Monday, June 28, 2010

"Giselle" by Adolphe Adam

On this day in 1841 the Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique in Paris premiered Adolphe Adam's ballet Giselle, which featured choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot* with a libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier - who took as their inspiration a poem by Heinrich Heine called De l'Allemagne.  In that first production Carlotta Grisi starred as Giselle, with Lucien Petipa as Albrecht, and Jean Coralli as Hilarion; the scenery was designed by Pierre Ciceri and costumes by Paul Lormier.

The role of Giselle is one of the most sought-after in classical ballet, and has been assayed over the years by such luminaries as Anna Pavlova, Alicia Markova, Karen Kain, Margot Fonteyn, Natalia Makarova, and Gelsey Kirkland; likewise Albrecht has been given life by Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Erik Bruhn, and Sir Anton Dolin among many others.  Here we see the roles taken on by Carole Arbo and Kader Belarbi performing the ballet's pas de deux.

*Although a more modern interpretation of its choreography derives from Marius Petipa's revivals of the show in 1884, 1899, 1903 for the Imperial Ballet; Petipa's work would later prove the greatest inspiration to George Balanchine...
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Pop History Moment: The Signing of the Treaty of Versailles


On this day in 1919 the Treaty of Versailles was signed, five years to the day after the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand set off the First World War*; possibly the most asinine document ever signed that wasn't a Hollywood marriage license, the Treaty of Versailles is today generally credited as having more or less caused World War II.

By demanding reparations from Germany for its war-mongering and wanton cruelty, sweet and innocent Britain and France (who never did a single bad thing to big mean Germany) pretty much ensured that the Huns would go off to sulk and nurse their wounds before returning with a couple of buddies to even the score - much as they'd always done in the past.

Someone smarter than me needs to study to what extent the European Union is rooted in the events of 1919; not contented with screwing up Europe, the Treaty of Versailles also buggered up much of the Arab world as well when it arbitrarily divvied up the corpse of the Ottoman Empire between ravenous colonialist competitors. And we all know what kind of mishegas that schamozzle has caused...

Already someone smarter than me has laboriously researched and then entertainingly written about the Paris Peace Conference, which brought about the Treaty of Versailles; Margaret MacMillan's fascinating book Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World also manages to bring to life the gloriously outsized personalities of Italy's Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, France's Georges Clemenceau, Britain's David Lloyd George**, and America's Woodrow Wilson (all shown above, from left to right, kibbitzing).

*Lending that conflict a tidy sort of circularity; five years to the day from 'cause' to 'cure' - and with only 38 million people killed or wounded!
**MacMillan may have benefited from some inside knowledge - or at very least family lore - in the writing of her book; she's David Lloyd George's great-granddaughter!
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Roseanne Roseannadanna Gives A Commencement Address

On what would have been the 64th birthday of the late Gilda Radner - who died in May 1989 at the age of 42 - the Pop Culture Institute can think of nothing better to do than to watch her in action through the miracle of technology. Of course, it all comes down to the matter of which clip of many to select, and I figured since it's graduation season, this would be the most logical choice*.

Here we see her inhabiting one of her more famous characters, Roseanne Roseannadanna, in Gilda Live! - the filmed version of her hit one-woman show; Radner, of course, first introduced this particular alter-ego (or, indeed, alter-id) of hers in October 1977 on Saturday Night Live.

The premise is simple: Roseannadanna is supposedly giving the commencement address to the very real Columbia University School of Journalism Class of 1979, which she has mistakenly accepted. thinking the invitation had come from her alma mater, the fictional Columbia School of Broadcasting. Ah, but from such simple premises flow abundant comic genius, and as the hilarity ensues, it ensnares Geraldo Rivera and Walter Cronkite alike in its comic onslaught...

*Especially since there's still no embeddable version of Let's Talk Dirty To The Animals available.
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Pop History Moment: The Stonewall Riots Began...

1969. The same hot summer I was in utero, an idea that would literally mean the world to me was hatching... That's the summer the patrons of a seedy bar called the Stonewall Inn in New York's Greenwich Village decided they'd had enough of paying protection money to the police who routinely harassed them anyway. Starting with the funeral of Judy Garland the previous day - shortly after 1 PM on this day in 1969 and continuing over several subsequent nights - riots led by activists, drag queens, trannies and various disparate gender outlaws gave birth to a vibrant and diverse minority community.

PhotobucketThe Stonewall Riots not only galvanized a community that scarcely knew it existed before - which is one of the upsides of oppression - it gave that fledgling community its all-important creation myth. While gay communities had existed previously (after a fashion) and both political movements and acts of civil disobedience had been used to back them up prior to 1969, there was something about this particular expression of unity which helped it - and its message - to endure, not just in the United States but around the world. For me, Pride Day has always stood for unity, largely due to the unity shown by the rioters; I only wish every day in the gay community could be just like it...

For many years the name Stonewall and the story of its riots was well-known within the gay community - passed down by word of mouth and in gay media - but virtually unknown outside of it; the 1990s brought a flood of new scholarship and entertainment regarding both the event and its place in the rich tapestry of American life. Martin Duberman's book Stonewall came first, in 1993, and features solid research tinged with personal insights for a very bittersweet read; a movie entitled Stonewall had great success on the festival circuit in 1996. In June 1999 the Stonewall Inn was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by US President Bill Clinton (likely as payback for his having sold us out with DADT and DoMA); the following February it was declared a National Historic Landmark.
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Happy Birthday John Cusack

In my all-time favourite movie - Bullets Over Broadway (1994) - John Cusack plays a writer who's afraid the world will find out he's a big phony; I have no idea why I might relate to a story like that.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketA n y w a y... Seeing as there's no one quite like him in Hollywood, I guess that makes him an archetype.

In years to come, up-and-coming actors will insist that they're 'the John Cusack type', but they won't be exactly right; they won't have his soulful eyes, or his comically anguished delivery, or his adorably delicate features - and they certainly won't be able to deliver their angstiest speeches in a downpour of rain, either. At least, not like our John can.

That's because there's only one John Cusack, who today turns 44.
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POPnews - June 28th

[Despite having just escaped an assassin's bomb, which had been thrown at their motorcade by Nedeljko Čabrinović at 10:10 AM, Austria-Hungary's Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were all smiles upon being received minutes later at the Town Hall in Sarajevo. Fortunately for them the bomb had bounced off their car and under the one behind it; unfortunately, it injured 20 spectators in the process. Following a speech by the shaken Archduke - in which he commented bitterly on the 'hospitality' shown him and his wife thus far - the couple departed for the next stop on their itinerary. A mix-up by their driver, Leopold Loyka, caused by a last-minute change in their route, giving Gavrilo Princip just the opportunity he needed, and this time they weren't so lucky; the royal couple were shot at 10:25 AM and both died shortly thereafter.]

1098 - Knights of the First Crusade - led by Bohemond of Antioch - defeated Kerbogha, Atabeg of Mosul, ending the Second Siege of Antioch during which Kerbogha had been attempting to take back the city, which had fallen to the Crusaders on June 2nd. 

1461 - Edward IV of the House of York was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey - having deposed his cousin Henry VI of the House of Lancaster on March 4th - thus beginning the bloodiest phase of that brutal game of musical thrones known as the Wars of the Roses. 

1519 - Spain's King Charles I was elected Holy Roman Emperor; he ruled under the name Charles V.

1635 - Guadeloupe became a French colony, under the aegis of the Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique.

- The biggest battle of the 17th century - the Battle of Beresteczko, between King John II Casimir's Poles and Zaporozhian Cossack Ukrainians - began, with as many as 200,000 troops in the field.

- Thomas Hickey, a private in the Commander-in-Chief's Guard - which was assigned to protect General George Washington, his papers, and the Continental Army's coffers - was hanged for mutiny and sedition.

- The Battle of Monmouth was fought between the American Continental Army under George Washington and the British Army led by Sir Henry Clinton, during which Washington appointed Molly Pitcher a sergeant.

- The Army of the Potomac was disbanded when Major General George G. Meade relinquished his command.

- Ned Kelly - the notorious Australian bushranger played in a 1970 film by Mick Jagger and again in 2003 by Heath Ledger - was captured at Glenrowan.

1894 - Labor Day became an official holiday in the US.

1904 - The Danish liner SS Norge ran aground on St Helen's Reef off the uninhabited North Atlantic island of Rockall; the vessel sank, claiming 635 lives (225 of them Norwegians emigrating to America), while 160 survivors - including 19 year-old poet Herman Wildenvey - spent up to eight days in open lifeboats before being rescued. The wreckage of the SS Norge was only discovered in July 2003.

1914 - Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo by a young Serbian nationalist named Gavrilo Princip; the killing of the royal couple would quickly become the casus belli of World War I. All told there were six assassins that day, their actions coordinated by Danilo Ilić; Muhamed Mehmedbašić and Vaso Čubrilović failed to act, as did Cvjetko Popović and Trifun Grabež. Where Čabrinović and his bomb had failed, though, Princip and his pistol more than succeeded...

1922 - The Irish Civil War began with the shelling of Dublin's Four Courts by Free State forces.

1948 - Dick Turpin triumphed over Vince Hawkins at a bout held in Birmingham's Villa Park to become the first black British boxing champion in the modern era.

- Malcolm X announced the formation of the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

1992 - The city of Jackson, Mississippi, unveiled a statue of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, whose June 1963 murder at the hands of Ku Klux Klan member Byron De La Beckwith added considerable momentum to the Civil Rights Movement.

- At the second fight pitting Mike Tyson against Evander Holyfield, Tyson was disqualified in the 3rd round for biting a piece from Holyfield's ear; almost instantly, pundits gleefully dubbed the event The Bite Fight.

- Elián González returned to Cuba following an order by the US Supreme Court.

- Canada became the third country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.  Despite many lies from them to the contrary no Christians were harmed in the process...

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