Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2012

Degree Name

DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts)

Degree In


First Advisor

Jones, William LaRue

First Committee Member

Conklin, Scott

Second Committee Member

Getz, Christine

Third Committee Member

Heidel, Richard Mark

Fourth Committee Member

Kastens, Kevin


This dissertation centers on creating a new critical edition of the Rip Van Winkle overture. One of America's earliest opera composers, George Frederick Bristow (1825-1898), completed the opera Rip Van Winkle in 1855. When he revised it twenty-five years later in 1880, the composer omitted the original overture which was then thought to be lost. A concert version of this overture exists today only in manuscript form, located at the New York Public Library. Rip Van Winkle is significant to the history of American Music because it is one of the earliest operas composed by an American, and the first to be written on American subject matter (in this case, Washington Irving's story of the same name). Adding to the work's considerable historical significance is that the overture was one of the first American pieces performed by the New York Philharmonic Society, in which Bristow was a violinist. There is currently no scholarly edition of the overture, and thus this edition will fill a significant gap in the understanding of nineteenth-century American music. This critical edition of the overture to George Frederick Bristow's Rip Van Winkle was created in order to be published and available for performance and study, shedding light on the often under-represented American opera in the United States.

Public Abstract

The primary objective of this D.M.A. essay is to create a critical edition of the overture to George F. Bristow’s opera Rip Van Winkle for use by both scholars and performers. This essay also explores the differences between the version of the overture found in the 1855 autograph manuscript and the one published in a piano-vocal score, which is based on a revised version of the opera performed in 1878. The essay therefore analyzes the overture in terms of structure, thematic material, and overall musical markings, noting the significant differences between the 1855 iteration of the overture and the 1878 revised version of it. In addition, the essay provides a literature review of scholarly sources surrounding the overture, the opera itself, and the composer’s life. Finally, the essay discusses various conducting issues experienced through studying, rehearsing, and performing the original 1855 Rip Van Winkle overture with the University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra in 2012. Strategies and insights for approaching the overture are presented from the standpoint of a conductor with the goal to aid future conductors and performers.


American Music, Bristow, Critical Edition, New York Philharmonic Society, Opera, Rip Van Winkle


vi, 128 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 99-109).


Revised thesis. January 2020


Copyright 2012 Kira Lynn Horel

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