Harold Blumenfeld Papers
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Biographical / Historical Note

Harold Blumenfeld, born on October 15, 1923 in Seattle Washington, was educated at the Eastman School of Music (1941-43), Yale University (BM 1948, MM 1949), and the University of Zurich (1948). His principal teachers were Bernard Rogers and Paul Hindemith. He trained as a conductor with Robert Shaw and Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood during the summers of 1949-52. Prof. Blumenfeld joined the faculty of the Washington University Music Department in 1950 and remained until his early retirement in 1989.

Blumenfeld's involvement in opera is many-faceted: he was director of the Opera Theatre of St. Louis (1962-66); led the Washington University Opera Studio (1960-71); was a critic during the sixties writing for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch , Los Angeles Times , Opera News , and Opera ; and, since the Seventies has turned to composing. Blumenfeld has written two comic operas, Fourscore: an Opera of Opposites and a one-act bagatelle, Breakfast Waltzes both with Charles Kondek as librettist. During this time, Blumenfeld produced a body of vocal works based on Hart Crane and Derek Walcott, Baudelaire and Verlaine, and Rilke and Mandelstam. These various works gained him awards from the American Academy and Institute of Arts & Letters in 1977, and the National Endowment for the Arts in 1979.

Blumenfeld was the first composer to devote extensive attention to the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud. During the Eighties and early Nineties, Blumenfeld immersed himself in Rimbaud poetry and lore, composing a variety of pieces that culminate with the two-act opera, Seasons in Hell. This opera traces the adventures of the adolescent Poè Maudit and his subsequent disastrous fortune-seeking in Africa. The opera received its premiere on February 8 - 11, 1996 at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music with Malcolm Fraser directing and Gerhard Samuel conducting.

Blumenfeld began composing a new opera, Borgia Infami in 1998 while at the Bogliasco Foundation, Liguria. Borgia Infami is based on German novelist Klabund's headlong Borgia expose and Victor Hugo's ultra-operatic drama, Lucrece Borgia and was completed in 2001. The opera is another collaboration with librettist Charles Kondek and deals with the obsessions, passions and crimes of the notorious Spanish Borgia clan ingeniously connecting this well known story to the present.