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   Date: 3/1/12 Bookmark and Share

A Blend of Music and Art in Annual Engel Lecture

A “Trinity of Romanticism” is how one prominent 19th-century critic, Théophile Gautier, described the collective artistic force of painter Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), composer Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), and poet Victor Hugo (1802-1885).

But while the three artists played the same theater, they did not always sing the same tune. The musician and the painter nonetheless improvised on many of the same themes and, as public figures, they encountered from officialdom some of the same impediments.

La Mort d'Ophélie (The Death of Ophelia), by Eugène Delacroix, 1853, oil on canvas.

On Thursday, March 8, Peter Bloom, Grace Jarcho Ross 1933 Professor of Humanities, will uncover some of the areas in which Berlioz and Delacroix crossed paths, if not swords. Through images and music he will explore the death of Ophelia—a subject that on more than one occasion was taken up by both artists—during his talk “Berlioz, Delacroix, & La Mort d’Ophélie,” in the 54th annual Katharine Asher Engel Lecture.

The lecture, at 5 p.m. in Seelye Hall 201, is free and open to the public (view the event poster pdf). A reception will follow in Seelye 207.

The Engel Lecture is granted annually to a Smith faculty member who has made a significant contribution to his or her field. The lecture was established in 1958 by the National Council of Jewish Women in honor of Engel, its one-time president and a 1920 Smith graduate.

Bloom joined the Smith faculty in 1970, two years before being awarded his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, having earlier completed his undergraduate studies at Swarthmore College and, as an oboist, at the Curtis Institute of Music. He has taught courses on the canonical repertory from the period of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, through the period of Berlioz and Wagner, and on to that of Adams and Zwilich. Recently he has given first-year seminars and senior music-major seminars on writing and writing about music.

Peter Bloom

Though he has written on Schumann, Wagner, and Debussy, his publications have largely concentrated on Hector Berlioz. He is the author of The Life of Berlioz (Cambridge University Press) and of numerous articles on Berlioz’s life and work. He is also editor of two volumes of the New Berlioz Edition and of seven collections of articles by various writers, including the Dictionnaire Berlioz, published in Paris by Fayard, and Berlioz: Scenes from the Life and Work, brought out by the University of Rochester Press.

“My mother was a painter and I grew up with painters and paintings in the house,” Bloom notes, “but before this look at Delacroix I have not written on music's ‘sister’ art.”

Bloom once directed Smith’s Junior Year Abroad program in Geneva and has five times directed the Junior Year Abroad program in Paris. As a recent inductee into the world of Debussy scholarship (preparing a volume of the new complete edition of the musical works), he initiated the celebration at Smith of the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth. This includes the current exhibition at the Museum of Art on Debussy's Paris (curated by Laura Kalba) as well as various lectures and concerts that will culminate with the music department’s “Debussy Days,” to be celebrated March 10 and 11 in Sage Hall.

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