Dryden, Konrad 1963- (Konrad Claude Dryden)
Dryden, Konrad 1963- (Konrad Claude Dryden)
Born 1963, in CA; married Countess Florence de Peyronnet-Dryden (a historian); children: Werther-Claude. Education: University of Maryland University College, B.A.; California State University— Dominguez Hills, M.A.; University of Marburg, Ph.D.
Home—Bamberg, Germany. Office—UMUC—Europe, Im Bosseldorn 30, 69126 Heidelberg, Germany. Agent—Rupert Crew Ltd., 1A King's Mews, London, England. E-mail—[email protected]
University of Maryland University College—Europe, Heidelberg, Germany, professor of music and German. Has made frequent radio appearances, including on MDR and NDR in Germany, and WBAI in New York, NY.
Leoncavallo: Life and Works, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including Opernglas, Opera Quarterly, Musikforschung, and CPO Records; has written articles for international opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Rome Opera, Prague State Opera, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Wexford Festival Opera, Cologne Opera, and Deutsche Oper Berlin.
A descendant, through his father's family, of the English poet laureate John Dryden (1631-1700), Konrad Dryden graduated from the University of Maryland, earned an M.A. at California State University at Dominguez Hills, and received his doctorate from the University of Marburg. He teaches music and German and lectures frequently on verismo. He has written materials for major opera houses across the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Rome Opera, and Deutsche Oper Berlin.
Dryden has written extensively on European opera, particularly about the movement known as "verismo," or realism. In this tradition, which was popular during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, composers and librettists attempted to convey the naturalistic themes and styles of writers such as Emile Zola and Henrik Ibsen to the operatic stage. In contrast to the epic themes of romanticism, verismo focused on the realistic depiction of daily life—especially the more sordid details of work and street life. Among the composers most often associated with verismo in Italian opera are Pietro Mascagni, Giacomo Puccini, and the lesser-known Ruggero Leoncavallo, composer of Pagliacci and the subject of Dryden's Leoncavallo: Life and Works.
Robert Croan, reviewing Leoncavallo in Opera News, described the book as a "marvelous trove of information" about a composer about whom there is a dearth of documented information. As Dryden explains in the biography, Ruggero Leoncavallo (1857-1919) was a difficult man who alienated many people in the music world. He achieved early acclaim for the 1892 work Pagliacci, but in his subsequent works he failed to sustain this level of greatness. His 1897 opera La Bohème was compared unfavorably to Puccini's version, which debuted a year earlier and became a staple of the world opera repertoire. Three years later, Leoncavallo wrote Zaza, which Dryden describes as the composer's second-best work, though it is scarcely known today. While Croan felt that Dryden does not quite bring the composer to life in the book, the critic found the biography informative. Especially interesting to Croan was Dryden's detailed analyses of each of Leoncavallo's symphonic and operatic works.
Dryden's earlier book, Riccardo Zandonai: A Biography, is the first fully documented biography in English on this composer. Another of the composers associated with the verismo movement, Riccardo Zandonai (1883-1944) is best known for his opera Francesca da Rimini, which was based on a tragic play by Gabriele D'Annunzio that, in turn, was based on a passage from Dante's Divine Comedy.
Dryden told CA: "It is a curious fact that literature dealing with Italian operatic composers from 1870-1930 is more than sparse. It seems that after Giuseppe Verdi there was Giacomo Puccini and then … no one. Although Cavalleria rusticana and ‘Pagliacci’ form a valid part in the repertory of almost all the world's major opera houses, we have been told that interest in these composers' lives is not merited. In fact, it was not until George Marek's biography of Puccini in 1951, that American readers received a complete picture of his vita. Thus, these monographs set out to unravel and organize the lives of these composers for the first time. Even more astounding is that they were left to be written by an American-born author.
"Being afforded the luxury of living with one's subjects for a period of years during a biography's gestation is an eye-opening experience indeed. As an avid reader of biographies and autobiographies from a very early age, I was always fascinated with what ‘other people’ did in the few years allotted to each of us. I can't help recalling Virginia Woolf's novel Orlando, in which she writes, ‘Every secret of a writer's soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.’ Working in the shadow of greatness makes each morning spent writing a fulfilling experience and, above all else, something that will remain. I pity future biographers faced with trying to recreate a life dotted with irretrievable telephone conversations, e-mails, and other electronic forms of communication that leave little, if any, trace."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
BBC Music Magazine, August, 2007, George Hall, review of Leoncavallo: Life and Works, p. 84.
Das Opernglas, February, 2000, J.M. Wienecke, review of Riccardo Zandonai: A Biography, p. 70; January, 2008, Michael Lehnert, review of Leoncavallo, p. 68.
Music Scene, spring, 2007, review of Leoncavallo, p. 40.
Opera News, October, 2007, Robert Croan, review of Leoncavallo, p. 81.
Reference & Research Book News, May 2007, review of Leoncavallo.
Konrad Dryden Home Page,http://www.konraddryden.de (January 29, 2008).
University of Maryland-Europe Web site,http://www.ed.umuc.edu/ (January 29, 2008), Konrad C. Dryden faculty profile.