Samuel Barber School for Scandal Program Notes
Aged 21, West Chester-born Samuel Barber was completing his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music (right near Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia) when he composed the School for Scandal overture, his first piece for large orchestra. He would go on to a long and successful composing career, writing often lush, and mostly tonal, music. Other great works include the Violin Concerto, Knoxville: Summer of 1915, two symphonies, several operas (including Antony and Cleopatra, for the Metropolitan Opera’s opening at Lincoln Center) and the Adagio for Strings, one of the most well known pieces of all time. A lifelong Pennsylvanian at heart (he wrote about his unhappiness with New York), he is buried in Oakland Cemetery in West Chester. The School for Scandal overture is an energetic, fast-paced piece, inspired by the 18th century comedy by Irish/British playwright, politician and poet (and clearly, alliterative careerist) Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816). Sheridan was in parliament for 32 years, but also owned the Theater Royal in Drury Lane. His four-act comedy’s central character is Lady Sneerwell, whose salons are rumor-mill of scandals and gossip. The School for Scandal’s plot, of mistaken identities, hijinks, gambling, and Shakespearian parody, ends happily ever after.