Oral Histories

Interview of Edwin Lester

Founder and general director of the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera.
Mr. Light Opera: A Cavalcade of Forty Years in Musical Theater
Interviews not in a series, part one
Biographical Note:
Founder and general director of the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera.
Richardson, Betty L.
Lester, Edwin
Persons Present:
Lester and Richardson.
Place Conducted:
Lester's office at the Music Center of Los Angeles County in Los Angeles, Calfornia.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Betty L. Richardson, assistant to the general and advertising managers of the Los Angeles and San Francisco Civic Light Opera Associations from 1968 to 1976; B.A., political science, UCLA; M.A., theater arts, Occidental College.Richardson prepared for the interview by pursuing a full biographical study,emphasizing the interviewee's role as the founder, producer, and artistic manager of the Los Angeles and San Francisco Civic Light Opera Associations.
Processing of Interview:
Editing was done by the interviewer and by the interviewee with the assistance of his longtime secretary, Joan Gilmore. The interviewee had participated over the years in the "doctoring" of many of the most significant works in the American musical theater; if anyone understands the art of a well-crafted scene, it is he. He applied those skills to the verbatim transcript of these interview sessions, and the resultis a very readable volume. However, researchers should note that the standard arrangement of material in the manuscript as deriving from "Tape I, Side One" or "Tape II, Side Two" is approximate; at best, a rough guide for those wishing to verify the transcript by listening to the tapes. For this reason, session dates do not appear at the beginning of each "tape side" in the manuscript, although the actual session dates do appear above.The interviewer wrote the introduction. Other front matter and the index were prepared by Mitch Tuchman, senior editor.
30 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Early show business experiences in Providence and Detroit; decision to manage singers, 1932; promoting and producing Adohr Opera of the Air; radio shows; first Light Opera Festival at Philharmonic Auditorium, 1935; start of Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Association (LACLOA); Sigmund Romberg, Jerome Kern, Rudolf Friml, and Victor Herbert works in early seasons; first star, John Charles Thomas; Nelson Eddy; Homer Curran and Curran Theatre in San Francisco; Helen Gahagan in 1939 LACLOA season; founding the LACLOA board of directors; Show Boat with Paul Robeson, 1940 season; Joe E. Brown; Oscar Hammerstein II and Music in the Air, 1942; Song of Norway; Irra Petina; Sig Arno; Erich Korngold conducts; operetta versus light opera versus musical comedy; Victor Moore; South Pacific; Mary Martin; Magdalena; musical adviser to motion picture industry; David Merrick; legitimate ticket agents and scalpers; importance of comedians; Eddie Foy, Jr.; original production of Kismet, 1952 season; Alfred Drake; Charles Lederer; Albert Marre; Jack Cole; Joan Diener; The Great Waltz, 1953; negotiations with stars; Peter Pan; J. J. Shubert ventures; critics; Martin Bernheimer; judging potential of book musicals; Dorothy Buffum Chandler's Music Center of Los Angeles County project and LACLOA participation; first Music Center season, 1965; Philharmonic Auditorium and Temple Baptist church; Katharine Hepburn; Leonard Bernstein's Candide; Gigi; Lawrence Winters in Show Boat, 1960; black performers; young performers and auditions; Frank Loesser; Ahmanson Theatre; Man of La Mancha; Shubert Theatre competition; future of musical theater; gays and lesbians in show business; the fifteen greatest musical shows of all time.