March 15, 1921:
The 100-member La Scala Orchestra of Milan and its famed conductor, Arturo Toscanini, received the biggest ovation Scranton had ever seen at their performance in the city armory.
Toscanini started the show with “La Baruffe Chiozzotte” by Leone Sinigaglia. After the completion of the piece, Toscanini was presented with a basket of roses, an inkwell made from a piece of anthracite coal and a card.
Toscanini and the orchestra then began playing Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. During the second part of the concert, he conducted the tone poem “Juventu” by Victor de Sabata and two pieces by Giuseppi Matrucci, “Nocturno” and “Novelette.” The orchestra ended the program with the final movement from the Wagner opera “Tannhauser.”
Tickets for the performance cost $1 to $3 and were available for purchase at the foreign department at Bosak State Bank, 432 Lackawanna Ave., and Venetian Phonograph Co., 221 Lackawanna Ave., or by mail order at the Stoehr & Fister Store.
The orchestra’s 10-week tour of North America was arranged by U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby; U.S. Ambassador to Italy Robert Underwood Johnson; and Count Carlo Sforza, Italian minister of foreign affairs.
Donating $250,000 to underwrite the national tour were Mrs. Benjamin Miller and James Crosby Brown, both of Philadelphia; William C. Hamilton of Pittsburgh; and Andre de Coppet, Col. Robert Perkins, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, Moreau Delano, Dr. Orestes Ferrara, Charles H. Ditson, Loudon Chariton, George Baker Jr., George Gould Sr., Otto H. Khan, William F. Morgan and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, all of New York City. Adjusting for inflation, that amount would be about $3.57 million today.
A committee chaired by Scranton Mayor Alex Connell in cooperation with E.M. Kohnstamm was responsible for the arrangements for the maestro and orchestra in the city.
Following their show in Scranton, the orchestra and Toscanini traveled to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall on March 18. They left on March 29 to return to Italy.
Brian Fulton has been the librarian at The Times-Tribune for the past 15 years. On his blog, Historically Hip, he writes about the great concerts, plays/musicals and celebrity happenings that have taken place throughout NEPA. He is also the co-host of the local history podcast, Historically Hip. He competed and was crowned grand champion on an episode of NPR quiz show “Ask Me Another.” Contact: email@example.com; 570-348-9140; or @TTPagesPast