When Did European Classical Music Come to America?
Many people are surprised to learn that classical music actually has a long history in the United States. In fact, the first classical music performances in America took place in the late 18th century!
The Arrival of Opera in America
In the late 1600s, Italian opera was all the rage in Europe. The first opera house in Europe opened in Venice in 1637, and by the early 1700s, opera was being performed in Paris, London, Vienna, and other major cities. In 1727, the first public opera performance in America took place in Philadelphia.
The first professional opera company in America
The first professional opera company in America was the New York-based Crescent City Opera Company, which gave its first performances in 1825. The company was led by Italian maestro Giovanni Gallini, and it presented Italian operas in English translation. Among the company’s featured singers were popular Swedish soprano Jenny Lind (1820-87) and American tenor James Placido (1793-1880).
The first public opera performance in America
The first public opera performance in America is believed to have been of Jacopo Peri’s Euridice, given in mid-November 1640 in the Great Hall of the Governor’s Mansion at Boston by a group of Italian musicians. This is not to be confused with the first professional opera performance given in America, which was of Pergolesi’s La serva padrona, on 28 September 1733 at the Treatement’s Schenectady home.
Map of early opera performances in America, c. 1730-1760
The Spread of Classical Music in America
European classical music was first brought to America by the British and the Germans in the colonial era. This music was then further spread by American composers in the 19th and 20th centuries. American classical music finally flourished in the 21st century with the help of organizations such as the American Composers Orchestra.
The popularity of classical music among Americans
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when classical music became popular in America, but it is safe to say that it was during the late 18th or early 19th century. This was around the same time that Americans were beginning to develop their own distinct culture and identity, separate from Europe. At first, classical music was mostly enjoyed by the wealthy and educated elite, but it eventually became more mainstream.
There are several factors that contributed to the spread of classical music in America. One was the increasing availability of printed music, which made it easier for people to learn and perform these pieces. In addition, more and more people were learning to play musical instruments, thanks to the increasing popularity of public schools and private music lessons. And as more professional orchestras and opera companies were established in America, people had more opportunities to hear classical music performed live.
Today, classical music enjoys a wide following in America. It is performed by both professional and amateur musicians, and there are many opportunities to hear it live or experience it through recordings and broadcasts. Americans also continue to create new works in this genre, keeping classical music alive and fresh for future generations.
The influence of European classical music in America
Classical music was first introduced to the United States by the British in the colonial era. However, it was not until the late 18th and early 19th centuries that European classical music began to influence American composers on a large scale. This was due in part to two factors: the increasing number of professional musicians from Europe who were immigrating to America, and the growing popularity of public concerts.
During this time, a number of American composers began to study and adopt the style of European classical music. One of the most important early adopters was Aaron Copland, who studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. Copland would go on to become one of the most influential composers of his generation, creating works that combine elements of both classical and vernacular American music.
Since then, European classical music has continued to exert a significant influence on American composers, performers, and audiences. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in so-called “American Classical” music—compositions by Americans that reflect the influence of European classical music without being slavishly imitative. This new wave of American classical music is being created by a diverse group of composers from all over the country, each with their own unique take on this rich musical tradition.