Orpheus and Eurydice

Orpheus and Eurydice, Auguste Rodin, modeled probably before 1887, carved 1893

 

This mythological subject was very popular in Auguste Rodin‘s times. The sculptor, inspired by the opera Orfeo ed Euridice from Christoph Willibald Gluck from 1762 that was performed in Paris by the end of the 19th Century again, turned to this motif in the 1880’s. Re-using the body of Paolo Malatesta (best known for the story of his affair with Francesca da Polenta, portrayed by Dante Alighieri in a famous episode of his Inferno ) as featured in Fugit Amor (Fugitive Love), he had by 1887 created Orpheus’s torso and head.

According to Georges Grappe, the first group was composed in 1892, although some contemporaries dated it 1894 – probably mixing it up with Orpheus and Eurydice Leaving Hell, executed in marble in 1893 for the American collector Charles T. Yerkes. This latter version, purchased by Thomas P. Ryan on 22 January 1910 and presented to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, shows a walking Orpheus with his left hand before his eyes, followed by Eurydice.

 

 

The now isolated male figure, named Orpheus Imploring the Gods, shows the singer in the moment he realizes that he will never see his lover again. The brutally severed hand of Euridyce on the harp, remnant of the former group constellation, underlines the tragedy of this situation.

 

 

In Orpheus and the Furies, the rather coincidental juxtaposition of the Kneeling Fauness and The Martyr, as seen in the tympanum of  The Gates of Hell – is employed again by Rodin to present the last stage of Orpheus’s fruitless quest. Changing the gender of the kneeling figure, he shows a rather frail Orpheus cracking under the weight of the raging Maenads.

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Gravity’s Rainbow

 

Gravity’s Rainbow is a 1973 novel by American writer Thomas Pynchon. The plot  is complex, containing over 400 characters and involving many different threads of narrative which intersect and weave around one another. The recurring themes throughout the plot are the V-2 rocket, interplay between free will and Calvinistic predestination, breaking the cycle of nature, behavioral psychology, sexuality, paranoia and conspiracy theories such as the Phoebus cartel and the Illuminati.

The novel’s title declares its ambition and sets into resonance the oscillation between doom and freedom expressed throughout the book. An example of the superfluity of meanings characteristic of Pynchon’s work during his early years, Gravity’s Rainbow refers to:

*the parabolic trajectory of a V-2 rocket: the “rainbow-shaped” path created by the missile as it moves under the influence of gravity, subsequent to the engine’s deactivation;
the arc of the plot. Critics such as Weisenburger have found this trajectory to be cyclical or circular, like the true shape of a rainbow. This follows in the literary tradition of James Joyce‘s Finnegans Wake and Herman Melville‘s The Confidence-Man.

*The statistical pattern of impacts from rocket-bombs, invoked frequently in the novel by reference to the Poisson distribution.

*The introduction of randomness into the science of physics through the development of quantum mechanics, breaking the assumption of a deterministic universe.

*The animating effect of mortality on the human imagination.

Pynchon has brilliantly combined German political and cultural history with the mechanisms of paranoia to create an exceedingly complex work of art. The most important cultural figure in Gravity’s Rainbow is not Johann Wolfgang von Goethe or Richard Wagner, however, but Rainer Maria Rilke, Captain Blicero’s favorite poet. In a way, the book could be read as a serio-comic variation on Rilke’s Duino Elegies and their German Romantic echoes in Nazi culture. The “Elegies” begin with a cry: “Who, if I screamed, would hear me among the angelic orders? And even if one of them suddenly pressed me against his heart, I would fade in the strength of his stronger existence. For Beauty is nothing but the beginning of Terror that we’re still just able to bear, and why we adore it is because it serenely disdains to destroy us.”

These lines are hideously amplified in the first words of Pynchon’s novel: “A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.” This sound is the scream of a V-2 rocket hitting London in 1944; it is also the screams of its victims and of those who have launched it. It is a scream of sado-masochistic orgasm, a coming together in death, and this too is an echo and development of the exalted and deathly imagery of Rilke’s poem.

Pynchon’s novel is strung between these first lines of the Duino Elegies and the last: “And we, who have always thought of happiness as climbing or ascending would feel the emotion that almost startles when a happy thing falls.” In Rilke, the “happy thing” is a sign of rebirth amidst the dead calm of winter: a “catkin” hanging from an empty hazel tree or the “rain that falls on the dark earth in early spring.” In Gravity’s Rainbow the “happy thing” that falls is a rocket like the one Blicero has launched toward London in the first pages of the book or the one also launched by Blicero that falls on the reader in the last words of the last page.

The arc of a rocket’s flight is Gravity’s Rainbow–a symbol not of God’s covenant with Noah that He will never again destroy all living things, nor of the inner instinctual wellsprings of life that will rise above the dark satanic mills in D.H. Lawrence‘s novel The Rainbow. Gravity’s Rainbow is a symbol of death: Pynchon’s characters “move forever under [the rocket]. . .as if it were the Rainbow, and they its children.”

 

Little Girl in the Big Ten, twentieth episode of The Simpsons‘ season 13 (May 12, 2002)

Lisa: You’re reading Gravity’s Rainbow?

Brownie: Re-reading it.

 

My Mother the Carjacker, second episode of The Simpson’s season 15 (November 9, 2003)

Mona Simpson read Homer Gravity’s Rainbow as a good night story. After Homer started to sleep Mona said “Thomas Pynchon you are a tough read”, before she also started to sleep

 

Gravity’s Rainbow is a song by the British band Klaxons, from the album Myths of the Near Future (2007). Pat Benatar also released an album called Gravity’s Rainbow after reading Thomas Pynchon’s novel

 

The novel inspired the 1984 song Gravity’s Angel by Laurie Anderson. In her 2004 autobiographical performance The End of the Moon, Anderson said she once contacted Pynchon asking permission to adapt Gravity’s Rainbow as an opera. Pynchon replied that he would allow her to do so only if the opera was written for a single instrument: the banjo. Anderson said she took that as a polite “no.”

 

New York artist Zak Smith created a series of 760 drawings entitled, “One Picture for Every Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow” (also known by the title Pictures of What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow)

Tales of Mystery and Imagination

Cover artwork by Storm Thorgerson

 
 

The Catapult of Desert, René Magritte, 1926

 
 

Booklet

 
 

 Rind, M.C. Escher, 1955

 
 

LP featuring alternate artwork inspired by M.C. Escher

 
 

Tales of Mystery and Imagination Edgar Allan Poe, is the debut album by the progressive rock group The Alan Parsons Project, released in 1976. The lyrical and musical themes – retellings of horror stories and poetry by Edgar Allan Poe — attracted a cult audience. The title of the album is taken from a popular title for a collection of Poe’s macabre tales of the same name, Tales of Mystery & Imagination, first published in 1908 and reprinted many times since.

Musicians featured on the album include vocalists Arthur Brown of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown on The Tell Tale Heart and Terry Sylvester of The Hollies on To One In Paradise. The complete line-up of bands Ambrosia and Pilot play on the record, along with keyboardist Francis Monkman of Curved Air and Sky.

The Raven features actor Leonard Whiting on lead vocals, with Alan Parsons performing vocals through an EMI vocoder. According to the album’s liner notes, The Raven was the first rock song to feature a digital vocoder.

The Prelude section of The Fall of the House of Usher, although uncredited, is inspired by the opera fragment La chute de la maison Usher by Claude Debussy which was composed between 1908 and 1917. The Fall of the House of Usher is an instrumental suite which runs 16 minutes plus and takes up most of Side 2 of the recording.

Critical reaction to the album was mixed; for example, Rolling Stone’s Billy Altman concluded that it did not completely accurately reproduce Poe’s tension and macabre fear, ending by claiming that “devotees of Gothic literature will have to wait for someone with more of the macabre in their blood for a truer musical reading of Poe’s often terrifying works”.

Nevertheless in July 2010, the album was named as one of Classic Rock magazine’s “50 Albums That Built Prog Rock”.

In 1987, Parsons completely remixed the album, including additional guitar passages and narration (by Orson Welles) as well as updating the production style to include heavy reverb and the gated reverb snare drum sound, which was popular in the 1980s. The CD notes that Welles never met Parsons or Eric Woolfson, but sent a tape to them of the performance shortly after the album was manufactured in 1976.

The first passage narrated by Welles on the 1987 remix (which comes before the first track, A Dream Within a Dream) is sourced from an obscure nonfiction piece by Poe – No XVI of his Marginalia (from 1845 to 1849 Edgar Allan Poe titled some of his reflections and fragmentary material Marginalia.) The second passage Welles reads (which comes before The Fall of the House of Usher (Prelude), seems to be a partial paraphrase or composite from nonfiction by Poe, chiefly from a collection of poems titled Poems of Youth by Poe (contained in Introduction to Poems – 1831 in a section titled “Letter to Mr. B———–“; the “Shadows of shadows passing” part of the quote comes from the Marginalia.

An Opera for Gertrude Stein

166_fa59f554bbd760a138fe07d997a74c06Apollinaire et ses amis, Marie Laurencin, 1907

 
 

Marie Laurencin:
[Taking a gulp of her wine.]
I want to know about her shaggy
hair. Did her mother put ribbons
there? I want to touch her long
black locks. What freedom
made her mock
clothing so? Guillaume, Cheri,
hand me my lorgnette.
[Guillaume pulls from his pocket a folded lorgnette, opens out the handle and offers it to Marie. She gives him her brush in exchange for the glasses.]

Gertrude, you magnifying glass, come
link arms that we may study this portrait
together.
[She staggers over to Gertrude and hooks her arm into Gertrude’s. Alice frowns and then takes Marie back to Guillaume.]

Monsieur Rousseau, I want to know
about her shaggy hair.

Pablo Picasso:
Yes, the way it snakes
to her voluptuous
knees.
[Pablo runs his hand down Fernande’s leg as he eyes Marie. Fernande, glaring first at Pablo and then Marie, goes to the table for a goblet of wine.]

Guillaume Apollinaire:
[oblivious to everyone except Marie:]
And her thighs,
her calves!
Who or what
does she
love?

Henri Rousseau:
She loves her mother.

Guillaume:
[Suddenly pulled to his senses.]
You’ve got to be kidding.
Guess her mother doesn’t sit
at the gaming tables all day.
[He takes a goblet and drinks.]

Henri:
[More earnestly:]
She loves her mother.

Gertrude Stein:
Just like me,
having the buttons
to prove it.

Leo Stein:
Buttons?
Leave Mother out of this!
It’s Alice, not Mother,
not me.

Marie
What about
the platypus?
Isn’t the pink-winged
bird a bit like us?
[Drinks and then throws down her goblet.]

Everyone
What?
What?
What is a genius?

Pablo
Henri, come sit
on the throne
I’ve made for you.
[Pablo escorts Henri to the throne.]
The legs are uneven,
the arms a bit cracked.

Marie
Yes, do, Monsieur Rousseau,
before the candle wax melts
and ruins the floor for dance.
[Marie holds her arms out and spins, avoiding the broken goblet.]

Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On

First Act

Opera composed by William C. Banfield to a libretto by the poet Karren LaLonde Alenier

 
 

On March 10, 2002 the music from act II of Gertrude Stein Invents A Jump Early On was workshopped presented under the sponsorship of the National Opera Association and Opera Index at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City in a program entitled New American Opera Previews: From Page to Stage.

Gertrude Stein Invents A Jump Early On–three portraits of Gertrude Stein’s life and work from 1908-1944 as researched and embellished by poet-librettist Karren Alenier. Piano and voice score are completed. Music might be characterized as a fusion of new classical music and jazz. Presented by Encompass New Opera Theatre and Nancy Rhodes, artistic director.

Orgiastic Inspiration

Salvador Dali’s costumes for the ballet Bacchanale, of which Dali designed the set, costumes and wrote the libretto based on Ricard Wagner‘s Tannhäuser and the myth of Leda and the Swan. A “bacchanale” is an orgiastic musical composition often depicting a drunken revel or bacchanal. Photo by Horst P. Horst, 1939

 

 

 

Alice Gibb and Olga Sherer, Photo by Tim Walker. Editorial A Magical World for Vogue Italia. January, 2008

Sprinkled With So Many Coincidences

Peter Sellers plays Claire Quilty, a pompous hipster playwright, the alter ego and nemesis to James Mason’s lustful professor, Humbert Humbert. Lolita (Stanley Kubrick, 1962)

 
 

The novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is sprinkled with so many coincidences that it is hard to tell when coincidence stops and fate begins. In this work, coincidence and fate are fraternal twins. Whether the reader picks up Lolita for second, third, or three hundred and forty-second reading, hidden little treasures of coincidences and connections spring out from their carefully selected hiding places.

Humbert Humbert has a first love experience when he is young with Annabel Leigh. (the character was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe‘s poem, Annabel Lee). It is a strange coincidence that  Humbert and his Annabell  also have their first romantic encounter by the Mediterranean. After her young tragic death, Humbert cannot get over his infatuation with young girls. However, it is not just any kind of young girl that he pines for. It is a strange breed, the breed of nymphet. When Lolita, the very embodiment of nymphets, first enters the scene, she peers over her sunglasses at Humbert. The sunglasses are a strange connection between Lolita and Annabel Lee. “Half-naked, kneeling, turning about on her knees, there was my Riviera love peering at me over dark glasses” . Lolita is a reincarnation of Humbert’s first love.

In Lolita, the name is used in reference to Mr. Clare Quilty, the man who takes Lolita from Humbert. Carmen and Clare being both male and female names, Lolita uses them to deceive Humbert into thinking he is a woman and no threat.

Several times throughout the novel, Humbert refers to Lolita as his Carmen.
“O my Carmen, my little Carmen!
Something something those something nights,
And the stars, and the cars, and the bars and the barmen-
And, O my charmin’, our dreadful fights.
And the something town where so gaily, arm in
Arm we went, and our final row,
And the gun I killed you with, O my Carmen,
The gun I am holding now”

This song that Humbert recaptures here sums up his relationship with Lolita: their fights, car rides, men looking eagerly at her, and finally the gun that Humbert uses to kill Quilty.

There are a host of more passing literary allusions in Lolita, but they decorate rather than determine the death bound tragedy set by Poe, Proper Mérimée’s Carmen with other tales of love and revenge, and doppelgänger stories.

Love Is A Rebellious Bird

Georges Bizet’s manuscript of Habanera

 
 

Habanera, the popular name for L’amour est un oiseau rebelle (Love is a rebellious bird), is one of the most famous arias from Georges Bizet‘s 1875 opera Carmen. It is the entrance aria of the title character, a mezzo-soprano role, in scene 5 of the first act.

The score of this aria was adapted from the habanera El Arreglito (The Little Arrangement), originally composed by the Spanish musician Sebastián Yradier. Bizet thought it to be a folk song; when others told him he had used something that had been written by a composer who had died only ten years earlier, he had to add a note to the vocal score of Carmen, acknowledging its source.

 
 

Emilie Ambre in the role of Carmen in Bizet’s opera of the same name. Painting by Edouard Manet, c. 1879

 
 

Quand je vous aimerai? (When will I love you?)
Ma foi, je ne sais pas, (Good Lord, I don’t know,)
Peut-être jamais, peut-être demain. (Maybe never, maybe tomorrow.)
Mais pas aujourd’hui, c’est certain! (But not today, that’s for sure!)

L’amour est un oiseau rebelle (Love is a rebellious bird)
Que nul ne peut apprivoiser, (That none can tame,)
Et c’est bien en vain qu’on l’appelle, (And it is well in vain that one calls it)
S’il lui convient de refuser. (If it suits him to refuse)
Rien n’y fait, menace ou prière; (Nothing to be done, threat or prayer.)
L’un parle bien, l’autre se tait, (The one talks well, the other is silent;)
Et c’est l’autre que je préfère; (And it’s the other that I prefer)
Il n’a rien dit mais il me plaît. (He says nothing but he pleases me.)…

…L’amour est l’enfant de Bohême, (Love is a gypsy’s child,)
Il n’a jamais, jamais connu de loi; (It has never, never known the law;)
Si tu ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime; (If you do not love me, I love you;)
Si je t’aime, prends garde à toi! (If I love you, take guard yourself)…

…L’oiseau que tu croyais surprendre (The bird you hoped to catch)
Battit de l’aile et s’envola. (Beat its wings and flew away)
L’amour est loin, tu peux l’attendre; (Love is far, you can wait for it)
Tu ne l’attends plus, il est là. (You no longer await it, there it is)
Tout autour de toi, vite, vite, (All around you, swift, swift,)
Il vient, s’en va, puis il revient. (It comes, goes, then it returns)
Tu crois le tenir, il t’évite, (You think to hold it fast, it flees you)
Tu crois l’éviter, il te tient! (You think to flee it, it holds you)…

Excerpts from Habanera

 
 

To watch Maria Callas singing this aria in Covent Garden (1962), please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

Carmen on The Big Screen

American silent drama film directed by Cecil B. DeMille (1915)

 
 

Theda Bara, epitome of the vamps, in a scene from Carmen (Raoul Walsh, 1915)

 
 

Gypsy Blood, 1918 German silent drama film directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Pola Negri, Harry Liedtke and Leopold von Ledebur

 
 

Carmen Jones (Otto Preminger, 1954)

 
 

Venezuelan late actress Mayra Alejandra as Carmen, la que contaba 16 años (Carmen, Who Was 16 Years Old), directed by Román Chalbaud (1978)

 
 

Carmen (Carlos Saura, 1983). It was directed and choreographed in the flamenco style by Carlos Saura and María Pagés. It is the second part of Saura’s flamenco trilogy in the 1980s, preceded by Bodas de sangre and followed by El amor brujo, both inspired by Federico García Lorca.

 
 

Directed by Francesco Rosi (1984). Julia Migenes stars in the title role, Plácido Domingo as Don José, Ruggero Raimondi as Escamillo, and Faith Esham as Micaela. Rosi acknowledged Gustave Doré‘s illustrations for Baron Charles Davilliers Spain (which was published in serial form in 1873) as his principal source for the visual design. He believed that Bizet, who never visited Spain, was guided by these engravings, and shot scenes in some of the exact places that Doré drew.

 
 

This 2003 film was made with high production values and was another success with audiences for the veteran Spanish director Vicente Aranda

 
 

Carmen: A Hip Hopera is a 2001 musical film produced for television by MTV and directed by Robert Townsend. The film stars Beyoncé Knowles in her debut acting role, Mos Def, Rah Digga, Wyclef Jean, Mekhi Phifer, Da Brat, Joy Bryant, Jermaine Dupri and Lil’ Bow Wow.

A New Type of Operatic Heroine

Illustration of Bizet’s opera Carmen, by Luc. It was published in Journal Amusant in 1875

 
 

Poster from 1975

 
 

Carmen is an opera comique in four acts by the French composer Georges Bizet. The libretto was written by Henri Meilhac and , based on a novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée. The opera was first performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, on 3 March 1875, and at first was not particularly successful.

 
 

Celestine Galli-Marie, the mezzosoprano who created the role of Carmen. Painting by Henri Lucien Doucet.

 
 

The depictions of proletarian life, immorality and lawlessness, and the tragic death of the main character on stage, broke new ground in French opera and were highly controversial. After the premiere, most reviews were critical, and the French public was generally indifferent. Carmen initially gained its reputation through a series of productions outside France, and was not revived in Paris until 1883; thereafter it rapidly acquired celebrity at home and abroad, and continues to be one of the most frequently performed operas; the Habanera from act 1 and the Toreador Song from act 2 are among the best known of all operatic arias. Later commentators have asserted that Carmen forms the bridge between the tradition of opéra comique and the realism or verismo that characterised late 19th-century Italian opera.

 
 

Poster for a circa 1896 American production of Georges Bizet’s Carmen, starring Rosabel Morrison, and under the management of Edward. J. Abraham

 
 

When artistic life in Paris resumed after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, Bizet found wider opportunities for the performance of his works; his one-act opera Djamileh opened at the Opéra-Comique in May 1872. Although this failed and was withdrawn after 11 performances, it led to a further commission from the theatre, this time for a full-length opera for which Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy would provide the libretto. Halévy, who had written the text for Bizet’s student opera Le docteur Miracle (1856), was a cousin of Bizet’s wife, Geneviève; he and Meilhac had a solid reputation as the librettists of many of Jacques Offenbach‘s operettas.

Bizet was delighted with the Opéra-Comique commission, and expressed to his friend Edmund Galabert his satisfaction in “the absolute certainty of having found my path”. The subject of the projected work was a matter of discussion between composer, librettists and the Opéra-Comique management; Adolphe de Leuven, on behalf of the theatre, made several suggestions that were politely rejected. It was Bizet who first proposed an adaptation of Prosper Mérimée’s novella Carmen. Mérimée’s story is a blend of travelogue and adventure yarn, probably inspired by the writer’s lengthy travels in Spain in 1830, and had originally been published in 1845 in the journal Revue des deux Mondes. It may have been influenced in part by Alexander Pushkin‘s 1824 poem The Gypsies, a work Mérimée had translated into French; it has also been suggested that the story was developed from an incident told to Mérimée by his friend the Countess Montijo. Bizet may first have encountered the story during his Rome sojourn of 1858–60, since his journals record Mérimée as one of the writers whose works he absorbed in those years.

Carmen herself, is a new type of operatic heroine representing a new kind of love, not the innocent kind associated with the “spotless soprano” school, but something altogether more vital and dangerous. Her capriciousness, fearlessness and love of freedom are all musically represented: “She is redeemed from any suspicion of vulgarity by her qualities of courage and fatalism so vividly realised in the music”. American music critic and journalist Harold C. Schonberg likens Carmen to “a female Don Giovanni. She would rather die than be false to herself”.

Carmen and The Hallucinogenic Toreador

Portrait of Carmen

 
 

Portrait of Escamillo

 
 

A Place in Seville

 
 

Rendez-Vous of the Smugglers

 
 

Love is like a Gypsy

 
 

Carmen Sings Gypsy Songs

 
 

The Habanera

 
 

Outside the Arena: The Fruit Vendor

 
 

The Harpist’s Allegory of Carmen’s Love

 
 

Lillias Pastis’s Tavern

 
 

Tribute to Escamillo

 
 

Awaiting the Fray

 
 

The Bird is Flown

 
 

The Bull is Dead

 
 

The Cards Spell Death to Carmen

 
 

Carmen and Don Jose Fleeing on Horseback

 
 

Whoever Carries off Carmen

 
 

Carmen’s Death

 
 

Don Jose’s Flower Song

 
 

Don Jose’s Last Appearance

 
 

The illustrated suite Carmen by Salvador Dalí, consists of 25 lithographs on various papers. They were produced in 1968.

 
 

El torero alucinógeno (Hallucinogenic Toreador), Salvador Dalí, 1968-1970. In this piece, Dalí transmits his wife’s dislike for bullfighting

 
 

The time is the late 1960s, and with Hallucinogenic Toreador, Salvador Dalí returns to all things Spanish and reveals his fascination with the colorful psychedelic explosion of those mind-bending times. As Sixties’ political rebellion gives way to Seventies’ decadence, we find the Spanish master undertaking his famous Carmen series of colored lithographs, published in 1970. The brigands, gypsies, and smugglers, who form the cast of this most beloved of operas, are the perfect counterpoint to Dalí’s increasingly distracting wealth and fame.

Dalí would depict the bullfight numerous times throughout his career and George Bizet‘s opera, set in Seville and featuring the toreador Escamillo in a primary role, provides Dalí with an ideal context in which to explore this most Spanish pastime. We illustrate here the complete suite of 25 hand-signed lithographs and believe you will agree that it is one of the most exquisite Dalínian triumphs of color and vivacity.

Channeling Carmen Jones

Theatrical poster for the film Carmen Jones(Otto Preminger, 1954). Design by Scott McKowen

 
 

Dorothy Dandridge strikes a pose in a scene from the film Carmen Jones. Costume design by Mary Ann Nyberg

 
 

Janet Jackson

 
 

-scura_1-700x501Halle Berry in the television film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (Martha Coolidge, 1999)

 
 

Beyoncé Knowles

 
 

Rihanna

Wine, Women, Words and Entertainment

d

 
 

In 1946 Billy Rose‘s memoir Wine, Women and Words, dedicated to Rose’s early patron Bernard M. Baruch, was published in New York by Simon and Schuster. The book was illustrated, including the cover of the numbered and signed first edition of 1500 copies, by Salvador Dalí whom Rose met while producing events at the 1939 World’s Fair.

“William ‘Billy’ Rose was an American impresario, theatrical showman and lyricist. For decades preceding and immediately after the Second World War Billy Rose was a major force in entertainment, with shows, such as Jumbo (1935), Billy Rose’s Aquacade, and Carmen Jones (1943). His Diamond Horseshoe nightclub, and the Ziegfeld Theatre influencing the careers of many stars. Billy Rose was inducted as a member of the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. In 1943, he produced Carmen Jones with an all-black cast. An adaptation of George Bizet‘s opera Carmen, the story was transplanted to World War II America by lyricist and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. It was an instant hit. The New York Telegraph called it ‘far and away the best show in New York’; The New York Times said it was ‘beautifully done … just call it wonderful’. The New York Herald Tribune said that Oscar Hammerstein II ‘must be considered one of the greatest librettists of our day’ and that Carmen Jones was ‘a masterly tour de force’. It was made into a motion picture by Otto Preminger in 1954, for which Dorothy Dandridge received an Academy Award nomination.

The Music that Kakfa Liked

Text by by Gustavo Artiles

 

Franz Kafka was not a music lover. But his old school friend and literary executor, Max Brod was, and he wanted to convert Franz to the glories of great music, high brow or classical music. But Franz says to him “I am not able to perceive the complexities of a large scale work”, and when Max takes him to hear the première of Gustav Mahler´s seventh symphony, which the composer himself conducted in Prague, where both friends live, on September 19th, 1908, Franz (then 35) still can not capture the secret threads of symphonic structures.

Brod tells us that Kafka was “an exception within the realm of genius… that he strained to vanish the last dissonance engendered by geniality”. But he kept that handicap, perhaps something insurmountable in spite of his intellectual efforts. It is equally possible that Kafka wanted to approach Mahler, the major symphonist of the period — “the greatest since Brahms and Bruckner”, a contemporary critic called him – because he knew him to be another Jew, as Max was too, and he might expect to find some affinities in him. But his reluctance towards the harmonic and structural complexities would hold him back, and they are especially acute in Mahler´s case!

Franz also says: ´I like American marches very much´. Which ones, he does not specify, perhaps he was not interested in registering their title or the name of the composer, but all points out to the marches already enjoyed and played in all open air concerts of military bands of Europe and, of course, the United States, i.e. those by John Philip Sousa, still enormously popular.

 
 

Sousa directed the Marine Corps Band for several years, then formed his own band which he led most of the rest of his life

 
 

The reason why Kafka felt attracted to Sousa is easy to understand, and I believe it has a connection with his work. One can detect a reflection of it specifically in his unfinished novel America, where we meet Karl, a young immigrant (i.e. the same young dreamer, K) who, at the end of the 19th century, arrives in the US searching for new horizons. An uncle of his, Jacob, is already there, but he does not know his address. After a series of events, Karl discovers one day a poster announcing a fantastic circus, the Great Natural Theatre of Oklahoma, also one of Kafka´s greatest inventions. What can a Great Natural Theatre be? It is Kafka´s conception of what that nation is like. The metaphor fits perfectly with a somewhat remote and diffuse perception of that country that was already becoming the proverbial melting pot, where boats from many parts of Europe and Asia, loaded with thousands of hopefuls to find a better life, far away from the oppressions and persecutions that perhaps they always had known in their own lands. And such assorted mixture of people come to meet in the same place, America. The poster says that ´All are welcome´, that ´Everyone can work in the Great Natural Theatre of Oklahoma´, no experience necessary. This is a second allusion to the prospects that, from the European point of view, one could expect to find on the other side of the Atlantic: ´great´ theatre. ´everyone can´. That is how America was, and still is, seen in general: countless opportunities for everyone. If everybody can work in the Great Theatre, it is not illogical for Karl to gradually meet, in the course of the rehearsals, persons he has already encountered during his long journey and later stay in the new land, including his lost uncle, Jacob.

The vastness of the American continent is another element in his mind. His vision of that Amerika is that of open horizons, infinite prairies, as well as towns that begin to be populous and puzzling.

Austrian, German and French marches of the period, generally pompous and imperialist, seem to shout ´Here we come, we, the unconquered, the most powerful, the greatest, our step says so, our mounts say so, our glorious colours say so; surrender and give us your respect and admiration, we expect no less´. Sousa´s marches say nothing of the sort: they speak about things like The Liberty Bell, The Washington Post, Hail to the Spirit of Freedom, The Belle of Chicago, Manhattan Beach, The Harmonica Wizard, La Flor de Sevilla, Hands Across the Ocean… even if a certain militarism or governmental quality seeps in too, something difficult to eradicate in what, after all, was the most famous band in history and that the American government did enthusiastically support. Thus The Man Behind the Gun, The Legionnaires, Globe and Eagle, Stars and Stripes Forever… But the fact is that all that music depicts the vigour and optimism of a nation in its early youth, and it abounds in joy and the celebration of a certain fraternity based on nationality, exempt from aristocracies and discriminations, more or less achieved thanks to equalitarian democracy. This is Sousa’s model. The model may appear a little rosy today, but that was the ´American Dream´. On the other hand, let us not forget that Sousa also wrote operettas (15), songs (70) and instrumental suites (11), a popular composer in the best sense of the word who knew the homage of the masses as no other before him. Sousa does not evoke scenic immensities or crowded towns, bur rather the essential spirit of optimism and confidence with which that nation faced the future. Sousa´s marches are the perfect circus marches for the Great Theatre.

Kafka saw the connection.

One Good Day, We Will See

Departure of the Winged Ship, Vladimir Kush, circa 2000.
Although his style is frequently described as surrealist, Kush himself refers to it as “metaphorical realism” and cites the early influence on his style of Salvador Dalí’s surrealist paintings as well as landscapes by the German romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich.

 
 

Un bel dì, vedremo
levarsi un fil di fumo
sull’estremo confin del mare.
E poi la nave appare.
Poi la nave bianca
entra nel porto,
romba il suo saluto.

Vedi? È venuto!
Io non gli scendo incontro. Io no.
Mi metto là sul ciglio del colle e aspetto,
e aspetto gran tempo
e non mi pesa,
la lunga attesa.

E uscito dalla folla cittadina,
un uomo, un picciol punto
s’avvia per la collina.
Chi sarà? chi sarà?
E come sarà giunto
che dirà? che dirà?
Chiamerà Butterfly dalla lontana.
Io senza dar risposta
me ne starò nascosta
un po’ per celia
e un po’ per non morire
al primo incontro;
ed egli alquanto in pena
chiamerà, chiamerà:
“Piccina mogliettina,
olezzo di verbena”
i nomi che mi dava al suo venire.

Tutto questo avverrà,
te lo prometto.
Tienti la tua paura,
io con sicura fede l’aspetto.

 
 

(One good day, we will see
Arising a strand of smoke
Over the far horizon on the sea
And then the ship appears
And then the ship is white
It enters into the port, it rumbles its salute.

Do you see it? He is coming!
I don’t go down to meet him, not I.
I stay upon the edge of the hill
And I wait a long time
but I do not grow weary of the long wait.

And leaving from the crowded city,
A man, a little speck
Climbing the hill.
Who is it? Who is it?
And as he arrives
What will he say? What will he say?
He will call Butterfly from the distance
I without answering
Stay hidden
A little to tease him,
A little as to not die.
At the first meeting,
And then a little troubled
He will call, he will call
“Little one, dear wife
Blossom of orange”
The names he called me at his last coming.

All this will happen,
I promise you this
Hold back your fears –
I with secure faith wait for him.)

Madame Butterfly
Act 2
Giacomo Puccini

 
 

In Un bel dì vedremo, the opera’s most famous aria (and one of the most popular works in the soprano repertoire), Butterfly says that, “one beautiful day”, they will see a puff of smoke on the far horizon. Then a ship will appear and enter the harbor. She will not go down to meet him but will wait on the hill for him to come. After a long time, she will see in the far distance a man beginning the walk out of the city and up the hill. When he arrives, he will call “Butterfly” from a distance, but she will not answer, partly for fun and partly not to die from the excitement of the first meeting. Then he will speak the names he used to call her: “Little one. Dear wife. Orange blossom.” Butterfly promises Suzuki that this will happen. Suzuki departs, as Sharpless and Goro arrive in the garden.

Madame Butterfly Throughout the World

“Dovunque al mondo lo Yankee vagabondo
si gode e traffica
sprezzando rischi.
Affonda l’áncora alla ventura…
Affonda l’áncora alla ventura
finchè una raffica
scompigli nave e ormeggi, alberatura.
La vita ei non appaga
se non fa suo tesor
i fiori d’ogni plaga,…
…d’ogni bella gli amor.”

(The whole world over,
on business and pleasure,
the Yankee travels all danger scorning.
His anchor boldly he casts at random…
…His anchor boldly he casts at random,
until a sudden squall
upsets his ship, then up go sails and rigging.
And life is not worth living
if he can’t win the best
and fairest of each country,…
…and the heart of each maid.)

Dovunque al mondo (Throughout the world).
Aria From Act I

 
 

 
 

Madama Butterfly (Madame Butterfly) is an opera in three acts (originally two acts) by Giacomo Puccini, with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. The libretto of the opera is based in part on the short story Madame Butterfly (1898) by John Luther Long – which in turn was based partially on stories told to Long by his sister Jennie Correll and partially on the semi-autographical 1887 French novel Madame Chrysanthème by Pierre Loti.

Long’s short story was dramatized by David Belasco as a one-act play, Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan (1900). After premiering in New York, Belasco’s play moved to London, where Puccini saw it in the summer of 1900.

 
 

 
 

Puccini wrote five versions of the opera. The original version in two-acts, which was presented at the world premiere at La Scala on 17 February 1904, was withdrawn after the disasterous premiere. Puccini then substantially rewrote it, this time in three acts. This second version was performed on 28 May 1904 in Brescia, where it was a great success. It was this second version that premiered in the United States in 1906, first in Washington, D.C., in October, and then in New York in November, performed by Henry Savage‘s New English Opera Company (so named because it performed in English-language translations). Madama Butterfly is a staple of the standard operatic repertoire for companies around the world, ranking 7th in the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide.

ACT 1

In 1904, a U.S. Naval officer named Pinkerton rents a house on a hill in Nagasaki, Japan, for him and his soon-to-be wife, “Butterfly”. Her real name is Ciocio-san, (cio-cio, pronounced “chocho”: the Japanese word for “butterfly” is chō 蝶). She is a 15-year-old Japanese girl whom he is marrying for convenience, since he intends to leave her once he finds a proper American wife, and since Japanese divorce laws are very lax. The wedding is to take place at the house. Butterfly had been so excited to marry an American that she had earlier secretly converted to Christianity. After the wedding ceremony, her uninvited uncle, a bonze, who has found out about her conversion, comes to the house, curses her and orders all the guests to leave, which they do while renouncing her. Pinkerton and Butterfly sing a love duet and prepare to spend their first night together.

ACT 2

Three years later, Butterfly is still waiting for Pinkerton to return, as he had left shortly after their wedding. Her maid Suzuki keeps trying to convince her that he is not coming back, but Butterfly will not listen to her. Goro, the marriage broker who arranged her marriage, keeps trying to marry her off again, but she won’t listen to him either. The American Consul, Sharpless, comes to the house with a letter which he has received from Pinkerton which asks him to break some news to Butterfly, that Pinkerton is coming back to Japan, but Sharpless cannot bring himself to finish it because Butterfly becomes very excited to hear that Pinkerton is coming back. Sharpless asks Butterfly what she would do if Pinkerton were not to return. She then reveals that she gave birth to Pinkerton’s son after he had left and asks Sharpless to tell him.

ACT 3

Suzuki wakes up in the morning and Butterfly finally falls asleep. Sharpless and Pinkerton arrive at the house, along with Pinkerton’s new American wife, Kate. They have come because Kate has agreed to raise the child. But, as Pinkerton sees how Butterfly has decorated the house for his return, he realizes he has made a huge mistake. He admits that he is a coward and cannot face her, leaving Suzuki, Sharpless and Kate to break the news to Butterfly. Agreeing to give up her child if Pinkerton comes himself to see her, she then prays to statues of her ancestral gods, says goodbye to her son, and blindfolds him. She places a small American flag into his hands and goes behind a screen, cutting her throat with her father’s hara-kiri knife. Pinkerton rushes in. He is too late.

From the hill house, Butterfly sees Pinkerton’s ship arriving in the harbour. She and Suzuki prepare for his arrival, and then they wait. Suzuki and the child fall asleep, but Butterfly stays up all night waiting for him to arrive.

Although almost no singing occurs during the film, much of the underscoring is from or based on Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly, and much of it in the corresponding places of where it would occur in the opera

 
 

ADAPTATIONS

 
 

Mary Pickford, wearing a peacock feather printed kimono, writing at a desk. Silent film version of Madame Butterfly (Sidney Olcott, 1915). Olcott, reportedly wanted Pickford to be more reserved and Oriental and walked off the set in protest of her too Americanized Cio Cio San

 
 

The Toll of the Sea (Chester M. Franklin, 1922). The plot was a variation of the Madama Butterfly story, set in China instead of Japan. It was the second two-color Technicolor motion picture ever released and the first film made using Technicolor Process 2

 
 

Madame Butterfly (Marion Gering, 1932). A non-singing drama made by Paramount starring Sylvia Sidney and Cary Grant in black and white. Although almost no singing occurs during the film, much of the underscoring is from or based on Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly, and much of it in the corresponding places of where it would occur in the opera

 
 

The film Fatal Attraction (Adrian Lyne, 1987) starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close makes several references to Madame Butterfly, and the soundtrack features extracts from the opera. Scorned and dangerously obsessed former lover Alex Forrest (Close) finds comfort in and identifies heavily with Cio-Cio San. The original, abandoned ending of the film shows Alex committing suicide in an identical fashion as Cio-Cio San while Un bel dì plays in the background

 
 

Miss Saigon is a musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, with lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr. premièred at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, on 20 September 1989. It is based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, and similarly tells the tragic tale of a doomed romance involving an Asian woman abandoned by her American lover. The setting of the plot is relocated to the 1970s Saigon during the Vietnam War, and Madame Butterfly’s story of marriage between an American lieutenant and Japanese girl is replaced by a romance between an American GI and a Vietnamese bar girl

 
 

M Butterfly (David Cronenberg, 1993). The screenplay was written by David Henry Hwang based on his play of the same name

 
 

Pinkerton is the second studio album by the American alternative rock band Weezer, released on September 24, 1996. the album is named after the character BF Pinkerton from Giacomo Puccini’s 1904 opera Madama Butterfly, whom Rivers Cuomo described as an “asshole American sailor similar to a touring rock star”. Like the opera, the album contains references to Japan and Japanese culture

 
 

The artwork on the album’s cover is Kambara yoru no yuki (Night snow at Kambara), an ukiyo-e print by Hiroshige

 
 

Behind the album’s CD tray is a map with the title “Isola della farfalla e penisola di cane” (Italian for “Island of the Butterfly and Peninsula of Dog”). On the map are a ship named USS Pinkerton and “Mykel and Carli Island”, an allusion to Weezer’s fan club founders. In a 2005 appearance on The Howard Stern Show, Cuomo explained that the names listed on the map are those who influenced him during the writing of the album, with Howard Stern being one of those influences

 
 

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