 1883);
Louise by Gustave Charpentier (June 25, 1860-Feb. 18, 1956);
Madama Butterfly by Puccini;
Manon by Massenet;
Martha by Friedrich von Flotow (April 27, 1812-Jan. 24, 1883);
Norma by Bellini;
Parsifal by Wagner;
Roméo et Juliette by Gounod;
Tannhäuser by Wagner;
Thaïs by Massenet;
Tristan und Isolde by Wagner.
The last set designed by Joseph Urban was for the U.S. premiere of Rossini’s Il Signor Bruschino Dec. 9, 1932. According to the Metropolitan Opera Archives Database, the opera house’s 1961-1962 season staging of Strauss’ Elektra marked the last revival of a set designed by Joseph Urban.
Three years after Joseph’s 1917 debut, his daughter Margarete (Jan. 7, 1898-Dec. 6, 1997), known as Gretel or Gretl, debuted. Gretel’s debut as a costume designer occurred for the Metropolitan Opera’s premiere of Verdi’s Don Carlos Dec. 23, 1920. Gretel collaborated with her father on 17 productions.
Joseph Urban immigrated to the United States to complete designs for spring 1912 operas commissioned by Massachusetts’ Boston Opera Company. He maintained his stage career while also accepting architectural commissions. Extant examples of his architectural work include the base of New York City’s Hearst Tower and Hamburg, northern New Jersey’s now decrepit Gingerbread House, both completed around 1928.
Urban also conceived the Art Deco-styled interior design and exterior ornament of Mar-a-Lago. Located at 1100 South Ocean Boulevard, Palm Beach, southeastern Florida, the lavish mansion was constructed for cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post (March 15, 1887-Sept. 12, 1973) between 1923 and 1927.
The takeaways for Mar-a-Lago architect Joseph Urban’s Metropolitan Opera set designs are that the Austrian-American artist designed 55 sets in his almost 16-year Met career and collaborated with his daughter Gretel on 17 productions.

Mar-a-Lago architect and Met Opera set designer Joseph Urban conceived Mar-a-Lago's interior design and exterior ornamentation; Mar-a-Lago's entrance hall, looking toward main entrance: NPS (National Park Service) Historic American Buildings Survey HABS FL-95, Public Domain, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Acknowledgment
My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.

Image credits:
Joseph Urban's debut set design for the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Gounod's Faust; Kenneth Macgowan, The Lesson of Urban, Shadowland (1919), page 18: Public Domain via Internet Archive @ https://archive.org/stream/shadowland01mppu#page/n174/mode/1up
Mar-a-Lago architect and Met Opera set designer Joseph Urban conceived Mar-a-Lago's interior design and exterior ornamentation; entrance hall, looking toward main entrance, at Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach County, southeastern Florida; April 1967: NPS (National Park Service) Historic American Buildings Survey HABS FL-95, Public Domain, via Library of Congress @ https://www.loc.gov/resource/hhh.fl0181.photos/?sp=13

For further information:
Aronson, Arnold. "Architect of Dreams: The Theatrical Vision of Joseph Urban." Columbia University > Columbia University Libraries > E-Resources > Databases > Archives > Joseph Urban Stage Design Models & Documents Stabilization & Access Project.
Available @ http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/eresources/archives/rbml/urban/architectOfDreams/text.html
“Debut: Gretel Urban.” MetOpera Database > MetOpera Database > [Met Performance] CID: 76450 Metropolitan Opera Premiere Don Carlo {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/23/1920.
Available @ http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives/scripts/cgiip.exe/WService=BibSpeed/fullcit.w?xCID=76450
“Debuts: Thomas Chalmers, Pierre Monteux, Joseph Urban.” MetOpera Database > [Met Performance] CID: 67050 New production Faust {294} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 11/17/1917.
Available @ http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives/scripts/cgiip.exe/WService=BibSpeed/fullcit.w?xCID=67050
Macgowan, Kenneth. “The Lesson of Urban.” Shadowland (November 1919): 15-18. Brooklyn NY: The M.P. Publishing Company.
Available via Internet Archive @ https://archive.org/stream/shadowland01mppu#page/n172/mode/1up
Marriner, Derdriu. "Parsifal Is Feb. 17, 2018, Met Opera Saturday Matinee Broadcast." Earth and Space News. Monday, Feb. 12, 2018.
Available @ https://earth-and-space-news.blogspot.com/2018/02/parsifal-is-feb-17-2018-met-opera.html
Mayhew, Augustus. “Building Mar-a-Lago: Majorie Merriweather Post’s Palm Beach Showplace.” The Shiny Sheet®: Palm Beach Daily News > News > Local News. Feb. 5, 2017.
Available @ https://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/news/local/building-mar-lago-marjorie-merriweather-post-palm-beach-showplace/BNcXr356xhT3AdEVKyIR3J/
“Metropolitan Opera Premiere: Elektra.” MetOpera Database > [Met Performance] CID: 112150 Metropolitan Opera Premiere Elektra {1} Matinee Broadcast ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 12/3/1932.
Available @ http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives/scripts/cgiip.exe/WService=BibSpeed/fullcit.w?xCID=112150
“New Production: Faust.” MetOpera Database > [Met Performance] CID: 67050 New production Faust {294} Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 11/17/1917.
Available @ http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives/scripts/cgiip.exe/WService=BibSpeed/fullcit.w?xCID=67050
Proctor, Samuel; Nancy K. Beinke; and F. Blair Reeves. “Mar-a-Lago.” Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). HABS no. FLA-195. Washington DC: Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1967-1972.
Available @ http://cdn.loc.gov/master/pnp/habshaer/fl/fl0100/fl0181/data/fl0181data.pdf
Saylor, Oliver M. “Urban, of the Opera, the ‘Follies,’ and the Films. Shadowland (November 1921): 39, 72, 74. Brooklyn NY: Brewster Publications Inc.
Available via Internet Archive @ https://archive.org/stream/Shadowland0503Images/Shadowland_05_03#page/n38/mode/1up
Sophia. “This Abandoned Gingerbread Castle in New Jersey Is Like Something From a Horror Movie.” Only in Your State > New Jersey. Feb. 5, 2017.
Available @ http://www.onlyinyourstate.com/new-jersey/gingerbread-castle-nj-usa/
Tufaro, Nicholas. “The Gingerbread Castle.” Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS). HALS No. NJ-4. Washington DC: National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Dec. 18, 2009.
Available via Library of Congress @ https://cdn.loc.gov/master/pnp/habshaer/nj/nj1800/nj1833/data/nj1833data.pdf
“United States Premiere: Il Signor Bruschino.” MetOpera Database > [Met Performance] CID: 112240 United States Premiere Il Signor Bruschino {1} Elektra {2} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/9/1932.
Available @ http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives/scripts/cgiip.exe/WService=BibSpeed/fullcit.w?xCID=112240
Waszut-Barrett, Wendy, PhD (waszut_barrett@me.com). “Historical Excerpt -- ‘Women in Scenic Art,’ Gretl Urban.” Drypigment.net > Archives > February 2017. Feb. 8, 2017.
Available @ http://drypigment.net/2017/02/08/historical-excerpt-women-in-scenic-art-gretl-urban/

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