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November 2014
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“Lucrezia Borgia” from Caramoor Festival


Saturday at 12:00 pm

The curious characters behind New York state’s Caramoor Festival couldn’t have been more colorful, if they had climbed from the pen of F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Caramoor property was acquired by Wall Street financier Walter Rosen and his wife, Lucie, in 1928, and named for the previous owner, Carolyn Moore Hoyt (Caramoor is a contraction of Carolyn and Moore). Caramoor’s Italian garden was instantly appealing to Walter and Lucie who were avid travelers and art collectors.


The Rosen House

The Rosens owned a number of townhouses in Manhattan, but had fancied having a country estate where they could entertain (and impress) international visitors. Hosting musical gatherings and housing acquisitions from their travels would be a priority. In some cases, entire rooms were transported from Europe to the Westchester estate. Supposedly, the Rosens never occupied the original house, but immediately began adding to, and converting the property’s barn to living space. Walter Rosen himself was the chief architect for the expansion, and dreamed of creating a house in the style of the Italian palazzo. The result was a four-winged floor plan that had grown like a wild vine into a 25,000 square foot house. Critics suggested the building lacked logic, for example, the original entrance to the barn provides a great arch on the south wing, pulling the eye into the house, except the actual entrance is around the corner. Indoors, the Rosen’s collections are nothing short of spectacular. In the master bedroom, for example, is a large gilded bed which once belonged to Cardinal Barberini (1568-1644), consecrated as Pope Urban VIII.


The Barberini bed

In 1929, the Rosens attended a party in New York City where they met a Russian inventor and Soviet spy by the name of Leon Theremin. The instrument which bears the Russian’s name, the theremin, was one of the original electronic musical instruments, and varied its pitch as the player waved his or her hands through the electromagnetic field generated through two antennae. (One of the most famous uses of the theremin, and its warbly, ghostly tones, was The Day the Earth Stood Still soundtrack.) When she heard this device, Lucie Rosen was smitten. She decided to become a master of the instrument, and that she did. Her New York debut took place at Town Hall in 1935, and she began touring with the theremin throughout Europe and the Northeastern United States. She commissioned pieces for the theremin by Jenö Szanto, Jenö Takács, Mortimer Browning, John Haussermann, and Bohuslav Martinu.

The Rosen House  at Caramoor

The Burgundian Library

Leon Theremin became a tenant of the Rosens, in one of their New York City brownstones, but got behind on taxes and rent. Eventually, he stole away to the Soviet Union where he was promptly placed in a Siberian labor camp. The Soviets then enlisted Leon Theremin to build listening devices that could be placed in the American embassy for the purpose of surveillance.


The grounds at Caramoor

In 1946, the Rosens began opening some of their house concerts to the public. Today, some 15,000 people visit the Caramoor Center for Music & the Arts each year.

On Saturday, November 8, WFMT presents Lurezia Borgia, a Donizetti opera in the bel canto tradition. The production stars Angela Meade as Lucrezia, Christophoros Stamboglis as Alfonso. Will Crutchfield conducts the soloists, the Bel Canto Young Artists and Apprentices, and the St. Luke’s Orchestra. The broadcast begins at 12:00 noon.

Lucrezia Borgia at Caramoor

Angela Meade and Michele Angelini


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