“Richard Hageman was an American composer of the highest caliber, an important contributor to the arts in America. His songs in particular deserve a special place on recitals for many years to come.”
Thomas Hampson, world-renowned baritone
Richard Hageman was born on 9 July 1881 in Leeuwarden, Friesland, Netherlands. He was the son of Mauritz Leonard (Maurice) Hageman of Zutphen and Hester Francisca Antonia (Francisca) Hageman–Stoetz of Amsterdam.
A child prodigy, he was a concert pianist by the age of six. He studied in Brussels and Amsterdam. He was an accompanist for singers and a repetiteur at the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam. In 1899 he became an assistant conductor of this company and by 1903 he was promoted to principal conductor. After moving to Paris in 1904, Hageman was an accompanist in the studio of the famous teacher Mathilde Marchesi in Paris for two years.
Hageman’s first journey to the United States was to accompany Yvette Guilbert on a national tour early in 1906. He returned to the United States for another tour with Guilbert the same year. Over the following two years Hageman accompanied the violin virtuoso Francis MacMillen on cross-country recital tours of the United States and Canada. He was a conductor and pianist for the Metropolitan Opera between 1908 and 1921, and returned during two season between 1935-1937. While at the Met he would conduct luminaries such as Enrico Caruso, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Pablo Casals. Hageman conducted at the Ravinia Festival between 1916 and 1920, and was the music director of the Chicago Civic Opera in 1922-1923. He helped found the Los Angeles Grand Opera Association in 1925, the same year that he joined the vocal faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. In 1935 he would be involved in the founding of the Canadian Grand Opera Association, and from 1938-1943 he conducted at the Hollywood Bowl summer concerts.
He is known to the film community for his work as a film score composer and an actor. He scored various films directed by for instance John Ford and Frank Lloyd. He shared an Academy Award for the score to Ford’s 1939 western Stagecoach. He shared the screen with various stars such as Mario Lanza in The Toast of New Orleans (1950) and The Great Caruso (1951), Elizabeth Taylor in Rhapsody (1954), and Louis Armstrong and Billy Holiday in New Orleans (1947).
His opera Caponsacchi (1931) was premiered as Tragödie in Arezzo in Freiburg-im-Breisgau and Münster in 1932, and as Caponsacchi in Vienna in 1935. The American Opera Society of Chicago awarded Hageman with the David Bispham Memorial Medal for Caponsacchi’s success in Europe. Caponsacchi was staged at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 1937 with Mario Chamlee in the title role, Helen Jepson as the heroine Pompilia, and Lawrence Tibbett as the antagonist Guido. Other concert works include the concert ballad I Hear America Call (1941), a concert drama The Crucible (1943) and Overture in a Nutshell (1944), a short work for orchestra, all which premiered in Los Angeles in the early 1940s. Chamber music works include October Musings (1937) for violin and piano, and Recitative and Romance (1961) for cello and piano. The bulk of Hageman’s output is his art songs. He composed a total of 69 for voice and piano between 1917 and 1960. Until recently Hageman’s compositions were rarely heard with the exception of a handful of his songs with “Do Not Go, My Love,” a 1917-setting of a Rabindranath Tagore poem, being performed most often. In recent years, an increase in scholarship and promotion by Nico de Villiers, Kathryn Kalinak and Asing Walthaus lead to performances of Hageman’s works across Europe and America.
Hageman became a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) in 1950. He was a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity and Honorary Vice-President of Florence Foster Jenkins’s Verdi Club. Hageman retired at the age of 80 in 1961 and died of heart failure in Beverley Hills on March 6, 1966, aged 84.