Arrow-right Camera


Allegro Strikes Musical Gold In Helena Archives

What would you do if you won the lottery? Too easy, you’ve dreamt about that every day for eternity.

How about if you and everyone on your block won the lottery? And here’s the twist: There aren’t any cars or airplanes, no radio, television or video, no telephones and not even any electricity. And you live in the boonies.

What do you do?

Allegro addresses the reality of this issue in their upcoming concert, “Music in a Richer Vein.” Allegro directors Beverly Biggs and David Dutton struck gold, in a cultural sense, culling the archives of Helena, Mont. They have unearthed a lode of mementos and tidbits about the social and cultural life in Helena when it was a booming mining town.

Beginning in the 1860s, sudden wealth in the Montana territory brought, along with the usual sins and vices, an active entertainment industry to serve the needs of the newly affluent. Music lessons and dancing classes were as popular as attending theater and musical productions, which featured local or imported talent.

Residents were not above flaunting their money. When the three-story Ming Opera House opened in September of 1880, the sold-out house handed out programs printed on perfumed silk. The well-equipped Ming served as an enticement for touring theater and opera companies to visit Helena.

Allegro’s concert will feature a representation of the music popular at the time, including music rescued from the archives. John Philip Sousa came through with his band, so Dutton will play a set of oboe variations on “Carnival of Venice.”

They will also touch upon songs penned by local talent, including “Night in New York - Medley” and “Those Montana Girls.”

Opera was big, as were the hit tunes from operas, so we shall have a smattering of those. Soprano Tamara Schupman will sing “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” and “Addio, del passato,” the joyful drinking song and the farewell-to-life song from Verdi’s “La Traviata,” one of the first operas to be staged at the Ming.

Friedrich Flotow is not a name that floats to the forefront when one is listing all-time favorite composers, but in the 1840s he did have a couple of hits at the Paris Opera. He had the sense to include an Irish melody in his tuneful but otherwise unmemorable opera “Martha,” which became immensely popular. “The Last Rose of Summer” is as pretty as they come and has maintained its popularity through the years.

Schupman also will be singing a pair of selections from Donizetti’s “Daughter of the Regiment,” “Quand le destin” and “Chacun le sait.” Joining the Allegro team for this performance will be violinists Tracy Dunlop and Tana Bachman, violist Angela Mitchell and cellist Cheryl Carney.

There is a pre-concert talk, free to ticket-holders, at 7 p.m. by Bernadette Curran, who is a native of Helena, and she is prepared to regale the audience with episodes from the early days. For those interested in Western history, this might be one worth catching.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: ALLEGRO Allegro presents “Music in a Richer Vein” at 8 p.m. Tuesday at The Met. Tickets: $8, $10, $12.50 or $15.

This sidebar appeared with the story: ALLEGRO Allegro presents “Music in a Richer Vein” at 8 p.m. Tuesday at The Met. Tickets: $8, $10, $12.50 or $15.