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Louis Gruenberg

Jazz, radio, and the Met

Born August 3, 1884, Brest, Byelorussia (now Belarus)
Emigrated 1884-5
Died June 10, 1964, Beverly Hills, California
About Louis Gruenberg

Like many of his contemporaries, Gruenberg spent much of his dramatic energies on operetta and the developing American musical; even his traditional operas are influenced by jazz and Broadway idioms.

The Emperor Jones, Gruenberg's best-known opera, was one of the most talked-about American works of its time, despite its unusual scoring and staging. Another work, Green Mansions, was written for radio and featured a prominent solo role for the musical saw.

Gruenberg also made considerable contributions to film music, winning three Academy awards for his work in Hollywood. He was also a prominent musical citizen in other ways, including as one of the founders of the LEague of Composers. Several of his operas remain unperformed, including The Dumb Wife, for which he failed to get permission to use the source material from author Anatole France.

The title of Gruenberg's Jack and the Beanstalk is given in some sources as Jack in the Beanstalk.

  • The Bride of the Gods
    Libretto after Busoni, translated by C. H. Meltzer.
  • The Dumb Wife, chamber opera
    Libretto after The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife, by Anatole France after Rabelais.
  • Jack and the Beanstalk, children's opera
    Libretto by John Erskine.
  • The Emperor Jones, opera in one act
    Libretto by the composer after the play by Eugene O'Neill.
    composed 1931; premiere January 7, 1933, Metropolitan Opera, New York, New York, Beusner, Windham, Tibbett, c. Serafin, d. Mielziner, p. Sanine (10 or 11 performances); also 17 Nov 1933, San Francisco; Chicago, 1946; Rome, 1950
  • Queen Helen (1936)
  • Green Mansions, radio opera
    Libretto after after the novel by W. H. Hudson.
  • Helena's Husband
    Libretto by P. Moeller.
  • Volpone
    Libretto by the composer after Ben Jonson.
  • One Night of Cleopatra
    Libretto by the composer after after T. Gautier.
  • The Miracle of Flanders, mystery play (1945)
  • The Delicate King
    Libretto by the composer after Alexandre Dumas.
  • Antony and Cleopatra
    Libretto by the composer after Shakespeare.
    1955; also revised version prem. 1961

Other Selected Works
  • Signor Formica, operetta (1910)
  • The Witch of Brocken, operetta (1912)
  • Piccadillymädel, operetta (1913)
  • Roly-boly Eyes, musical (1919)
  • Hallo! Tommy!, operetta (1925)
    (as "George Edwards")
  • Lady X., operetta (1927)
    (as "George Edwards")

Discography Search for recordings of the music of Louis Gruenberg at Amazon.com

"Oh Lord!... Standin' in the need of prayer" from The Emperor Jones ((Lawrence Tibbett))


Four American Baritones of the Past

CD / Preiser 89957 (1999)

"Oh Lord!... Standin' in the need of prayer" from The Emperor Jones


Of Gods and Demons

CD / Sony 62758 (1997)

"Oh Lord!... Standin' in the need of prayer" from The Emperor Jones (Lawrence Tibbett)


Souvenirs from American Opera

CD / IRCC 818 (1998)

"Oh Lord!... Standin' in the need of prayer" from The Emperor Jones


Lawrence Tibbett: From Broadway to Hollywood

CD / Nimbus NI7881 (1999)

Bibliography Search for books by and about Louis Gruenberg at Amazon.com

"Oh, Lawd Jesus, heah my prayer" from The Emperor Jones


G. Schirmer American Opera Anthology: Baritone/Bass

G. Schirmer 2004

Louis Gruenberg

Last update: January 1, 2009