Nevin, Arthur (1871-1943)

Arthur Finley Nevin (April 27, 1871 – July 10, 1943) was an American composer, conductor, teacher and musicologist. Along with Charles Wakefield Cadman, Blair Fairchild, Charles Sanford Skilton, and Arthur Farwell, among others, he was one of the leading Indianist composers of the early twentieth century.

Nevin is best known for his three-act opera Poia, based on the Blackfoot legend describing the origin of the Sun Dance. The opera had been commissioned in 1903 by Walter McClintock, and was composed on a libretto provided by Randolph Hartley. It was first heard in concert in Pittsburgh in 1907, and received good reviews. That same year, Theodore Roosevelt invited Nevin to the White House to give an illustrated talk on his work, but further interest from the American musical establishment was not forthcoming. Instead, Poia was given its highly controversial stage premiere on April 23, 1910 at the Royal Opera House in Berlin, in a German translation crafted in part by the composer's former teacher, Humperdinck. From there it fell into obscurity; it was only given again in the United States by a group in Great Falls, Montana, in 2005.

Nevin composed numerous other works besides Poia. A one-act opera, initially titled Twilight, was said to have been accepted for performance at the Metropolitan Opera, but never saw the stage there. It was given as A Daughter of the Forest in Chicago in 1918. Nevin's other output includes a number of other dramatic works, some pieces for chorus, and some chamber music, as well as four works for orchestra.


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