Karl West Flaster

Karl West Flaster collaborated extensively with composer Vittorio Giannini, providing texts for songs and three operas.

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    Karl West Flaster was born Max West Flaster on February 8, 1905, in New York City. His mother, Ruth Reuck, was a Shakespearean actress and his father, Max Flaster, was a musician. His parents divorced when he was six years old, and his mother changed his name to Karl. Karl grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and began writing poetry at an early age. To earn a living, he became a newspaper reporter and feature writer for the Atlantic City Press, Atlantic City Times, and Ventnor News. However, after the stock market crash in 1929 and because of his alcoholism, he was unable to hold a permanent job. During this period he held several temporary jobs, including driving a truck, making deliveries, and serving as a public school principal for a short time. On March 4, 1932, Karl married Gladys Caroline Wonderly, a nurse at the Atlantic City Hospital. Their only son, Karl Wonderly Flaster, was born in 1934 and graduated from the University of Dayton in 1959.

    In the early 1920s, Karl met Vittorio Giannini while waiting for a trolley. He noticed Giannini’s violin case and initiated a conversation. Commenting that his aunt owned a Stradivarius, Flaster invited Giannini to his home to see the violin. A fruitful partnership developed between the two men, with Flaster as the librettist for Giannini’s musical compositions. Together they collaborated on many songs, including “Tell Me, Oh Blue Blue Sky,” “Heart Cry,” and “Love.” Flaster and Giannini also collaborated on three operas. The first, Lucedia, was first preformed at the Munich Opera House with great success. The following year the opera was performed by the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York City, with Dusolina Giannini, Vittorio’s sister, as the lead. Their second opera, The Scarlet Letter, premiered at the Vienna Opera House in 1936. Several decades later, in 1961, their third and final opera, The Harvest, premiered in Chicago. This opera was part of the Ford Foundation program for the promotion of American opera.

    Between 1940 and 1941, Flaster again worked for the newspaper. His feature column of verse was entitled “This ‘n’ That” and appeared in The Atlantic City Press-Union. Although work was easier to find in the 1940’s, Flaster held a variety of jobs. Beginning in 1942, he worked with the New Jersey Coast Guard patrol, and later at the army supply warehouse in Atlantic City. In 1949, he resumed “This ‘n’ That” in Grit, and worked at Fisher’s Florist in Linwood, New Jersey, until his death. “This ‘n’ That” generated the only steady income that Flaster ever received from his writings. In 1954, Flaster became a reformed alcoholic and lived the last ten years of his life without drinking. He died on January 28, 1965.

    –Finding Aid to Flaster papers, University of Dayton, Ohio

    Related Information



    Sheet Music

    Tell Me Oh Blue, Blue Sky!

    Composer(s): Vittorio Giannini

    Song(s): Tell Me Oh Blue, Blue Sky!

    Voice Type: High/Medium

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