Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sunday Classics snapshots: "My day in the hills has come to an end, I know"

My day in the hills
has come to an end, I know.
A star has come out
to tell me it's time to go.
But deep in the dark green shadows
are voices that urge me to stay.
So I pause and I wait and I listen
for one more sound,
for one more lovely thing
that the hills might say.

by Ken

You know what today's musical snapshot is, I'm sure. Or just possibly maybe not. It wasn't till yesterday that I discovered that people all over the world who are intimately familiar with the source may never have heard these beautiful lines.

Need a hint? Here's another haunting musical setup, one that we've already heard (back in January 2011), that's kin to the above. (In my head I frequently get their respective musical destinations mooshed up.)

When I think of Tom, I think about a night
when the earth smelled of summer
and the sky was streaked with white,
and the soft mist of England was sleeping on a hill.
I remember this, and I always will.

There are new lovers now on the same silent hill,
looking on the same blue sea.
And I know Tom and I are a part of them all --
and they're all a part of Tom and me. . . .

Valerie Masterson, vocal; National Symphony Orchestra, John Owen Edwards, cond. Jay, recorded July 1994


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Classics snapshots: The sound of aging, Verdi-style (1)

An aging Renato Bruson sings "Di Provenza" (to a here unseen Alfredo) at Ravenna in 1991.
[Some noise is heard outside.]
ALFREDO: There's someone the garden. [About to go out] Who's there?
[A MESSENGER appears at the door.]
MESSENGER: You're Monsieur Germont?
ALFREDO: I am, yes.
MESSENGER: Here's a note from a lady for you. I said I'd bring it. Her coach drove off for Paris.
[He gives ALFREDO a letter and leaves.]
ALFREDO: From Violetta! But why am I so nervous?
Does she want me to join her in Paris?
I'm trembling! O God! Have courage!
[He tears the letter open and reads aloud.]
"Alfredo, as soon as you have read this letter --"
[Turning, he finds himself face to face with his father. ALFREDO falls into his arms.]
Father, father!
GERMONT: Alfredo! I know you're suffering!
Come, no more sorrow!
Return and cheer your father, beloved Alfredo!
[ALFREDO, in despair, sits down and buries his face in his hands.]
GERMONT: In Provence, your native land,
we still long for your return.
We still long for your return.
in Provence, your native land.
Oh, how happy you once were --
not a trace of grief or pain!
Not a trace of grief or pain --
oh, how happy you once were!
For you know that only there
peace will shine on you again.
For you know that only there
peace will shine on you again.
God hear my prayer! God hear my prayer! God hear my prayer!

How we missed you, dearest boy,
you will never, never know!
You will never, never know
how we missed you, dearest boy!
How we hung our heads in shame
when you left without a word.
When you left without a word,
how we hung our heads in shame!
But I've found you once again,
and I will not let you go
If your honor still can claim
to instruct you what do do!
Now I've seen you once again,
I will never let you go!
God led me here! God led me here!
God led me here! God led me here!
-- singing translation by Edmund Tracey
(used in the ENO recording)

[in English] John Brecknock (t), Alfredo Germont; John Kitchiner (b), Messenger; Christian du Plessis (b), Giorgio Germont; English National Opera Orchestra, Sir Charles Mackerras, cond. EMI-Chandos, recorded Aug.-Oct. 1980

[from "My son"] Riccardo Stracciari (b); piano. Fonotipia, recorded 1906

by Ken

In the booklet for RCA's 1960 recording of Verdi's La Traviata with Anna Moffo, Richard Tucker, and Robert Merrill, then Met Assistant Manager and prized raconteur Francis Robinson tells this story about a celebrated Merrill Germont from 11 years earlier:
The elder Germont is the first role Robert Merrill undertook at the Metropolitan. His performance is recorded as having been "polished and powerful" but he was soon to face an ordeal more grueling than a Metropolitan debut. He was chosen by Arturo Toscanini for the historic broadcasts of La Traviata, a performance happily still available on RCA Victor records.

At one of the early rehearsals the Maestro fixed Merrill with a scathing eys.

"Have you ever been a father?" he demanded.

"No, Maestro," Merrill stammered.

"It sounds it," the old man said.

When Merrill did become a father the first telegram went to Toscanini, but before the Maestro had finished with him he was singing Germont with the compassion of a distressed parent.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday Classics snapshots: Glinka's "Russlan" Overture packs a way more pungent wallop than you'd guess from "Mom"

"The Father of Russian Music": Mikhail Glinka (1804-1867)

GLINKA: Ruslan and Ludmila: Overture

Kirov Orchestra (St. Petersburg), Valery Gergiev, cond. Philips, recorded February 1995

New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, cond. Columbia-CBS-Sony, recorded Oct. 14, 1963

Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Alessandro Siciliani, cond. CSO Showcase, recorded February 2001

Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Fritz Reiner, cond. RCA-BMG, recorded Mar. 14, 1959

by Ken

As I've mentioned occasionally in my occasional TV Watch reports, I occasionally try to watch Mom. And each a time I get a jolt when I hear the rousing strains of Glinka's Rusland and Ludmila Overture -- at least the couple of bars' worth that are all we get, for cheap 'n' cheesy effect. Whereas the piece itself is one of the glories of musical civilization, uniquely rousing but also soaring.

This week I got farther than usual into the episode, with that fine actress Allison Janney (who plays, you know, Mom) finally getting an opportunity to do something other than make herself look foolish, with the current plotline that has her sinking toward rock bottom in her pills and booze abuse. (Whether she has actually hit rock bottom remains to be seen. Or whether she in fact has a rock bottom.)

It happens too that the Ruslan Overture is one of the pieces I thought of when I was thinking recently about music that, as best I recall, we've never heard in Sunday Classics asI plan for the shutdown. So let's consider today's snapshot a gap-plugger -- and a perennial delight.

The opera it introduces is a delight too, but such a genre-bending farrago of story-telling modes -- fairy tale, heroic epic, romance -- that it makes almost impossible demands on the resources, not least of the imaginative kind, of an opera company.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Classics snapshots: "Is life a boon?"

Longtime D'Oyly Carte Opera Company principal tenor Thomas Round was not only long gone from the company but, unfortunately, in his late 50s by the time he made the recordings below.
Is life a boon?
If so, it must be befall
that Death, whene'er he call
must call too soon.
Though fourscore year he give,
yet one would wish to live
another moon!
What kind of plaint have I,
who perish in July?
who perish in July?
I might have had to die
perchance in June!
I might have had to die
perchance in June!

Is life a thorn?
Then count it not a whit!
Man is well done with it
soon as he's born.
He should all means essay
to put the plague away,
to put the plague away;
and I, war-worn,
poor captured fugitive,
my life most gladly give.
I might have had to live
another morn!
I might have had to live
another morn!
Revised (standard) version

Thomas Round (t), Col. Fairfax; Gilbert and Sullivan Festival Orchestra, Peter Murray, cond. G and S for All, recorded 1972
Original version

Thomas Round (t), Col. Fairfax; Gilbert and Sullivan Festival Orchestra, Peter Murray, cond. Pearl, recorded in Battersea Town Hall (London), Sept. 12, 1972

by Ken

We'll come back to "Is life a boon?," the song that blossomed from tedium to magnificence when the composer was nudged by his wordsmith partner to start over. But first, let me explain as quickly as possible that it and our other musical snapshot today arise from two convergences:

• While I was waiting for the Museum of the Moving Image screening of Paddy Chayefsky and Delbert Mann's 1957 film The Bachelor Party (an adaptation of their 1953 live-TV version), part of the Matthew Weiner-curated series of films that impacted him in the making of Mad Men, I forced myself to finally finish Ben McGrath's April 13 New Yorker piece on fantasy sports, from which I learned that fantasy sports has pretty well eliminated any connection to the play of sports even as it has exploded all over the place and apparently provided the only reason to live for a lot of people who therefore may be thought to have no reason to live. This was a dangerous convergence because The Bachelor Party depicts a night in the life of five humdrum office mates, where four of them take the fifth out for a bachelor party that unswittingly slipslides into a crossroads that none of them is well-equipped to cope with, at least not without throwing open the question of what meaning or purpose, if any, their lives have.

• And the musical snapshots by that convergence further converged with one of last week's musical snapshots: the tenor's "Ingemisco" from the awesome "Dies irae" of the Verdi Requiem. For me personally, the other peak of Verdi's "Dies irae," the mezzo-soprano's "Liber scriptus proferetur" -- we heard the two together in the April 2011 Sunday Classics post "Verdi blows the lid off the whole Krap Kristian hypocrisy."

So I thought we would just listen again to the three complete performances of the "Liber scriptus" we heard back then -- sung, as I wrote then, by two suitably deep-voiced mezzos (Jard van Nes and Florence Quivar) and a genuine contralto (Lili Chookasian)."(We also heard Ebe Stignani's recording broken into segments.)

VERDI: Requiem: ii. "Dies irae": mezzo-soprano solo, "Liber scriptus proferetur" ("A written book shall be brought forth")
A written book shall be brought forth
in which all is recorded,
whence the world shall be judged.

Therefore, when the Judge shall be seated
nothing shall be held hidden any longer,
no wrong shall remain unpunished.

Jard van Nes (ms); Munich Bach Choir, Frankfurt Singing Academy, Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra, Hanns-Martin Schneidt, cond. Arte Nova, recorded Oct. 30, 1988

Florence Quivar, mezzo-soprano; Ernst-Senff Chorus, Berlin Philharmonic, Carlo Maria Giulini, cond. DG, recorded April 1989

Lili Chookasian, contralto; Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Erich Leinsdorf, cond. RCA/BMG, recorded Oct. 5-6 1964, Apr. 5, 1965


We're going to be coming back to them.


A song of the splendor of (the second) "Is life a boon?" deserves a comparably magnificent performance, and unfortunately I don't have one of those to offer. Still the closest to me is Leonard Osborn's, which for all the familiar problems of his singing is the performance the not only has plenty of real vocal ring but a goodly helping of dramatic importance. Although as I've said I'm not a great fan of onetime D'Oyly Carte Opera Company principal tenor Derek Oldham, I kind of like both of his recordings, though I'm still bothered by the fake-classy verbal frilliness -- much better controlled, it seems to me, in the 1928 version. I suppose Richard Lewis's recording represents something of a compromise between the two, though you certainly can't say it's beautifully sung.

Which is why I've included the remaining two versions, which are both quite prettily sung but don't seem to me to carry any vocal or emotional weight, and pretty much miss the point of the piece.

GILBERT and SULLIVAN: The Yeomen of the Guard: Act I, Ballad, Col. Fairfax, "Is life a boon?"
Is life a boon?
If so, it must be befall
that Death, whene'er he call
must call too soon.
Though fourscore year he give,
yet one would wish to live
another moon!
What kind of plaint have I,
who perish in July?
who perish in July?
I might have had to die
perchance in June!
I might have had to die
perchance in June!

Is life a thorn?
Then count it not a whit!
Man is well done with it
soon as he's born.
He should all means essay
to put the plague away,
to put the plague away;
and I, war-worn,
poor captured fugitive,
my life most gladly give.
I might have had to live
another morn!
I might have had to live
another morn!

Leonard Osborn (t), Col. Fairfax; New Promenade Orchestra, Isidore Godfrey, cond. Decca, recorded July 18, 1950

Richard Lewis (t), Col. Fairfax; Pro Arte Orchestra, Sir Malcolm Sargent, cond. EMI, recorded Dec. 10-14, 1957

Derek Oldham (t), Col. Fairfax; D'Oyly Carte Opera Orchestra, Malcolm Sargent, cond. EMI, recorded Oct. 29-Dec. 4, 1928 (digital transfer by F. Reeder)

Derek Oldham (t), Col. Fairfax; orchestra, George Byng, cond. EMI, recorded Mar.-Oct. 1920 (digital transfer by F. Reeder)

Philip Potter (t), Col. Fairfax; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Malcolm Sargent, cond. Decca, recorded Apr. 5-11, 1964

Kurt Streit (t), Col. Fairfax; Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Neville Marriner, cond. Philips, recorded May 1992

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Sunday Classics snapshots: Comfort ye

Tenor James Johnston's "Comfort ye" recording was an
inspiration to me, but we're still not going to hear it.

"I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars. You have to heal the wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds."

"Cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned"
Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.

Nicolai Gedda, tenor; Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer, cond. EMI, recorded 1965

Jon Vickers, tenor; Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Sir Ernest MacMillan, cond. RCA, recorded c1953

Jon Vickers, tenor; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Thomas Beecham, cond. RCA, recorded 1959

[in German] Fritz Wunderlich, tenor; Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, Heinz Mendes, cond. Live performance, Mar. 20, 1959

"Thou who art good and kind, rescue me from everlasting fire"
I groan as one who is accused;
guilt reddens my cheek;
Thy supplicant, Thy supplicant spare, O God.
Thou who absolved Mary,
and harkened to the thief,
and who hast given me hope,
and who hast given me hope.
My prayers are worthless,
but Thou who art good and kind,
rescue me from everlasting fire.
With Thy sheep give me a place,
and from the goats keep me separate,
placing me at Thy right hand.

Nicolai Gedda, tenor; Philharmonia Orchestra, Carlo Maria Giulini, cond. EMI, recorded 1963-64

Jon Vickers, tenor; New Philharmonia Orchestra, Sir John Barbirolli, cond. EMI, recorded April 1970

Fritz Wunderlich, tenor; South German Radio Symphony Orchestra, Helmut Müller-Kray, cond. Live performance, Nov. 2, 1960

by Ken

Last Sunday I offered a post called "Garry Wills, contemplating Pope Francis and his critics, says there are 'two forms of Christianity now on offer' -- and it's up to Catholics to choose" which began with the quote from the pope that I've placed atop this post as well, since it is rather obviously the inspiration for today's pair of musical "snapshots" -- pieces that are both intensely personal to me, and that we've dwelled upon at some length in past posts.

Fresh from the challenge, in the first of these "snapshot" posts, "Rosina I and Rosina II," of finding a singer, namely Victoria de los Angeles, to put in the lead-off slot singing both Rossini's young Rosina (in The Barber of Seville) and Mozart's only slightly older but sadly way more mature Rosina (aka Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro), I was pleased to come up with our three tenors singing the similarly improbable combo of the opening vocal number of Handel's Messiah and the heart-rending "Ingemisco" from the "Dies Irae" of Verdi's Requiem. We've actually heard all of the above performances of "Comfort ye" and "Ev'ry valley" (and once again I couldn't resist including both Vickers recordings); I just needed to add the Gedda and Vickers "Ingemisco" performances.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday Classics snapshots: Count Almaviva goes a-wooing, then and now

Urged on by Figaro (Ross Benoliel), "Lindoro" (Luigi Boccia as Count Almaviva) identifies himself to Rosina (Stephanie Lauricella), with Enrico Granafei playing the guitar and Jason Tramm conducting, at New Jersey State Opera, June 2012. (For English text, see below.)

by Ken

I'd like to think we established the premise well enough in last week's "snapshots" post, "Rosina I and Rosina II," where we heard aural snapshots of young Rosina first as the spitfire being wooed by the supposed poor student Lindoro in the opera Rossini fashioned from the popular Beaumarchais play The Barber of Seville, and then, a mere three years later, as the desolate, pretty much emotionally abandoned Countess Almaviva in the opera Mozart fashioned from Beaumarchais's equally popular sequel, The Marriage of Figaro.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday Classics snapshots: Rosina I and Rosina II

Victoria de los Angeles as Rosina II at the Met in 1952

Rosina I
I'm docile, I'm respectful;
I'm obedient, gentle, loving;
I let myself be ruled and guided. But --
but if you touch on my weakness,
I shall be a viper, I shall,
and a hundred tricks
I'll play before I'll yield.
And a hundred tricks, etc.
I'm docile, I'm respectful;
I let myself be ruled and guided, etc.

Victoria de los Angeles (s), Rosina; Orchestra of the Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires), Carlo Felice Cillario, cond. Live performance, June 1962

Rosina II
Grant, love, that relief
to my sorrow, to my sighing.
Give me back my treasure,
or at least let me die.
Grant, love, etc.

Victoria de los Angeles (s), Rosina; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Fritz Reiner, cond. Live performance, Mar. 1, 1952

by Ken

It's not that we've never done this sort of thing before in Sunday Classics. In fact, I like to think we've taken pretty frequent advantage of the oportunity afforded by this peculiar, er, format, to put together any two (or three or more) damned things we want which can benefit from being heard together. Butting together "the two Rosinas," as we've just done, is an idea so obvious that it doesn't seem to occur to many people that it really doesn't get done that often.

Well, here it is.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Fischer-Dieskau and Richter just perform "Schlummert ein" way better than anybody else I've heard

So here's how the cantata begins

BACH: Cantata No. 82, "Ich habe genug":
i. Aria, "Ich habe genug"

-- from the Bach Cantatas Website

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Manfred Clement, oboe; Munich Bach Orchestra, Karl Richter, cond. DG Archiv Produktion, recorded July 1968

Hermann Prey, baritone; Willy Garlach, oboe; Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Kurt Thomas, cond. Eterna-EMI, recorded Dec. 14-19, 1959

Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano; Michael Dobson, oboe; Bath Festival Orchestra, Yehudi Menuhin, cond. EMI, recorded July 1966

by Ken

So a couple of weeks ago I told the story of how suddenly the audio cassette became a medium for music for me: when I listened to a DG-Archive cassette of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's second (1968) recording of the popular coupling of Bach's two solo-bass cantatas, and we heard all three of his recordings of the great central aria, "Schlummert etin," of Cantata No. 82, "Ich habe genug." I warned that we might be returning to the scene of the crime, in the form of taking a shot at hearing the margin of superiority of this not-really-wildly-heralded recording in collaboration with the once-admired (but not so much anymore) baroque specialist Karl Richter, over any other I've encountered.

So here we are.

But first, as noted above, I thought we might hear how Cantata No. 82 begins, with the aria "Ich habe genug." (This is not exactly a coincidence. We know the Bach cantatas by the title, usually the first line, of their opening number.)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

From the Sunday Classics Technology Dept.: When music can sound like THIS . . .

BACH: Cantata No. 82, "Ich habe genug":
iii. Aria, "Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen"

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (May 28, 1925–May 18, 2012)

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Munich Bach Orchestra, Karl Richter, cond. DG Archiv Produktion, recorded July 1968

by Ken

Awhile ago I shared WNYC's New Tech City's "Bored and Brilliant" project, which was aimed at helping smartphonomaniacs get some control over their habit. Judging from the onsite response the project seems to have stimulated a lot of phone compulsives to (a) recognize their jones and (b) take some steps to overcome it.

One thing I tried to refrain from was getting too judgy, even though I probably am pretty judgmental when it comes to the smartphone compulsion and the related "social media" one. As it happens, perhaps merely by some fluke, I don't seem to have any temptation toward either, and really can't fathom what the attraction is. But I try to be careful about judging others, first under the "There but for the Grace of God" precept, but also in recognition of my own technological compulsions.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Special edition: Getting even more "Carried Away"

COMDEN, GREEN, and BERNSTEIN: On the Town: Act I opening: "I Feel Like I'm Not Out of Bed Yet"; Introduction; "New York, New York"

John Reardon, Gabey (and First Workman); Cris Alexander, Chip (and Workman); Adolph Green, Ozzie (and Workman); 1960 studio cast recording, Leonard Bernstein, cond. Columbia-CBS-Sony

Samuel Ramey, Lindsay Benson, and Stewart Collins, Workmen; Thomas Hampson, Gabey; Kurt Ollmann Chip; David Garrison, Ozzie; London Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas, cond. DG, recorded in concert at the Barbican Centre (London), June 1992

by Ken

A month or so ago I put together a pair of posts, "New York, New York, it's a heckuva town" and "A cluster of explosive young talents explode in On the Town," inspired by the terrific piece Adam Green wrote for Vanity Fair, "Innocents on Broadway," about the creation of the 1944 Broadway musical On the Town. The show, you'll recall, had book and lyrics by Adam's father, Adolph Green, and his eventual life-long writing partner, Betty Comden, and music by theirt good friend Leonard Bernstein, in collaboration with some other exploding young talents like choreographer Jerome Robbins, who'd had the idea for the ballet he created with Lenny B, Fancy Free, which became the germ for On the Town.

As Adam Green wrote: "On the Town was a landmark, the first show by a bunch of bright upstarts -- Bernstein, Comden and Green, and Jerome Robbins, all still in their 20s -- who would go on, together and apart, to help shape the cultural landscape of the 20th century."

In those posts I turned to the very special 1960 studio recording organzied by Columbia Records' Goddard Lieberson, which was conducted by the composer and featured a number of performers from the original cast, including Comden and Green themselves, re-creating the roles of Claire and Ozzie, which they'd actually written with themselves in mind (but in the end lhad had to auditon for!). Lieberson was a great proponent of "creators' recordings," and was largely responsible for invaluable projoects like Columbia's extensive Stravinsky-conducting-Stravinsky and Copland-conducting-Copland and, yes, Bernstein-conducting-Bernstein, and the 1960 On the Town, whether it was thought of as such or not, certainly qualified.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

How many of the "World's Best Places for 2015" do you plan to hit this year?

Sunday Classics note: This post was prepared for Down With Tyranny, but because of the musical tie-in I thought I would share it here, though I'm not necessarily thrilled with the musical examples. Ezio Pinza and Tancredi Pesaro, both indisputably great basses, get off to a fluttery start in the Vespri siciliani recitative and aria, and in the chunk of the Ping-Pang-Pong trio from Turandot, while I love the RCA recording with Mario Sereni as Ping, I supplemented it at first with the first two CD Turandots I could lay hands on, then dumped one and added two more that I dubbed from LP, and I'm still far from happy -- the truth is that even on records the role of Ping in particular doesn't get sung all that well.

Pretoria Square, Palermo
Recitative, Giovanni da Procida
Palermo! O my country!
Country so regretted!
The exile greets thee after three years of absence!
On thy enchanted shores I had my birth.
I discharge my debt toward thee.
Here is liberty!
Aria, "E toi, Palerme!" ("E tu, Palermo!")
And thou, Palermo, o beauty that's outraged!
Thou, always dear to my enchanted eyes,
ah! raise thy face, bowed under servitude,
and become again the queen of cities!
Everywhere on foreign ground
I went seeking avengers for thee,
but, insensible to thy misery, each said:
"Rise up against your oppressors,
and you will be supported: Rise up!"
And I come -- there I am!
And thou, Palermo, etc.

Samuel Ramey (bs), Giovanni da Procida; Munich Radio Orchestra, Jacques Delacôte, cond. EMI, recorded April 1988

[in Italian, as "O patria! O cara patria" . . . "E tu, Palermo"] Nicolai Ghiaurov (bs), Giovanni da Procida; London Symphony Orchestra, Claudio Abbado, cond. Decca, recorded January 1969

[in Italian, compressed to fit one 78 side] Ezio Pinza (bs), Giovanni da Procida; orchestra, Rosario Bourdon, cond. Victor, recorded Feb., 17, 1927

[in Italian, compressed to fit one 78 side] Tancredi Pasero (bs), Giovanni da Procida; orchestra. Odeon, recorded 1936

by Ken

Okay, it's possible that I was motivated to share this feature from AARP, "World's Best Places for 2015," because two of the designated places have inspired such memorable musical effusions, starting with the one we've just heard, the emotional return of the exiled Sicilian patriot Giovanni da Procida to the Sicillian capital of Palermo, his hometown (No. 6 on the list) at the opening of Act II of Verdi's Les Vêpres siciliennes" (The Sicilian Vespers).

Sunday, January 11, 2015

TV Watch (or Listen): "Cheer up, Hamlet! Chin up, Hamlet! Buck up, you melancholy Dane!" -- welcome to "Slings and Arrows"

Cheer up, Hamlet! Chin up, Hamlet!
Buck up, you melancholy Dane!
So your uncle is a cad who murdered Dad and married Mum;
that's really no excuse to be as glum as you've become.
So, wise up, Hamlet! Rise up, Hamlet!
Perk up and sing a new refrain!
Your incessant monologizing fills the castle with ennui;
your antic disposition is embarrassing to see;
and by the way, ya sulky brat, the answer is: "Ta BE!"
You're driving poor Ophelia insane!
So shut up, you rogue and peasant,
grow up, it's most unpleasant,
cheer up, you melancholy Dane!

by Ken

In the clip, that's Graham Harley as veteran New Burbage Festival trouper Cyril -- seen here, as always, in the company of fellow trouper Frank, played by Michael Polley -- belting out "Cheer up, Hamlet!," the rousing opening theme song seen and heard over the opening credits comfortably nestled after the opening scene of each of the six episodes of Season 1 of Slings and Arrows, the show that for sublime season after season after season (but alas, only those three seasons) between 2003 and 2006 took us behind the scenes of the fictional New Burbage Festival, said to bear a more than passing resemblance to the Stratford (Ontario) Festival.