De Koven, Reginald, 1859-1920 Edit


Agent Type


  • 1859-04-03 – 1920-01-20 (Existence)

Name Forms

  • De Koven, Reginald, 1859-1920

External Documents


  • Biography/Historical Note

    Composer Reginald De Koven was born April 3, 1859, in Middleton, Connecticut. At the age of 11, De Koven moved with his family to England. De Koven excelled in his studies and graduated from Oxford in 1879. For the next three years, he studied composition in Germany, Austria, and France before returning to the United States. De Koven settled in New York and worked at his uncle's bank in Chicago. In 1884, he married Anna Farwell, the daughter of Charles B. Farwell, who became the United States senator from Illinois (1887 to 1891). They had one child, Ethel Le Roy de Koven, born in 1885.


    Although De Koven was successful working in business, he regretted following his parents' advice not to have a career in music. De Koven began to participate in an amateur theater group and met Harry B. Smith. De Koven and Smith decided to collaborate on a comic opera titled Fort Carmel. Although Fort Carmel was abandoned, pieces of it were incorporated in The Begum, which opened in 1888. De Koven and Smith continued on to collaborate on several operettas, including De Koven's most successful production, Robin Hood, which opened in Chicago in 1890. Robin Hood went on to play in New York in 1891, and in London (under the title Maid Marion). De Koven is best known for one of the songs from Robin Hood, "Oh, Promise Me." During the height of Robin Hood's success, an aspiring concert singer at a dinner party unwittingly commented to De Koven, "I don't think much of that Robin Hood! Do you?" De Koven's response to her was, "I think I agree with you, but I think, also, that I had better tell you I wrote it. You might be sorry if you said anything more" (De Koven, p. 57).


    In addition to composing, De Koven worked as a music critic for Chicago’s Evening Post (1889-1895), Harper’s Weekly (1895-1897) and the New York World (1898-1900, 1907-1912). In 1902, he also founded the Washington DC Symphony, and he conducted it from 1902 to 1904. Later in his career, De Koven composed operas, including Canterbury Pilgrims and Rip Van Winkle. During the production of Rip van Winkle, Reginald De Koven died in Chicago, Illinois, on January 16, 1920.

    Author: Krasner, Orly Leah

    References De Koven, Anna. A Musician and His Wife. New York and London: Harper Brothers Publishers, 1926. Franceschina, John. Harry B. Smith: Dean of American Librettists. New York and London: Routledge, 2003. Krasner, Orly Leah. Reginald de Koven (1859-1920) and American Comic Opera at the Turn of the Century. PhD dissertation submitted to the Graduate Faculty in Music, The City University of New York. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International, 1995.