An afternoon of great composers

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On Sunday June 12 in the Birley Centre Robin Gregory presented his talk for The Eastbourne Arts Circle on two composers, Giacomo Puccini and Franz Lehar.

He used an interesting connection and intermingling of dates between other composers who lived within their time such as Jacques Offenbach- the Gilbert and Sullivan of his time - Richard Wagner and Johann Strauss.

Robin illustrated the story through excellent recordings of many great singers from the past; Maggie Teyte, Anna Moffo, James Johnston, David Hughes, Richard Lewis, Richard Tauber, Rita Streich, Marilyn Hill-Smith.

He was unable to hide his unmistakable passion for operetta, observing that you can tell if it’s opera if there are “deaths of all kinds” and operetta if there is “sadness of parting with some good heroines.”

When Puccini was born Lehar was 12 years old. He died aged 78 and Puccini died aged 66. Their lives were intertwined by more than the glorious melodies they produced. Their two genres were perhaps at different ends of the melodic spectrum, yet both poured out so many memorable tunes that we can hum to.

Operettas such as Lehar’s “Merry Widow” and “Guiditta” &. Puccini’s “La Rondine” and “La Boheme” were fine examples.

Did the two composers ever meet I wondered. That would have been interesting! The audience sat wrapt in enjoyment. many with closed eyes and tapping feet .

Robin ended a great afternoon telling us he wanted to send us away “happy and sad” - two emotions that the music we evokes in spades. This he did, and all left much the wiser in the knowledge that there is so much music that could be lost for ever if it was not for the enthusiasm and passion of someone who has not only a love of music, but who is not willing to let us forget. By Elizabeth Muir-Lewis.

The next event in the Birley Centre for Eastbourne Arts Circle is a tribute to William Shakespeare by international tenor Ben Johnson, who will present music that was inspired by the Bard, from classical to Broadway. This will be on Sunday October 23 at 3pm. Tickets available from Philip Anson, 34 Martello Rd, or from the tourist information centre. For info call 08432 895129.