In the Summer 2000 Issue:

Da Ponte, MacDowell, Moore, and Lang:
Four Biographical Essays

by Jack Beeson

Joseph Wood Krutch:
Cultural Critic by John Margolis
Drama Critic by Howard Stein '50GSAS
Naturalist by Gerald Green '42C '47J

His versatile and flamboyant career at Columbia may have been more as a promoter of Italian literature than as an impresario of Italian opera, but Lorenzo Da Ponte's fame as a librettist for Mozart is what interests the author of these essays on music at Columbia -- the distinguished composer of American opera and MacDowell Professor Emeritus of Music, Jack Beeson. Beeson's achievements range over many musical genres: l22 works, including songs, choral pieces -- "Everything," he says, "except ballet." But of the total, it is his ten operas that have attracted the most attention, among them Jonah, Hello Out There, The Sweet Bye and Bye, and especially Lizzie Borden, recently revived by the New York City Opera in a new production and televised on Live from Lincoln Center. Beeson studied under Béla Bartók before joining Columbia, where he has played a major role not only in the development of the music program and the School of the Arts during the latter half of the twentieth century but also as an active participant in the life of the Columbia community and one much engaged as a citizen in the academic affairs of the University.

To introduce the second set of essays on Joseph Wood Krutch '23GSAS '54HON, Brander Matthews Professor of Dramatic Literature, we have Carl Hovde '50C, professor emeritus of American literature and former dean of Columbia College. Carl has remained active in retirement as chair of the Friends of the Heyman Center, and in that capacity led a retrospective symposium celebrating the many aspects of Krutch's career -- as cultural critic, interpreter of dramatic literature, amateur naturalist, and as such a pioneer in promoting awareness of environmental problems. The essays reproduced here are products of that convocation and of Carl Hovde's continuing involvement since then as a member of the Living Legacies Committee. Hence we have asked him to provide a separate introduction for three papers from the Krutch symposium.

Wm. Theodore de Bary '41C '53GSAS '95HON
For the Living Legacies Committee of the
250th Anniversary Celebration


Joseph Wood Krutch ’23gsas ’54hon,

Brander Matthews Professor of Dramatic Literature at Columbia (1937–52), was a popular teacher on campus, and also one of America’s most visible men of letters. Like a number of other figures at the University, he was widely influential because he wrote not only for the academic world but for an intelligent audience wherever it was to be found.

Krutch’s work falls into three groups. First, in The Modern Temper (1929) and other books, he commented on the general intellectual atmosphere of the modern age as he saw it. His fine biographies, Samuel Johnson and Henry David Thoreau, are in a sense part of this work, for in them he portrayed the spirit of those earlier periods through the lens of the individual lives. Second, he had a long career in theatrical criticism both in the classroom and as drama reviewer for a number of journals. Finally, he became in his later years perhaps the country’s most familiar voice writing about the world of nature and what was happening to it as population increased and urban sprawl consumed more of the landscape.

In 1996 The Friends of the Heyman Center for the Humanities held a symposium on Krutch’s work, and presented here are three of the papers given on that occasion.  John Margolis of Northwestern University, author of Joseph Wood Krutch, A Writer’s Life, discusses him as a cultural commentator. Howard Stein ’50GSAS, professor emeritus of theater arts at Columbia, writes about his dramatic criticism. Gerald Green ’42C ’47J, a pioneer innovator of early television, produced a noted series of films featuring Krutch as a commentator about the natural world, and discusses him in that role.

Carl Hovde ’50C