B0809. VINCENT SHEEAN. OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN I, THE LIFE AND EXPLOITS OF AN IMPRESARIO. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1956. 364pp. Photos. DJ. First Edition. Long out-of-print, Final Copy!
"Hammerstein lived in an age of flamboyant characters, yet he was himself flamboyant enough to make more newspaper copy than any man of his time, with the single exception of our flamboyant president, Theodore Roosevelt. He operated in a rarefied medium-grand opera, yet the general public, who did not know a mezzo from a mezzanine, followed his ups and downs as eagerly as if he were a movie star. And that was because everything he did and was had style, distinction, drama. Here are some of the things he did that captured the imagination of millions: he invented a cigar-making machine and used the proceeds to start an opera company. He built theaters in Harlem when only a few hundred people lived there and made the rest of New York come miles to see his shows. He was involved in forty lawsuits simultaneously. His love letters made public through one of these lawsuits were followed on the front pages of newspapers. He hissed one of his stars from a box and was sued for it by his partners. He vowed to ruin those partners, and did - ruining, himself at the same time. He brought to America the most glamorous of stars - Mary Garden, Nellie Melba, Luisa Tetrazzini - and created riots in the streets with one of them. He attempted to ruin the Metropolitan Opera Company with his competition and almost succeeded. On the point of failure in this opera war, he was bought out by the Metropolitan for over $1,000,000 and used the money to start over again in London. He fought with his stars as much as with his rivals and they loved him for it. And every bit of it made news. This is the story of that man, that poverty-stricken German immigrant who, in Prince Albert coat and striped trousers, with goatee, cigar, and unique silk hat, dominated a portion of our cultural life for years. Vincent Sheean's account records a chapter of operatic history; even more, it presents a warm, entertaining, absorbing portrait of a man alternately comic and tragic (and often both) who was always a great showman.”
- Z. D. Akron