Category Archives: Interesting to Know
Events, comparisons, all kinds of fun & interesting stuff related to performing arts. Postings about subjects that do not fit into the other established categories
The OPERAS.ORG Project! An Online Opera Museum
Don´t forget to visit, and recommend, Operas.org!
Julian Gayarre – The Voice from Paradise
Julian Gayarre - La Voz del Paraíso (The Voice from Paradise) by Oscar Salvoch
“JULIAN GAYARRE – THE VOICE FROM PARADISE” is a new book by writer and opera expert OscarJulian Gayarre – La Voz del Paraíso (The Voice from Paradise) by Oscar Salvoch
We received as a gift this book (in Spanish) from the author – 970 pages with a very in-depth biography of the famous Spanish tenor, who passed away in 1890 just a week short of age 46.
Gayarre is said to have an absolutely wonderful voice and acting presence, and developed a fantastic international career.
Unfortunately, he left no recordings – and very few, rare and sought-after autographs. We highly recommend this great work.
Rediscovery of “long-lost” Granados opera
Portion of the score of Enrique Granados's rediscovered opera "Maria del Carmen"
For over two decades, the musicologist Walter Clark wondered what had happened to a “long-lost manuscript”: the full original score of the opera “Maria del Carmen” by the great Spanish composer Enrique Granados. The original edition had supposedly been salvaged from a 1916 shipwreck in which both Granados and his wife tragically drowned. Nonetheless, all performances of this opera after 1916 until 2014 were of a reconstructed patchwork edited by one of Granados’s sons. The original edition had apparently been sold in 1938 by one of their sons to a New York publisher. Finally, in 1970 this edition was reported to have been destroyed in a warehouse fire.
Clark was skeptical about this supposed loss, noting that no inventory had been conducted of the warehouse items. So as part of his research for a biography of Granados, he contacted the grandson of the 1938 purchaser. Eventually in fall 2009, Clark got some very good news: all three volumes of the score had indeed been located! Clark then acquired the opera for the University of California, Riverside where he is Professor of Music and Director of the Center for Iberian and Latin American Music. He has since overseen the full restoration of the manuscript which had suffered some significant smoke and water damage, his staff later scanning all of the restored pages in preparation for its eventual publication in Spain. This project was completed in 2014 and the full score has now been published by Trito, a publisher and record label specializing in Spanish, Catalan and Iberoamerican classical music. There is also a recording planned as well as performances in several Spanish theatres.
It will be interesting to see the popular and critical reaction to this revived score as it is not every day one hears about the revival of a classical piece missing for close to a century. For fans of Granados and of opera in general, this makes for a very exciting development in classical music and opera. Or as Walter Clark put it, “This is a 20-year detective story with a happy ending.”
Here is an extract of the rediscovered score of “Maria del Carmen”:Portion of the score of Enrique Granados’s rediscovered opera “Maria del Carmen”
Renata Tebaldi – Signed Handkerchief from Otello
Top: frame with Renata Tebaldi signed handkerchief used in Otello, with autographs photos by Tebaldi (left), Del Monaco (right) in Otello, and a cast page from a program (center top). Bottom: a larger view of the signed handkerchief.
Collecting opera and classical music memorabilia not always focuses strictly on the usual autograph photos, letters, books, programs and playbills. Over the years, we have seen many unusual items that can become treasured collectibles by the music fan. They include signed ballet pointe shoes, conductor´s batons – signed and unsigned -, magazine ads, violins and other music instruments, pieces of the old Metropolitan Opera building (will say more about this in a future posting), and even a signed fan.Top: frame with Renata Tebaldi signed handkerchief used in Otello, with autographs photos by Tebaldi (left), Del Monaco (right) in Otello, and a cast page from a program (center top). Bottom: a larger view of the signed handkerchief.
Our collection is on display in our offices, and it includes this handkerchief signed by star soprano Renata Tebaldi (1922-2004) after a performance of Otello in 1964, the very same handkerchief she used on stage at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Otello was dear to Tebaldi since it was the opera of her debut at the Met in January 1955. We framed this item with a signed photo of her as Desdemona, and one of tenor Mario del Monaco (1915-1982) in the title role, plus an original cast page from a program for that debut night on January 31st, 1955 (frame available for sale, price after request).
Marc Chagall´s Poster “Die Zauberflote”
Die Zauberflote - Marc Chagall Poster 1966
We love when customers frame their purchases from us and send us a pictureDie Zauberflote – Marc Chagall Poster 1966
Here is one of a poster we sold unframed, our customer was nice to send us a picture of the final product, beautifully framed.
Back in 1966, five thousand of these posters were created in France for the Metropolitan Opera. They depict part of the mural by Russian painter Marc Chagall (1887-1985) at the (then) recently inaugurated Met Opera at the Lincoln Center. Chagall even created a production of Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) for the Met.
In any case, these original posters are nowadays highly collectible and sought-after by collectors, there are originals from the 1966 lith
ographs and high quality re-prints made in 1973 that sell for a bit less. We currently have in stock one of these Zauberflote posters, signed by Marc Chagall himself – please inquire if interested.
Our Visit to Beethoven´s Birth House in Bonn, Germany!
The Beethoven-Haus in Bonn, Germany, where the genius was born in 1770
Just days ago, we had the chance to visit Beethovenhaus, the place where Beethoven was born inThe Beethoven-Haus in Bonn, Germany, where the genius was born in 1770
December 1770, and lived for the first 4 years of his life. Located in Bonn, Germany, this was the musical genius´first home, then the Beethoven family moved to different houses in Bonn in the coming years.
Currently a very nice museum, library and mini-concert hall, the Beethovenhaus is open to any visitor and provides a very touching experience, in close contact with Beethoven, his life and his music. Instruments used by him, including pianos and violins, his personal desk, some of the devices he employed to improve his hearing, personal objects, his death mask and a mask that was created in his lifetime, portraits of him, family and friends, and more. The museum also hosts the largest collection in the world of music manuscripts and documents from the great composer, a small shop, concert hall, and even a small theater where we enjoyed a 20-minute video performance of “Fidelio” excerpts, presented with interactive 3D images. Overall, a highly recommended visit to anyone visiting the old, yet very beautiful city of Bonn. Much of their content can be found online in their site.
Otello “in blackface” – a dying trend?
Star tenor Lauritz Melchior (1890-1973) as Otello
This past fall, the Metropolitan Opera opened its season with a new production of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Otello”. This production was much more widely publicized in the mass media than most operatic performances because of the announcement by the company’s General Manager, Peter Gelb, that the Met would be abandoning the usual practice of “blackening up” the face of the white tenor performing the title role.
In both the Verdi opera and the original William Shakespeare play upon which it is based, Otello is presented as a dark-skinned “Moorish” general in a largely white European society. His racial “difference” – and visible contrast with his white blond haired wife Desdemona – is frequently commented upon by other characters, particularly his mortal enemy Iago. As a result, for several centuries the dominant practice in both the theatre and the opera house was to place “blackface” makeup on the skin of any “non-black” actor or singer portraying Otello. A characteristic image of the operatic Otello in blackface is in this photo of Lauritz Melchior in the early 1930’s.
In the theatrical world, this practice ended quite some time ago but it persisted in most opera houses until recently. This difference has been especially noticeable in the opera world as virtually all the prominent tenors associated with this role have been white – for example, in recent decades such artists as Jon Vickers, James McCracken, Placido Domingo, and today’s leading interpreter (and star of the Met production) Aleksandr Antonenko. However, there have been several significant black interpreters of the Shakespeare role beginning with Paul Roebson in the 1930s and – since then- James Earl Jones and Laurence Fishburne among many others. Even white actors performing this role today almost never utilize blackface – which helps to explain the surprise many felt that this was still happening in opera. Given the strong influence of the Met on the operatic world and the widespread discussion surrounding this production – as well as an observation of performance practice abroad – it appears quite likely that the long practice of “blackening up ” Verdi’s Otello is finally coming to an end.
Fragment from the Opera Comique collected by Massenet!
Fragment from the Opera Comique´s wallpaper - collected by Massenet, who wrote above about the 1887 fire.
An especially interesting and unique historical item just added to our inventory is this fragment of wallpaper from the Paris Opera Comique collected and preserved by the great French composer Jules Massenet. This was acquired by Massenet after the Opera Comique was burned in a fire on May 25, 1887 – at the time, the composer had just completed the score of his most celebrated opera Werther which ironically had just been rejected by Leon Carvalho, the director of the Opera Comique who considered the work too depressing. Two Complete scores of Massenet’s were lost in this fire: the one-act opera La Grand’ Tante and a four act comic opera Don Cesar de Bazan.
According to the current Opera Comique’s online timeline, the theatre building which burned in 1887 was the second Salle Favart constructed in 1840 by the architect Louis Charpentier as the first one had also been burned in a fire in 1838. This was at least the sixth home for the Opera Comique since it’s emergence in 1717. For his part, Massenet continued his close association with the company, having already premiered his great opera Manon there in 1884 and later adding Esclarmonde, Cendrillon, Sapho and Griselidis to the list of titles inaugurated by that theatre.
This wallpaper fragment, attached to a small album page and handwritten by Massenet at the top, provides an especially valuable historical artifact representing both the personal possession of one of the major composers of nineteenth century opera as well as a remnant of a now-vanished opera house.
Our Visit to Puccini Sites
Puccini's birth house museum in Lucca, Italy
We recently visited Giacomo Puccini’s birth house in Lucca, Italy! Located just a few kilometers wesst from Florence, Italy, the town of Lucca is a tourist attraction by itself. Surrounded by well-preserved medieval walls, Lucca still has all the flavor of an historic, small town, and it is not hard to imagine how it was during Puccini’s childhood and young adult years.
Right in a small square within the medieval walled-town, lies a large bronze statue of the great composer. Behind it, there is an old building where, on the second floor, Puccini was born in 1858. The place is now a museum showing some of the original furniture, one of his personal coats, and of his pianos, and other memorabilia. Not a lot to see inside, but still a very gratifying experience for any Puccini fan.
Just a few more kilometers to the west, in the town of Torre del Lago and by the lake Massaciuccoli lake, lies the museum VillaPuccini Villa Museum in Viareggio
Puccini. This was the house where he lived for over 20 years, until just 3 years before his death in 1924, and where he composed most of his operas. The lake provided a perfect, calm environment where he could write his music and spend time hunting and enjoying nature. Unfortunately, pollution in the lake forced him to move just north, to Viareggio.
This is an even more fulfilling experience since you can see his desk and his piano, a room full of his gun collection and stuffed animals, one of his fedoras, the places where he used to relax and socialize, and lots of memorabilia including autographs to him by Verdi and many important singers of his time.
The graves of Puccini, his wife Elvira and Antonio, their only son, are all in the small chapel built right at the center of the house. If you ever get the chance to stay in Florence for a few days, don’t hesitate to pay a visit to this museum full of memories and interesting artifacts.
Detroit Symphony invites local residents to create a “Symphony” for their city
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and composer Tod Machover are collaborating with many of that city’s residents on a very exciting new project that aims to convey the unique “sound” of the city of Detroit. Ordinary Detroit citizens are creating and collecting sounds that will become part of the “Symphony in D” which will premiere at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall this coming November. The project has been financed by a $315,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
While Machover has engaged in similar collaborative projects in Toronto, Edinburgh, Scotland, and Perth, Australia, this is his first such effort in the United States. Detroit residents and community institutions have already begun submitting their musical contributions as well as engaging in workshops and discussions throughout the city. Machover, Professor of Music and Media at the Media Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has developed technologies that can collect all of these various sounds – for example the sound of a motor vehicle engine or of people gathered in a popular public market – and transform them into music. Especially prominent among them is the “Constellation app”, a web-based application that allows anyone to hear the latest sounds collected and to combine them into their own desired mix.
In Machover’s word’s “Detroit is a city filled with bold and contrasting sounds, from the roar and purr of cars, to the crackle and snap of Motown, to the gentle rhythms of urban gardening…I look forward to working with Detroiters from all backgrounds to create a collective musical portrait of this exciting moment in the city’s history, when everything is being rethought and anything is possible.”
More information regarding this bold initiative can be found on the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s website: http://www.dso.org/symphonyind
This process should be very interesting to observe in the year ahead and – if you live in Detroit – to actually participate in! Perhaps it will also inspire similar efforts by other performing arts institutions in other parts of the United States to engage with their own local communities and re-engage a broader public.