Sunday, January 12, 3:30pm & Tuesday, January 14, 8pm
Pre-concert talks at 3pm & 7:15pm
Trinity St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor Street West, Toronto

Programme notes
by Andrea Budgey

Cole Porter's musical training started early. He began violin lessons at the age of six, and piano at age eight, and at age ten he began composing. His mother was a strong, not to say aggressive, supporter. His maternal grandfather, the wealthy resource speculator J.O. Cole, financed his education and public appearances, without ever approving of his grandson's eventual choice of career. During his time at Yale, Porter had a high profile on the college musical scene, as the composer of several musicals and numerous college songs. He entered Harvard Law School in 1913, but soon transferred to the music faculty. A brief foray into Broadway met with mixed success.

When the United States entered World War I (in 1917), Porter moved to Paris, initially to work with the private Duryea Relief organization. There are many questions about his military experience. He claimed to have joined the French Foreign Legion, and his New York Time obituary claimed that he had travelled with a portable piano, entertaining the troops. What is certain is that he established himself in luxurious style in Paris, hosting opulent and outrageous parties.

 In 1919 he married Linda Lee Thomas, a wealthy and well-connected divorcée from Kentucky. On one level, theirs was a marriage of convenience – she was able to escape an abusive ex-husband, and he was able to conceal his homosexuality from the general public gaze. But they shared many interests, and their partnership was by all accounts genuinely affectionate. They enjoyed a lavish Parisian lifestyle, while Porter began to achieve success as a composer of songs for musicals and revues, and even a short ballet.

 In 1928, he re-entered the world of Broadway, with side ventures into Hollywood and London's West End, and began to receive widespread public acclaim for his work. Such shows as Paris (1928), The Gay Divorcée (1932), Anything Goes (1934), Red, Hot, and Blue (1936), and Broadway Melody (1939) featured songs whose witty, urbane, often tongue-in-cheek lyrics and clever, catchy melodic and harmonic writing made Porter one of the most sought-after music theatre composers of the day. A riding accident in 1937 seriously damaged both Porter's legs, but he continued writing, often to distract himself from pain.

With deteriorating political conditions in Europe, the Porters settled permanently in the US in 1939. Cole continued to write for Broadway and Hollywood, but his next significant success, Kiss Me, Kate did not come until 1948. His last major Broadway production, High Society, premiered in 1955, the year after Linda's death.

He had also lost his mother in 1952, and in 1958 had his right leg amputated after two decades of painful complications and unsuccessful surgeries. Porter spent the remaining years of his life in seclusion, but his legacy was secure: he had assisted the careers of countless performers, secured the abiding respect of his musical counterparts, and won the adoration of a broad public to whom his music gave temporary entree into a bright, elegant, and sophisticated alternate universe.

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