The Firebrand of Florence

Opened at the Alvin Theatre, New York on March 22, 1945. 43 performances. Music by Kurt Weill. Lyrics by Ira Gershwin. Book by Edwin Justus Mayer, based on his play THE FIREBRAND. Book staged by John Murray Anderson. Dances staged by Catherine Littlefield.  Produced by Max Gordon. Cast included Earl Wrightson, Beverly Tyler, Melville Cooper, and Lotte Lenya.

Ira’s third and final work with composer Kurt Weill was this operetta based on the life of the Italian sculptor Benvenuto Cellini. Edwin Justus Mayer’s play, which included “The Voice of Love,” a song for which a young Ira wrote the lyrics, had been a huge success in 1924. Ira reapproached the subject with enthusiasm, and it allowed him to indulge in all manner of lyrical twists and turns to match Weill’s music. Both men saw success ahead, but casting problems and poor reviews led to a very short Broadway run. THE FIREBRAND OF FLORENCE has yet to receive a full-scale revival, but a recording of the full score, under the baton of Andrew Davis, was released in 2003, and a successful one-night concert performance was given at New York’s Alice Tully Hall in 2009.