HERBERT, Victor (1859-1924), was an Irish-born composer, cellist and conductor. Herbert composed the music for Joseph D. Redding's operetta, Natoma, between 1909-1910. It premiered in Philadelphia on February 25, 1911 with soprano Mary Garden in the lead role. Irish tenor, John McCormack made his opera debut at this performance.
Natoma, the American opera — a libretto in three acts — was written by San Francisco attorney Joseph Deighn Redding (1858-1932). The music was composed by Victor Herbert (1859-1924). The opera’s plot was a Santa Barbara based romance in the 1820s or 1830s with the first act taking place upon Santa Cruz Island. It is a love story revolving around two friends, Natoma, an Indian maiden, and Barbara, both of whom fall in live with the same man, a U.S. Navy lieutenant. The second act takes place in the de la Guerra adobe, and the third act at the Santa Barbara Mission. It was first produced in the east in 1911 before coming to the west coast. Cast members traveled by private Pullman car. The Santa Barbara Morning Press reported Natoma had been broadcast by a New York radio station in November 1928.
Redding was appointed special agent of the United States Fish Commission for the Pacific coast by Spencer F. Baird. Perhaps it was through this connection that Redding was acquainted with Santa Cruz Island.
In the News~
January 8, 1911 [LAT]: “At last. Natoma, long awaited opera. Victor Herbert’s first effort in music drama…”
January 22, 1911 [NYT]: “Natoma, a romance of California mission days, by Victor Herbert and J. D. Redding, to be given this season…”
October 10, 1911 [NYT]: “Victor Herbert’s first serious opera. The composer talks of ‘Natoma,’ which Mr. Dippel will produce in Philadelphia. It was not easy to write. No special Indian theme used in it, though he sought Indian effect. Andreas Dippel, manager of the Chicago Opera Company, has announced that another opera by an American composer will be produced this season. Some time in the winter, Victor Herbert’s Natoma, with a libretto by Joseph D. Redding, will be brought out in Philadelphia…”
January 30, 1913 [LAT]: “Women’s clubs… Mrs. Frank Posta contributed to the program with a comprehensive sketch of the opera Natoma, written by Victor Herbert, and first produced in New York in 1911. The scenes are laid on Santa Cruz Island and in Santa Barbara, and this is the only American grand opera composed by an American, which has been a success. As Californians we are particularly interested since the scenes are laid in our own state. The opera is to be produced here in March I am told…”