Stage & Screen: The Star Quality of Vanderbilt’s Performing Arts Collections, an exhibit now on display in the Central Library and Special Collections, invites viewers to step “behind the curtain” of some of the world’s most memorable productions.
“Music City’s first-rate performing arts community inspired the Vanderbilt Libraries’ exhibit,” said Connie Vinita Dowell, dean of libraries. “In galleries where opera and Opry comfortably share the stage, this exhibit reflects the city we were and the one we have become. From Fred Astaire’s top hat to Marty Robbins’ rhinestone cowboy boots and Oscar’s golden glow, these collections bring luster to “Stage & Screen.”
Elegant costumes, set designs, autographed photographs and personal correspondence from such legendary performers as Enrico Caruso, Margot Fonteyn, and Astaire help tell the story of modern show business. The wide variety of memorabilia includes the life mask of famed Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova and the watch and photograph of a prominent figure in the history of tango, Carlos Gardel.
Materials from the Francis Robinson Collection of Theatre, Music and Dance—a treasure trove of the history of opera, theater, and ballet—were donated by Robinson, a Vanderbilt alumnus who was assistant manager of the Metropolitan Opera Company. Among the items displayed are autographed photographs of Leonard Bernstein, Marian Anderson, and Katharine Cornell, and a piece of the original curtain of the old Met. There is also an illustrated movie program from the 1940 premiere of the Walt Disney film classic Fantasia.
Musical highlights include rare interviews of early Grand Ole Opry performers, courtesy of the Jack Hurst Collection, and historic items from WSM Radio. The Tennessee State Museum has loaned a collection of historic music boxes, a precursor to the dulcimer. The boxes were collected by the late David Schnaufer, who taught at the Blair School of Music.
Items drawn from the collection of the late Delbert Mann, who directed scores of Hollywood films and television productions including Marty, winner of the 1955 Academy Award for best picture, will spotlight the progression of the film industry during the 1950s and ’60s. Mann’s Oscar and Palme d’Or for directing Marty are on loan from the Mann family. A 1941 graduate from Vanderbilt, Mann also served on the Vanderbilt Board of Trust.
In addition to the display in the Central Library, satellite library presentations include “Films from Children’s Books” at Peabody Library, “God in Music City” at the Divinity Library, and “The Metropolitan Tours” and “The Life of Francis Robinson” at Ingram Hall.
“This exhibit vividly reminds us of the richness of cultural life in the mid-20th century, and particularly of Francis Robinson’s vital presence there,” said Mark Wait, dean and professor of music at the Blair School of Music. “The artifacts in the exhibit bring that world to life and allow us to enjoy its color and glory anew.”
Free and open to the public, the Stage & Screen exhibit is scheduled to run through June 28, 2013.