>> Wednesday, October 31, 2007
No Halloween would be complete without Camille Saint-Saens' Dance Macabre. This version is paired with scenes from Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Happy Halloween, everyone!
No Halloween would be complete without Camille Saint-Saens' Dance Macabre. This version is paired with scenes from Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Happy Halloween, everyone!
The following is a ghostly, sexy, modern, interpretation of Bach's organ Toccata & Fugue in D minor, using piano and orchestra, by pianist Myleene Klass. (You purists can click here for the traditional organ version) For me, it just isn't Halloween until I hear this piece of music!
Of course I couldn't forget one of the darkest, and most frightening scenes in opera, The Commandatore Scene, from Mozart's Don Giovanni, where the ghost of the murdered Commandatore comes and condemns the unrepentant Don Giovanni to hell.
It doesn't get any better than Disney's interpretation of Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain".
For the next five days I will be posting five of my favorite Halloween videos with classical music themes.
Today's video features a Medieval work from an ancient Latin text, Carmina Burana, entitled, "Come Dance With Me". Death sings to humanity saying that no one shall be spared. It speaks to the pre-occupation with death during this period in European history, as The Plague, or The Black Death, spread across the entire continent, killing over one third of the population.
Anna Storace (pronounced sto-RAH-chay), known to her friends as Nancy, has been virtually forgotten over the past two centuries, although during her reign as Europe's favorite buffa soprano she lived a life that few women experienced. The Julie Andrews or Fanny Bryce of the 18th century, Anna Storace did it all.
Anna Selina Storace, known as Nancy to her closest friends, was born in London on 27 October, 1765 to Stefano (1725-1781) and Elizabeth Storace (née Trusler). Stefano Storace moved to Dublin from his native Italy at the age of 23, relocating ten years later to London while working as a double bass player. In 1761 he married Elizabeth Trusler, who was the daughter of the proprietor of Marylebone Gardens. Their first child was a son, Stephen (1762-1796), who would later become a popular London composer of comic operettas.
Anna began studying voice in London with the great castrato, Venanzio Rauzzini, for whom the young Wolfgang Amadè Mozart composed his Exsultate jubilate in 1773. By the time she was eight years of age, Anna was singing before royalty and performing throughout England. In 1778, at the age of thirteen, she went to Naples accompanied by her parents to visit Stephen, who had been studying composition at the Conservatorio San Onofrio for three years. Her debut Italian performance was at the Teatro allo Pergola in Florence in 1780, where it was reported she enjoyed such success that the castrato Luigi Marchesi, who performed alongside her, demanded she be dismissed from the troupe. Further performances took place at Lucca, Livorno, Parma, Milan and Venice. It was in Venice, while working with Irish tenor Michael Kelly and Italian baritone Francesco Benucci that Anna and her two friends were scouted by Count Durazzo, who had been sent by Emperor Joseph II of Vienna to hire singers for his newly formed Italian Opera Company. In the meantime, Anna's father had returned to London only to fall ill and die just at the onset of his daughter's success. Anna, her mother and brother traveled to Vienna with the new trio of singers, where they remained for four years.
Anna made her Viennese debut on 22 April, 1783 as the Contessa in Antonio Salieri's La scuola de'gelosi, and went on to perform in numerous other operas in Vienna. While in Vienna, Anna's star rose quickly and she soon found herself the toast of the city, celebrated as the favored prima buffa at the Burgtheater. She had a strong voice of an amazing range, solid technique, and her acting was lively and delightful. Impresarios and composers adored her for her indefatigable spirit and her willingness to lend a hand wherever one was needed. In 1784 Anna married John Abraham Fischer, an older English composer and violinist. This was apparently at her mother's request and against the advice of her friends. Fischer beat Anna mercilessly, which caused the actress to attempt to hide her bruises with make-up when appearing on stage. At last, Emperor Joseph II, concerned about his prize singer and actress, banished Fischer from Vienna. Not long after this, Anna announced that she was pregnant, but continued to work until at the premier of her brother's opera, Gli sposi malcontenti in 1785, during which she suddenly lost her voice. She gave birth to a daughter in 1785, who was given to a foundling home and died not long after. After a four month hiatus, Anna returned to the stage on September 26. Her popularity with the Viennese was so great that a cantata was jointly composed in her honor (Per la ricuperata salute di Ophelia) by Mozart, Salieri and Cornetti, with the text written by Lorenzo Da Ponte. Ophelia was the role Anna was currently preparing for Salieri's latest opera, La grotta di Trofonio, so the title of this cantata was in reference to that character. She premiered as the original Susanna in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro on May 1, 1786. Anna's final performance at the Burgtheater was on February 19, 1787 in Martín y Soler's Il burbero di buon cuore. This was followed by a farewell concert at the Kärntnertor Theater on February 23, at which Anna performed Ch'io mi scordi di te?...Non temer, amato bene K505, a grand concert aria Mozart had composed for her, with himself accompanying her on fortepiano.
While in Vienna, Anna's name had been linked romantically with several men besides John Fischer, including composer Vincente Martín y Soler, Francesco Benucci, who sang the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro, Lord Barnard (William Henry Vane of London, who later became Earl of Darlington in 1792 and Duke of Cleveland in 1833), Mozart, and even Emperor Joseph II. However, when one studies her grueling rehearsal and performance schedule it is easy to see that these would have been short-lived affairs, if they indeed existed; the only two that have been sufficiently documented are Fischer and Benucci. Indeed, Anna maintained an amiable friendship with Benucci after their breakup following the run of Figaro, and in 1789 the two paired up once again to perform in concert at The King's Theatre in London, where they performed selections from Figaro and Don Giovanni, as well as some duets by Salieri. When Anna left Vienna at the end of February of 1787, she was accompanied by her mother and brother, tenor Michael Kelly, who sang the roles of Don Curzio and Don Basilio in Figaro, Mozart's pupil Thomas Attwood, and Lord Barnard. There were plans in the offing for Anna to return to Vienna in 1788, but these fell through because the emperor could not pay her what she required, due to Austria's war with Turkey.
Anna opened in London in Paisiello's Gli schiavi per amore (The Slave of Love) on April 25, 1787, in which she had also appeared in Vienna under the original title of La gare generose (Noble Contests). In this she appeared as an black slave. This production was more successful than the Viennese production, for London audiences had not been given true comic opera for a number of years. Anna's acting was refreshing and authentic and she immediately won their hearts. In the audience sat the Prince of Wales, George IV, who also attended the next performance the very next night. It was observed that he arrived before the beginning of the overture, which was apparently out of character for him. He came again on the 28th. No doubt Anna's comedic flair delighted the prince, as "the enchanting Storace was beating time with her garden clippers", as was reported in the Morning Chronicle. Through this friendship Anna was able to secure for Mozart an invitation to come to London to compose an opera. By the time this came through, however, Mozart was too ill to accept.
In July, London held its annual Handel Commemoration Festival at Westminster Abbey and Anna was invited to sing the most popular soprano piece in Messiah, that is, I know that my Redeemer liveth, as well as Let the bright seraphim from Samson. Despite the Storace family's hopes that they would not hear from Dr. John Fischer after taking their leave from the continent, he made his presence known within the year. Perceiving that Anna's popularity could only grow and possibly make her a wealthy woman, Fischer secured lawyers to make her an offer: Fischer would never appear in the same country as she as long as she paid him an annual stipend of ten pounds. Seeing this for the blackmail it was, Anna refused to meet his terms. For some reason Fischer abandoned his suit. He would later tour Europe and settle down in Ireland, where he was employed as a music teacher. He died there in 1806.
Anna and her brother, Stephen became nearly inseparable and joined together at Drury Lane to turn out a dizzying number of operas until Stephen's death in 1796. They spent nearly every minute of their lives together either in rehearsals or performances, with he as composer and conductor and she as the prima buffa. Although Stephen had married and had a son, he spent more time at his sister's house than his own. Stephen seems to have offered Anna more than a husband could, with mutual interests and goals, and marriage was something Anna was to forever after avoid. Stephen's style of musical comedy fitted Anna like a glove and the public adored her performances in which she was consistently cast as the soubrette, opposite the leading man. Each role seemed to be a variation of the role of Susanna in Figaro, the clever young girl who could outwit any lecher or fop who set out to conquer her. Because these roles were often ethnic, Anna's dark complexion and curvy figure were perfect. These roles did not demand a stately, serene beauty, and Anna could look every bit the part of a slave, servant girl, or gypsy.
Between the months of November 1791 and May 1792, Anna was gravely ill with what appears to have been a brain hemorrhage and nearly died the exact night that Mozart died in Vienna, December 5, 1791. Incisions were made in her skull to ease pressure on the brain, however, and she recovered, although she was weak for many months. As soon as she was able, Anna returned to the stage with all the energy and zeal she had in the past. In the summer, Anna was contracted to sing Handel's Messiah at the king's birthday celebrations. During the performance, however, as she sang the final cadence of I know that my redeemer liveth, a Quaker woman stood and exclaimed, "O fie on thee! Shame! Shame! It is rank idolatry!". The woman was quickly escorted out of the church. In those times, a woman singing in a church was not looked on with favor, much less a woman of the theatre who was considered to be only one step above the rank of a prostitute. The newly rebuilt Drury Lane re-opened in March of 1794 and by the end of 1795 Stephan Storace had fallen seriously ill, but continued to turn out his operas. It is assumed that he had a brain tumor. He died on March 16, 1796 at the age of 33. Anna was understandably prostrate with grief, although she returned to work after only six weeks, a fact that did not escape her most hardened critics.
In 1797, Anna began to take a more active role in society and was seen with John Braham, a new, talented tenor who had premiered in Stephen's Mahmoud in 1796. Braham, who was 11 years Anna's junior and trying to establish himself in the London theatre, had everything to gain from this relationship and the two embarked upon a tour of Europe in August 1797. However, upon arriving at Calais they were immediately detained by the police for not having passports. These were troubled times in Europe, especially France, and travelers from England carrying no passports were quickly assumed to be spies by Napoleon's police. Nevertheless, they were requested to perform for Napoleon and Josephine twice in October. The tour took them to Florence, Milan, Naples and Venice. In Naples, they met Admiral Nelson and his mistress, Emma Hamilton, with whom Nancy formed a close, lifelong friendship. After performing in Venice the two traveled north to Vienna, where Anna was hardly remembered since both Emperor Joseph II and Mozart were dead. This must have been a difficult time for Anna. When they returned to London in September 1801 Anna was pregnant. Her son, William Spencer Harris Braham was born on May 3, 1802.
The following Autumn, Anna and Braham returned to Drury Lane, which was being run by Michael Kelly, performing in The Siege of Belgrade on November 2nd. News of Admiral Nelson's death quickly consumed London, however. When the Admiral's body was returned to London, Braham was asked to sing at the funeral service, with Anna sitting next to Lady Hamilton, who had been, not unsurprisingly, omitted from the Nelson Family's guest list.
Anna finally decided to retire from the stage after the 1807-1808 season was completed. Her final performance was on May 30, 1808 in her brother's opera, No song, no supper. In January of 1809, Anna moved herself, Braham and six year-old Spencer into Herne Hill Cottage. After eighteen years together, Braham and Anna parted ways in 1814. Embarrassing and scandalous lawsuits ensued, with Braham trying to lay hands on the material possessions Anna had bought with her own money. Throughout his life, Spencer maintained that it was the break with Braham that caused the decline of his mother’s health, as well as her death. Anna retained her property, but suffered a stroke in the summer of 1817, and a couple of days later had a second stroke and died at 1:30pm on August 24 with her old friend, Michael Kelly at her bedside. Her funeral was on September 2nd and was attended by her many friends and her small family. She was buried in the churchyard of St. Mary's Lambeth, where her mother, Elizabeth erected a plaque to be inserted into the wall.
Between Mozart and her there must have been a deep and sympathetic understanding. She was beautiful, attractive, an artist, and a finished singer, whose salary at the Italian opera in Vienna attained a figure at that time unheard of.
Tomorrow is Ville's annual Halloween costume party and I'm stumped as to what I'm going to wear. I've gone as a pirate more than once, and I have my gorgeous 18th century gown, which is impressive, and everyone loves it when I wear it, but it's heavy, cumbersome, retstrictive, and uncomfortable.
I've been having some interesting dreams lately, extremely symbolic, and containing some unusual animals. A few weeks ago it was baboons, and last night I had a dream that I was standing next to a very gentle, giant turtle. I reached over to feed it some lettuce and it looked directly into my eyes.
I looked up turtles in the dream interpretation dictionary and it says that they are symbols for good fortune and opportunity. Interesting...
Homecoming is one of the many proud traditions at Oklahoma State University, and perhaps one of the most widely known. Every year, thousands of OSU alumni and fans return to Stillwater, taking part in what is heralded as the biggest and best homecoming celebration in the country.
Traditional festivities include the Friday evening "walkaround" for visitors to view large, elaborate house decorations on the lawns of fraternity and sorority houses, with several vendors scattered throughout the tour route. There is also the "Sea of Orange Parade," a Saturday morning parade down Main Street in Stillwater with decorated floats, high school marching bands, horses, and politicians. Capping off the festivities is the traditional homecoming football game at Boone Pickens Stadium, typically played Saturday evening. Hester Street is typically painted with words of encouragement for the football team for when they take part in The Walk; a tradition started by former coach Les Miles where tens of thousands of Cowboy fans line Hester Street as the team walks from the Student Union to Boone Pickens Stadium. In recent years, the men's basketball team has hosted their annual Basketball Bash in Gallagher-Iba Arena on Homecoming Saturday afternoon, allowing the throng of OSU fans in home for the football game to catch a glimpse of the basketball Pokes before basketball season begins.
Oklahoma State's homecoming has its roots in the annual Harvest Carnival (a tradition that's still a part of Homecoming today) that first began in 1913 as festival including agricultural exhibits, a Harvest Queen competition, a parade, and an evening carnival. By 1920, the Harvest Carnival had been replaced with homecoming. In 1921, the Oklahoma State University Alumni Association adopted homecoming as an official alumni association event. The Harvest Carnival parade was retained and became a part of the homecoming celebration, and continues to be a big part of the tradition. In the 1920s, sororities began decorating the doorways and exteriors of their houses, which later gave way to the elaborate house decorations on the lawns of fraternities, sororities, and dormitories that inspired the Friday evening walkaround. Theta Pond is also traditionally lined with orange lights and the water in the fountain in front of Edmon Low Library is dyed Cowboy orange during Homecoming week. (reposted from Wikipedia)
|What color is your soul painted?|
Your soul is painted the color grey, which embodies the characteristics of elegance, humility, respect, reverence, stability, subtlety, wisdom, strong emotions, balance, and cancellation. Grey falls under the element of Water, and symbolizes the moon, tide, ebb and flow.
Personally, I think Angela Gheorghiu has it all over Maria Callas. Callas sounded as if she sang through a garden hose, but Gheorghiu's tone rings out clear as a bell, without any affectations whatsoever!
It's mid October and the temperatures are dropping so I decided to cook the first pot of chili of the season! YUM!
Chili is one of those comfort foods that most everyone loves, and every cook has her/his own way of making it. Of course, growing up in Oklahoma, the only chili that I have ever known is TexMex style with dark red kidney beans, lots of beef, tomatoes, tomato sauce, onions, garlic, chili powder, and just the right seasonings. I don't like mine too spicy--just warm enough to allow it to linger until the next bite. (And yes, I've had that crap that they call "chili" in Cincinnati. That's NOT chili. I don't know exactly what it is, but it's certainly not chili. It's more like a weird, thin, sweet, spaghetti sauce seasoned with cinnamon, cloves, cocoa, and allspice. Bleeeech!) I like to serve my chili with cornbread, Fritos, or tortilla chips, and top it with lots of cheese.
As I type this, I can smell the tantalizing aromas as my chili simmers on the stove downstairs... I wish it was tomorrow night already!
We've had a bug invade our home over the last several days. It got to Steph first, then to Heather and me, yesterday. It brings with it body aches, fever, chills, cramping stomach, headache, and other unpleasantries which I don't wish to discuss here. Today I shall stay at home in bed.
Historical Quote of the Day (AP)
A moment I've been dreading. George (Bush Sr.) brought his ne'er-do-well son around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida. The one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job. Maybe I'll call Kinsley over at The New Republic and see if they'll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That looks like easy work.
-- Ronald Reagan in his recently published diaries, written May 17, 1986
Zaide, K. 344, composed by Wolfgang Mozart in 1779-1780, was left unfinished. Emperor Joseph II, in 1778, was in the process of setting up an opera company for the purpose of performing German opera. In order to join the company, Mozart would have to submit for consideration, an opera in German, so in Salzburg in 1779 he began work on a new "rescue" opera, Zaide. It contains spoken dialogue, which also classifies it as a Singspiel (literally, "singing play").
Rescue operas were popular at the time, since Muslim pirates preyed upon Mediterranean shipping, particularly to obtain slaves, both male and female, to be used for various purposes. In this particular story, Zaide goes to save her beloved, Gomatz. Ludwig Van Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio, is cast in the same mold, with spoken dramatic dialogue, although it is a husband (a political prisoner) who is saved from death in a Spanish prison.
Mozart composed it for a German libretto by Johann Andreas Schachtner, set in Turkey, which was the scene of his next, completed rescue Singspiel (Die Entführung aus dem Serail). Sadly, he would soon abandon Zaide, to work on Idomeneo, and never returned to the project. The work was lost until after his death, when Constanze Mozart, his wife, found it in his scattered manuscripts in 1799. The fragments wouldn't be published until 1838, and its first performance was held in Frankfurt on January 27, 1866, on the 110th anniversary of Mozart's birth.
Zaide has since been said to be the foundations of a masterpiece, and received critical acclaim. The tender soprano air, "Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben" is the only number that might be called moderately familiar.
Get out your smelling salts and fans, because if this performance of Mozart's Un aura amorosa from Cosi fan tutte, by tenor, Rainer Trost, doesn't do it to you, then nothing will!
This is a response to a review of Mozartballs that I found on Amazon.com where Steph and I were referred to as two "plain" women seeking their fifteen minutes of fame. It has now appeared above hers, on Amazon.com.
As a member of the cast of this film, and one of the “plain women” who has enlivened my “dull” life by “writing herself into Mozart history”, I feel compelled to respond.
Although, for obvious reasons, I can’t give this film a completely objective review, what the previous reviewer failed to mention is that they are biased by the fact that they are well acquainted with the two plain women to whom they attach the motive for being in this film as that of seeking after our fifteen minutes of fame. I refuse to defend myself, my motives, my beliefs, or this film. They are what they are and the film is what it is, and only those who choose to experience this film with an open heart and an open mind will truly get its message. There will be those who scoff for various and sundry reasons. That is to be expected. Believe me, we weighed that fact very heavily before we ever agreed to be in it, but the accusation that we sold ourselves out for “fifteen minutes of fame” is rather judgmental indeed, and speaks more of the accuser than those who are accused. I would hardly risk my reputation and credibility, nor would I place my family and my children in a position where they could be embarrassed and humiliated for such a shallow and selfish motive. My motives came from a much deeper, even spiritual place inside of me, and for another to believe that they have the right or even ability to judge my motives, especially someone who doesn’t know me, (except for what they have encountered of me over the internet), is rather insulting.
I will say that Mozartballs was, for me, more about the experience than the final product, and it will go down in the annals of my history as probably the single most life-changing event of my entire life. What you see captured briefly in this film is only a fraction of what took place. It would be impossible for the writer, director, and editors to put into a film, even twice its length, what was seen, felt, and experienced by each and every member of the Mozartballs cast and crew. Larry Weinstein did a brilliant job, in my humble opinion, of presenting each person’s story without interjecting his own personal judgment or bias, letting the film speak for itself, and the viewer to come to his/her own conclusions regarding each character and their story. It is the intelligent and wise viewer who will dive into this film, quirky as it is, reserve judgment of its participants and their eccentricities, and look for how and why Mozart and his music and life has profoundly affected them.
In the end, I will quote Herr Rich, (the melancholy but delightful Swiss school teacher who was also featured in this film), “The world would be a better place if there were a few more nut cases in it.” That, to me, sums up the entire essence of what Mozartballs is about, and how, if we will but search a little deeper into ourselves, each of us would find our own quirky eccentricities and outrageous beliefs, and learn to celebrate them and allow them to shine forth rather than fearfully hide them from a world that is desperately searching for less conformity and more eccentricity. I know of no better way to celebrate the memory of the composer, who more than any other composer in history, bucked and defied the established system, was well-known for his eccentricities, and lived his life in such an outrageous and flamboyant fashion. Many of Mozart’s peers believed him to be a “nut”. Go ahead. Call me a nut case. I stand with an illustrious company.
Here's an early performance, (1972), of American soprano, Kathleen Battle in Brahms' German Requiem. This is definitely worth the listen!