Music: Bicentennial Bonanza

As the year 1876 approached, the Women's Centennial Committee, led by Philadelphia Socialite Mrs. Elizabeth Gillespie, raised substantial sums for a proper cultural salute. The committee boldly offered Richard Wagner $5,000 for an occasion piece. Wagner accepted, perhaps because he was going broke mounting the first Ring cycle. He also hoped "soon to be assured of the American visitors" at Bayreuth. The American festivities opened in Philadelphia, May 10, 1876, with the composer's Centennial March. The work, a turgid blend of bathos and pomposity, turned out to be one of Wagner's very worst....

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