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Backstage at LA Opera’s “Lucia di Lammermoor”- Madness, Police, and Daft Punk, Oh My!

Cultural Cocktail Hour had the opportunity to go backstage at LA Opera and explore the upcoming production of Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.

There, French musician and composer Thomas Bloch, a worldwide specialist in the Glass Harmonica, introduced the press to this rare instrument, which adds a pivotal, haunting sound to the famous “Mad Scene” in Lucia.

Glass Harmonica

Bloch performed this instrument, even giving Maestro James Conlon an impromptu lesson.

Photo Left: Thomas Bloch teaching James Conlon the finer points of the Glass Harmonica. LA Opera. Photo © 2014 by Leticia Marie Sanchez

 10 Facts About the Glass Harmonica 

  1. Donizetti originally wrote a Glass Harmonica into the score for the 1st performance of Lucia. The musician who was supposed to perform the Glass Harmonica on opening night had not been paid and refused to perform. At the last minute, Donizetti had to rewrite the Glass Harmonica part for the flute.At LA Opera’s upcoming production of Lucia, audiences will have the opportunity to hear the music as it was originally intended- with a Glass Harmonica!
  1. A list of composers who have written for this instrument includes: Mozart, Beethoven, Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach, Donizetti, and Strauss.
  1. The spelling of this instrument varies, with some calling it an “Armonica” and others a “Harmonica”
  1. Mozart was introduced to the Glass Harmonica by Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer, who used to “mesmerize” his patients with the sound (the word mesmerize derives from the doctor’s last name).
  1. German police banned the Glass Harmonica in the 19th century as it was thought to cause madness and premature birth.
  1. According to Thomas Bloch, someone once said, “The Glass Harmonica will break your nerves in less than one hour.” (Good thing it’s used in Lucia for less than 30 minutes!).
  1. The paint in older Glass Harmonicas was rich in lead, and the repeated exposure may have led to the resulting “madness.”
  1. Despite its dangerous rap, Paganini called it “An Angelic Organ.”
  1. Marie Antoinette played the Glass Harmonica. 
  1.  The Glass Harmonica is popular with modern rock bands; Musician Thomas Bloch has performed with the Gorillaz, Radiohead, Tom Waits, and even on the latest Daft Punk album!
Posted by on March 13th, 2014

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