Mana-Zucca (1887–1981)

views updated

Mana-Zucca (1887–1981)

American pianist, operatic singer, and composer of over 1,100 compositions . Name variations: Mana Zucca. Born Gizella Augusta Zuckerman in New York, New York, on December 25, 1887; died in Miami Beach, Florida, on March 8, 1981; daughter of Samuel Shepard Zuckerman and Janet (Denow) Zuckerman; educated in Europe; married Irwin M. Cassel, on September 22, 1921; children: Marwin Shepard Cassel.

After studying piano with Alexander Lambert, Mana-Zucca made her debut at the age of seven with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Carnegie Hall. At 13, she embarked on a European tour which lasted for four years. In Berlin, she studied piano with Leopold Godowsky and the renowned composer Feruccio Busoni. In London, she studied composition with Hermann Spielter, and in Paris she studied singing with Von Zur Muehlen. In 1916, she changed her name, dropping her first name and rearranging the syllables in her surname. She premiered her Piano Concerto in 1919; she was always interested in the concerto form, and her Violin Concerto received its first performance in December 1955.

Mana-Zucca composed two operas and a ballet score. From the start of her career she was able to juggle her careers effectively, getting fine reviews as a concert pianist while at the same time moving into light opera. Thus she was able to appear as lead soprano in Lehar's Count of Luxembourg in 1914. Mana-Zucca had become seriously interested in composing at age 16. During her long career, she wrote over 1,100 published pieces; many of these were lyrical songs to her own texts. Some of her orchestral works were light in spirit, reflected in such titles as Frolic for Strings and Bickerings. One of her most ambitious works was My Musical Calendar, a collection of 366 piano pieces (one for each day of the year, with an extra item to prepare the performer for leap years). She also wrote memoirs and accounts of her European travels.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia