Sunday, September 05, 2010

"Un giorno di regno" by Giuseppe Verdi

In conducting my research into Un giorno di regno - Giuseppe Verdi's second opera, which debuted at Milano's Teatro alla Scala on this day in 1840 - I came across this helpful video, posted by YouTube user coloraturafan, which attempts to give not only a condensed rendering of the opera itself but some insight into this production of it as well. Since I find many opera mavens less than helpful when it comes to letting others in on just what's so great about the medium, I applaud coloraturafan for his efforts...

Un giorno di regno (aka The One-Day Reign, or King For a Day) was Verdi's first attempt at a comic opera, and concerned itself with the War of the Polish Succession embroiling its central figure, the historical King Stanisław Leszczyński. With a libretto by Felice Romani, it was met with a poor reception, which the composer witnessed from his seat in the orchestra pit. After the curtain rang down on that first performance the remainder of the run was cancelled. Soor poorly was it received that it would not be revived in the theatre where it premiered until 2001.

Verdi later blamed the opera's failure on his own personal turmoil; while in the process of writing it, his first wife Margherita Barezzi and their two infant children died - precisely the sort of events which would sap even the greatest comedic mind of its sense of humour.
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Now Showing: Bob Newhart (with Mo Collins) on "MADtv"

Seriously, I can't tell you the level of self-improvement I've obtained from using the Newhart Method and applying it to my everyday life... Here's hoping it works for you!*
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Happy Birthday Bob Newhart

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketComedy comes from lots of places, most of them not funny - anger, grief, self-loathing...

Bob Newhart may be unique, in that his humour seems to come from geniality. True, there's a note of frustration in there sometimes, but often it stems from the other person's refusal to be as genial as him. Whether playing a befuddled psychologist in the Bob Newhart Show or a perennially put-upon inn-keeper in Newhart, the greatest pleasure in watching him comes from wondering when he'll reach the end of his fuse.

On night club stages, in recordings, on television or in the movies, Bob Newhart's geniality has been entertaining audiences for more than 40 years. Quoth David Hyde Pierce, 'The only difference between Bob Newhart onstage and Bob Newhart offstage – is that there is no stage.'
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"Two-Way Monologue" by Sondre Lerche

Norway's pop sensation Sondre Lerche illustrates the battle between style and substance in the video for Two-Way Monologue, the title track to his second album, which was released in 2004; I'm proud to say that substance appears to have won this one, even though that sense of pride leaves me feeling like a traitor to myself.

The fact that he was born on this day in 1982 doesn't help matters at all...
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In Memoriam: Freddie Mercury

About him, David Bowie said: 'He could always turn a cliché to his advantage.' Which is fortunate for Freddie Mercury, since the manner of his passing was indeed one of the greatest clichés of our times. Bowie, insightful as ever, was definitely on to something though, because Mercury's reputation has only grown since his death in November 1991.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketIn his life - which began on this day in 1946 - it was Mercury's art which met with much scorn from critics; in death, the critics have been won over, lauding his amazing voice and compositional eclecticism, and hailing Queen as one of Britain's greatest bands. In life his private life was private; in death his private life has its own critics, who are very public in their scorn for the way Mercury concealed not only his sexuality and his HIV status but also his ethnicity.

The good work Freddie Mercury could have done in life is being done now in his name (through various charities) in death, which could account for the popularity of a man whose memory, nevertheless, could still use some burnishing. A planned concert in Zanzibar to commemorate what would have been his 60th birthday was denied by the Islamic government there, citing Mercury's 'degenerate lifestyle'.
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POPnews: September 5th

[The church we now know as 'Old St. Paul's' was actually the fourth dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle on the same site; it was built after a fire burned the third one in 1087, which had been built after the Vikings sacked the second one in 961, which replaced the first one - burnt down in 675 - which had been the first Saxon church on the site when it was established by Mellitus in 604.]

1666 - The Great Fire of London was finally brought under control, but not before destroying 10,000 buildings, including Old St Paul's Cathedral.

1774 - The First Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia.

1793 - Fifteen months into the French Revolution the French National Convention initiated the Reign of Terror, pitting the Girondins against the Jacobins and sending as many as 60,000 to their deaths beneath the blade of a guillotine.

1816 - France's King Louis XVIII had to dissolve the so-called Chambre introuvable in that country's Chamber of Deputies after the Second Bourbon Restoration due to an impasse caused by the country's Ultra-royalists, who were then briefly replaced by the Doctrinaires.

1836 - Sam Houston was elected President of Texas.

1840 - Giuseppe Verdi's opera Un giorno di regno received its debut at Teatro La Scala in Milan.

1877 - Oglala Sioux chief Crazy Horse was fatally bayoneted by an American soldier after resisting confinement in a guardhouse at Nebraska's Fort Robinson during the Indian Wars.

1905 - The Treaty of Portsmouth - mediated by US President Theodore Roosevelt and signed at New Hampshire's Portsmouth Naval Shipyard - ended the Russo-Japanese War.

1938 - A group of youths affiliated with the fascist National Socialist Movement of Chile were assassinated in the Seguro Obrero massacre; it's now more than seventy years on, and I have yet to work up the ability to feel bad about it.

1944 - Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg formed Benelux.

1945 - Iva Toguri D'Aquino - a Japanese-American suspected of being wartime radio propagandist Tokyo Rose - was arrested in Yokohama.

1957 - Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road was published by Viking Press.

1960 - The poet Léopold Sédar Senghor was elected the first President of Senegal.

1972 - Black September - a group with ties to Fatah who had previously tried to kill King Hussein of Jordan - kidnapped and murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the Summer Olympics in Munchen, Germany. These events form the basis of Steven Spielberg's 2005 film Munich.

1975 - Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford but was thwarted by Secret Service agent Larry Buendorf without firing a shot.

1977 - Hanns Martin Schleyer was kidnapped by the Red Army Faction in Cologne, West Germany, and was later murdered.

1979 - Earl Mountbatten of Burma was given a state funeral at Westminster Abbey.

1980 - The St. Gotthard Tunnel opened in Switzerland; the world's longest highway tunnel at 16.224 km (10.14 miles) in length, it connects Goschenen to Airolo.

1997 - Mother Teresa died; for a rebuttal to the popular notion that she was some kind of living saint, try this book by Christopher Hitchens.
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