Sousa And Strauss In Reverse - Various - Hear Them Again (Vinyl, LP)
The music is a delight: distinctive, tuneful and very danceable. Both are excellent. Mackerras, with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, gives a fresh, vigorous version of this score on Hyperion, now on their bargain Helios label CDH After the death of Gluck, ballet remained an integral part of French opera, with most composers writing a fair amount of ballet music for their operas Gossec, Grtry, Auber, Boeldieu and others.
In fact, it was an iron-clad rule of the Paris Opra that all operas performed there must have their own ballet sequence even Wagners. This was at the insistence of the all-powerful Parisian Jockey Club, whose members ogled the corps de ballet to select their mistresses. The ballet had to take place during the second half of the opera, as over-indulgence at dining precluded attendance before then. The results of this tradition produced a good deal of very attractive light music of the best kind, of which perhaps the most famous was Gounods famous ballet from Faust, which the composer ingeniously fitted into the plot.
But Donizetti, Rossini and Verdi also composed some equally tuneful and vivacious music, combining melody, wit and vivacity. Minkus was the first composer to establish ballet music as an entertainment in its own right. Between and he established a partnership with the famous Russian choreographer, Marius Petipa, for whom he wrote a great deal of engagingly colourful and tuneful music, beginning in with Don Quixote.
However, in Rudolf Nureyevs revised version of the ballet, the eponymous character does not feature strongly in the action, which concentrates on a triangular love story between Kiri, Basilio and the rich, elderly Gamache. In Minkus had also composed music for Petipas Grand pas classique, the only part of the ballet Paquita to survive. But the key collaboration between Minkus and Petipa was the exotic La Bayadreset in India, which has survived as a complete work.
The Italian, Riccardo Drigo, is also remembered for an attractive pas de deux which was originally interpolated into. Adams Le Corsaire in It is well worth seeking out 6 But the first major ballet in the repertoire that is independent of opera and which is performed regularly to this day is Adolphe Adams Giselle. They have survived partly because of the excellence of the narrative, but far more importantly because of the quality of the music. These ballets are discussed under their respective composers, but there is plenty more music which, while not reaching the artistic heights of those masterpieces, is entertainingly melodic and memorable.
Richard Bonynge No conductor has done more for this area of the repertoire on record than Richard Bonynge, who has resurrected many rare ballets during his recording career, and Decca have put a collection of them into a CD bargain box called Fte du Ballet In it you will find Aubers tuneful score for Marco Spada Auber had the knack of writing memorable tunesand the set also includes a delightful confection of this composers music, arranged by Constant Lambert for the ballet Les Rendez-vous, plus Aubers short but catchy Pas Classique.
Lecocqs effervescent score for the ballet Mamzelle Angot arranged by Gordon Jacob is very successfully presented here too an enticing bouquet of tunes, very brightly and wittily orchestrated. The composers who wrote for the Imperial Theatres in Russia are again represented here, with more music by Minkus and Drigo, including the latters complete La Flte magique, well crafted and orchestrated and of better quality than its reputation implies.
Bonynges classic ballet sets, Homage to Pavlova and The Art of the Prima Ballerina, comprise very attractive, short ballet excerpts, ranging from the well-known to the completely obscure, as well as including the only complete recording of Luiginis Ballet Egyptien and enjoyably tuneful it is too.
Other highlights include Burgmllers La Pri, written in the wake of the success of Giselle for the reigning prima ballerina at the Paris Opra, Carlotta Grisi. Offenbachs delightful Le Papillon is featured only as a suite, but readers are urged to investigate the complete version of the ballet see under Offenbachwhich is one of the finest of all Bonynges ballet discoveries. The classic coupling of suites from Massenets Le Cid and Meyerbeers Les Patineurs is also included and, though it is not ballet music, Massenets Scnes alsaciennes and Scnes dramatiques sit very well on an all-Massenet CD, which also includes the Waltz from Le Roi de Lahore and the sparkling Marche des princesses from Cendrillon.
The sound throughout these recordings is of Deccas best quality. Serge Diaghilev The early-twentieth-century ballet scene was dominated by the figure of Serge Diaghilev, the mastermind of a small group of famous designers of scenery and costumes, musicians and writers in St Petersburg.
In he created a sensation in Paris with a season of Russian operas, and the following year he gave his first ballet season with his Ballets Russes, now regarded as the greatest ballet company in the history of the medium, creating a sensation across Europe and especially in England. Through his genius of collaboration, Diaghilev inspired composers, dancers, designers and choreographers, including Balanchine, to create some of the greatest ballets of the twentieth century, commissioning masterly scores from Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, de Falla and Prokofiev, as well as music from Les Six, notably Poulenc Les Biches a supreme example and Milhaud, as well as eliciting contributions from such unlikely sources as the English composer, Constant Lambert.
Diaghilevs other main achievement lay in getting composers to arrange music already written for other purposes in. Among his greater successes were Schumanns Carnaval piano music orchestrated by several Russian composers, available on Australian Decca Eloquence conducted by Ansermet, coupled with that conductors classic account of The Seasons.
Webers Le Spectre de la rose appears in Berliozs orchestrated version, and Respighis arrangement of music by Rossini, La Boutique fantasque, has been preserved in Ansermets magical mono version of that score, available on Somm CD coupled with his equally famous mono Petrushka.
In their excellent historical two-disc ballet music series, EMI also offer Offenbachs Gat Parisienne played by the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra directed by its arranger, Manuel Rosenthal, which also usefully offers a complete listing of the sources of all twenty numbers. In similarly tuneful style, Hrolds La Fille mal garde should not be overlooked and John Lanchberys Tales of Beatrix Potter is another delightful confection of tunes, mainly from the Victorian era, but so skilfully arranged one would think it an original ballet score EMI Herbert von Karajan was a naturally sympathetic conductor of ballet music, and DG have gathered together some of his best recordings on a bargain two-CD set Other colourful ballet scores well worth hunting out are Glazunovs Raymonda there is a lovely DVD of the Bolshoi performing it on Arthaus DVDand particularly that masterpiece of colour and melody, The Seasons see under Glazunov.
The Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian must be mentioned; his ballets Gayaneh and Spartacus, especially the former, are among the most vivid Russian scores in the repertoire see under Khachaturian. Both have a unique French charm and sophistication, and are richly scored; Le Carillon is coupled with Delibess Copplia Decca but Cigale is at present out of the catalogue, although available as a download from iTunes.
For perhaps the ultimate Massenet ballet though, one must turn to Leighton Lucass masterful arrangement of Massenet excerpts which form the ballet Manon with the famous Elgie returning throughout the score as an ide fixe.
It is a gorgeous score, full of melody, colour and imagination, sumptuously recorded by Decca and most understandingly conducted by Bonynge, with the Covent Garden Orchestra Decca 2. Balanchine Unquestionably the greatest choreorapher of the twentieth century was George Balanchine Born in St Petersburg, he became a member of the Russian Imperial Ballet, where he worked as both dancer and choreographer. He went to Paris in the s and joined the Ballets Russes as one of Diaghilevs key choreographers, achieving a close personal relationship with Stravinsky as well as many other composers.
He stayed until Diaghilevs death inthen worked with a number of ballet companies in Europe, until in he was invited to move to New York by Lincoln Kirstein; here he worked with the resident American Ballet Company of the Metropolitan Opera until He then worked with various companies until he was able to create the New York City Ballet inwith which he stayed until his death.
It was here that he established an American style of ballet movements which was as original as it was imaginative. His choreography is as individual as it is unpredictable, full of surprises and wonderfully entertaining to watch. He drew on orchestral music already written in other forms, using many works of Tchaikovsky, creating new and unconventional dance movements that are unsurpassed and unsurpassable. The first of two sets 6 includes one of his earliest works, the Serenade, using the work by Tchaikovsky for strings, yet placing the slow movement, Elgie, as the finale and combining individual dances for each performer but climaxing with a dazzling ensemble.
Hickoxs performance of the music with the City of London Sinfonia is fully worthy. The choreography is based on the individual style of each of the four movements, with a different group of dancers for each.
In the dazzling finale all four groups join together in a spectacularly thrilling apotheosis. The other major work included here is Jewels, which dates from It is in three parts, with the dancers costumes simulating the title. The first, Emeralds, is set to gently lyrical pieces by Faur, taken from his incidental music to Pellas et Mlisande and Shylock, sensitively played by the Toulouse Capitole Orchestra conducted by Michel Plasson.
For Diamonds, the closing part, Balanchine moved to Tchaikovskys Polish Third Symphony, omitting the first movement Always Tchaikovsky for dancing, he commentedand indeed this work, as played by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Muti, has a distinct ballet flavour.
The second EMI Balanchine collection 6 also includes Mutis recording of Diamonds from Jewels and two other Tchaikovsky works, Ballet Imperialset to the uncut version of the Second Piano Concerto, which here uses another superb recording by Peter Donohoe and the Bournemouth orchestra with Barshai.
As a bonus, the disc offers more Tchaikovsky, Onegin, produced by the Stuttgart Ballet in This features the same Pushkin story as is used in the opera Eugene Onegin, but not the music. Instead, the choreographer, John Cranko, chose orchestrations of piano pieces, including The Seasons, by KurtHeinz Stolze, but for his finale he used the thrilling closing section of Francesca da Rimini, beginning with the seductive clarinet solo which accompanies Francescas entry.
Another key Balanchine ballet score is Night Shadow, with a dazzling selection of tunes taken from the operas of Bellini, arranged and scored by Vittorio Rieti.
Those wanting to find out more about Balanchine and the New York City Ballet should look on line under the choreographers name, and this entry also includes a performance of the finale of Bizets Symphony in C. Opera: A Historical Timeline According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the origin of the word opera derived initially from Latin and then from Italian meant labour or work, an entirely appropriate description, for opera was to become the most complicated and demanding of all musical art forms.
It brought solo singing of the most spectacular virtuosity, balanced by a rich depth of feeling and capable of firmly establishing the character of the role of the singer, plus an equally impressive choral contribution. Dancing, too, soon became an important feature, while the orchestral accompaniment, as the years passed, grew in importance and size. A successful opera also had to have both a good plot and a good libretto, both poetic and humanly dramatic, even humorous, which the vocal music could illustrate.
Costumes could be exotic, and spectacle itself was soon prized by early opera lovers, and elaborate stage machinery made this possible. The key composer at the birth of opera was indisputably Claudio Monteverdi, whose Italian setting of the famous classical story of Orfeo created the dbut of this new art form in the very beginning of the seventeenth century.
Within a decade Monteverdi had moved to Venice, and the first opera-house for paying audiences opened, so that this new dramatic experience now had the widest popular following. Venetian audiences were first able to see and hear Il ritorno dUlisse in patria staged inand then, three years later, what is perhaps the composers most successful opera, LIncoronazione di Poppea. This was based on characters from ancient Rome, including the Emperor Nero, and created operas first female opera star or diva as such creative singers came to be called in Anna Renzi in the role of Ottavia.
With its basic story combining lust, sex and infidelity and with a memorable closing duet the work could not fail. There were also a pair of memorable shorter works which might be described as the first chamber operas, the extraordinarily vivid narrative piece, Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and the more lyrical opera-ballet, Il ballo delle ingrate, featuring Pluto, Amor and Venus and a small female chorus of ungrateful souls.
The work was given its dbut at a wedding, and was designed to warn the ladies in the audience including the bride not to scorn their lovers advances and consequently be punished by Pluto with banishment to the underworld!
Francesco Cavalli followed Monteverdi in the direction of Venetian operas inbut he also composed a dozen himself in a musical style which is sensuously very appealing.
His most famous work is La Calisto, staged inreturning to a mythological subject. It is full of erotic seductions, primarily between the heroine the determinedly chaste Calisto and Jove who, to ensure her compliant response, takes the form of the goddess Diana, whose kisses she will not resist. But the real Diana loves the shepherd Endimione and they also embrace with passion.
There are the inevitable complications, but each couple is reunited at the end of the opera. Jean-Baptiste Lully was the composer who dominated French opera in the seventeenth century and he established the French tradition of introducing dances and divertissements as an essential part of the entertainment, and from then on no opera could be staged in Paris without a ballet.
The librettos were derived from mythology, and the term comdieballet came into use. Lullys domination meant that his successor, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, had to delay the production of his masterpiece, Mede, untiland even then Lullys admirers prevented its immediate acceptance. But in this setting of the Greek story of the sorceress, Medea, who in her anger slays her own children, Charpentier created one of the most memorable of seventeenth-century French operas.
Jean-Philippe Rameau, too, at first suffered from Lullys dominance, yet he soon established his individuality and excellence.
But his music really belongs to the eighteenth century and he truly established the opera-ballet in with Les Indes Galantes, an ingenious collection of four entres, each with a different geographical location, Turkey, Peru, Persia and North America, with ballet music to match. Meanwhile in England music for the stage was in the hands of one of our greatest composers, Henry Purcell. He left us a whole series of plays with musical interludes and masques, often described as semi-operas, including The Fairy Queen, which interpolates the action of Shakespeares A Midsummer Nights Dream.
Even so, he only wrote one work which can truly enter the operatic firmament. Yet Dido and Aeneas ends with Didos Lament, When I am laid in earth, one of the greatest, most touchingly expressive arias ever written. It is an excerpt that, in spite of many later fine recordings, Dame Janet Baker has made her own.
Vivaldi is of course best known for his countless concertos and in particular for The Four Seasons. Yet he also wrote many operas, of which over a dozen survive. Arias from some of these are celebrated in various collections listed below.
Singers love to perform these excerpts for they are immensely demanding vocally, and equally rewarding if sung with panache. However, the best known of the complete works, Orlando Furioso which includes one of operas first mad sceneshas been excellently recorded and is well worth having on record. Its attractive melodic invention is matched by exciting vocal virtuosity and imaginatively vivid orchestration.
Apart from a huge output of other music, orchestral, instrumental, choral and solo vocal to say nothing of the oratorios, which were often opera substitutes with biblical charactersit was Handel who introduced opera seria to English audiences, sung in Italian, which he wrote himself. The first, Rinaldo, dates from Handel had played the violin in the orchestra in Hamburg, but he moved to London with George I the former Elector of Hanover in the early s. Opera seria consisted of arias, choruses and recitative, the arias expressing the musics feeling and the response of the characters to their situation within the plot, while the recitative sung dialogue, accompanied simply by keyboard and other continuo instruments is concerned with advancing the interplay of the characters within the action of the story.
Among his operas Giulio Cesare, one of the longest, stands out, while we have a very soft spot for the shortest, Acis and Galatea, in Boults starrily cast version from Chandos, with Owen Brannigan an unforgettable Polyphemus.
Among the oratorios, apart from the supreme Handelian masterpiece, Messiah, Judas Maccabaeus and Solomon are both unforgettable. But it was Christoph Gluck who decided in to reset the famous story of Orfeo ed Eurydice a century after Monteverdis version. Many would say, with reason, that he surpassed the latter, and because of its success he wrote three versions, with the final Paris setting of Orfeos role thrillingly allotted to a high tenor.
Arnes Artaxerxes followed the Handel style of opera seria, but chose the English language, and was in fact the first of such operas to be sung in English, which immediately increased its appeal to English opera-lovers, and it enjoyed a great success.
Haydn himself acknowledged that his operas were musically no match for those of Mozart, although undoubtedly entertaining. Besides offering normal staged performances, Esterhzas speciality was a series of marionette operas which were elaborately and expensively produced, and also included human characters. The only work to have survived is Philemon und Baucis, probably the first Haydn wrote, and it was performed in honour of Empress Maria Theresia on her visit on 1 September With Mozart we come to the high peak of operatic composition, never surpassed.
He began with opera seria, Mitridate, Re di Ponto, written when he was only Lucio Silla came two years later; Il re pastore followed inIdomeneo, Re di Creta, acknowledged as the finest of the series, dates from and La clemenza di Tito, Mozarts penultimate opera seria, is certainly enjoyable if perhaps not one of his greatest inspirations.
The first of his masterpieces is Die Entfhrung aus dem Serail, written for Vienna, in the form of a German Singspiel, with spoken interludes of dialogue. It is delightful, wonderfully fresh and tuneful, but perhaps not quite as unforgettable as the three totally inspired works with libretti by Lorenzo da Ponte Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and the delicious Cos fan tutte.
To these we must add the captivating Die Zauberflte, a charming folk tale with symbols of freemasonry of which the composer was a member. Its winning libretto, written appropriately by a freemason colleague, Emanuel Schikaneder, introduces the irresistible Papageno an appropriately costumed bird-catcher and Papagena, who is to become his beloved partner.
This is surely the ideal work to introduce children to the opera house. Italian opera With the opening of the nineteenth century, opera found its home in Italy, where it stayed for more than a hundred years.
His masterpiece, Il barbiere di Sivigliain which the heroine, Rosina a mezzo roleis happily united with her lover, Count Almaviva, through the machinations of the barber Figaro, was admired by Beethoven. Other entertaining works followed, including LItaliana in Algeri, La Cenerentola loosely based on the story of CinderellaLe Comte Ory and La gazza ladra, which has a serious underplot as the heroine, Ninetta, is threatened with execution as a thief, when the culprit is really a magpie.
Il viaggio a Reims was the first opera Rossini wrote in France. It is on a large scale, designed for simply the greatest singers of the day, with lavish costumes, elaborate sets and a ballet of 40 dancers to complete the sumptuousness of this work, first performed in Conceived as part of the festivities to honour the coronation of Charles X, its plot involves a group of travellers waiting to be taken to Rheims, with one would-be traveller after another doing his or her party piece, and with a whole range of nationalities involved.
A tal colpo inaspettatobegins slowly and unaccompanied on the news that no horses are available and builds up, in true Rossini fashion, to a spectacular cabaletta with all 14 soloists singing about their changed circumstances, to electrifying effect. The finale gives a great opportunity for Rossini to employ local colour Russian, Spanish, French, etc. All these operas are framed by more serious works, Rossinis first opera seria, Tancredi, and the dramatic Guillaume Tell, whose overture is more famous than the opera itself!
Indeed Rossinis overtures are a delectable art form in their own right, famous for their ingeniously contrived crescendos, which Schubert tried unsuccessfully to imitate. Vincenzo Bellinis operas explore a style called bel canto beautiful song and their world is very different from Rossinis opera buffa. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term as a lyrical style of singing using a full, rich, broad tone and smooth phrasings. Bellinis operas Beatrice di Tenda, I Puritani and La Sonnambula with its famous sleepwalking scene have proved splendid vehicles for Joan Sutherland, and Maria Callas joins her in the most famous work, Norma.
Gaetano Donizetti, who mastered both bel canto and opera buffa, was for a time almost submerged beneath Bellinis vocal opulence, yet he had an engaging melodic gift and sparkle which ensured that, in the field of opera buffa, LElisir damore, Don Pasquale and La Fille du rgiment are a match for Rossini.
Among his more serious works are Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda both based on English history of dubious authenticity. But Lucia di Lammermoor with another mad scene is the finest and proved another joint vehicle for Callas and Sutherland. But it is Giuseppe Verdi whom we must turn to as the greatest, most prolific composer of the nineteenth century. Then came the triology of great operas of the s, which immediately captured a permanent world-wide public. Rigoletto came first in with its extraordinarily powerful casting of a baritone in the name role, and its three unforgettable hits, Questa o quella, La donna mobile and the heroine, Gildas, Caro nome, to say nothing of a celebrated Quartet.
Il trovatore was next Caruso later declared that all that this opera needed was the four greatest singers in the world; and certainly its melodrama is well imbued with superbly powerful music. Its most memorable character is the gypsy, Azucena, who in an electrifying scene in Act II tells the hero, Manrico, that by mistake she murdered her own baby in a fire.
This opera is a favourite opera of I. The very romantic Un ballo in maschera followed, then La forza del destino written for performance in St Petersburg in It introduces an unforgettable tune in the overture which Callas made famous in the aria itself. Don Carlos with its remarkable inquisition scene came next, then Simon Boccanegrawhich had a particularly celebrated closing scene. But this was all-but dwarfed by the spectacular Aida with its triumphal march sequence, the opera appropriately given its dbut in Cairo.
The masterly OtelloVerdis finest Shakespearean adaptation, brings a very convincing villain in Iago, and Desdemona is given a very beautiful scene before she is murdered. Finally in came Verdis last work, Falstaff, a remarkable comic opera, set to Boitos adaptation of The Merry Wives of Windsor, which showed the composer was not content to sit on his laurels, for it is written as a continuous parlando conversational interplay. Umberto Giordanos Andrea ChnierLeoncavallos Pagliacci, and justifiably the most popular Cavalleria rusticana also of Mascagni are the three prime examples of what is described as verismo opera, as they are based on the lives of ordinary people, and the latter pair of works are usually successfully presented as a double bill.
Giordanos Fedora followed in in the wake of the overwhelming success of Cavalleria rusticana and it has become almost equally popular. Again, the composer chose a story with revolution hovering in the background, but this time it takes place in St Petersburg. Fedora seeks revenge but allies herself with Loris when she learns that it was over a matter of honour Vladimiro was caught dallying with Ipanovs wife.
Loris and Fedora end up living together in Switzerland and, when news arrives that Loriss brother drowned in his cell when the Neva overflowed, his mother dies of grief and Loris suspects that Fedora has been persecuting his family. Fedora takes poison, then begs Loriss forgiveness and, while she is dying, Loris does so, with a final kiss.
The operas most celebrated aria is Amor ti vieta Love forbids yousung by Loris a tenor but there is much attractive music in the score, not least in the sequence where a pianist entertains guests at a soire with a rather beautiful Chopinesque piece, while Fedora and Loris engage in conversation.
All the characters have plenty of opportunity to express themselves in passionate exchanges, with some striking arias, while the chorus, with its mob scenes, festive crowds, sailors and a masked ball, provide plenty of spectacle. The story is about La Gioconda, a local singer who is desired by Barnaba, a spy of Badoero, the chief of the Venetian inquisition. Gioconda is repelled by him and, in revenge, Barnaba whips up the crowd against her blind mother, who is saved only by the intervention of Laura, Badoeros wife, to whom her mother gives a rosary in thanks.
Barnaba contrives a plan to hurt La Gioconda by reuniting Laura with her former lover, Enzo now in love with La Gioconda in order that Badoero can catch them together. La Gioconda overhears this plot, goes to confront Laura and is about to stab her when she sees the rosary her mother once gave to her. As Badoero approaches, she helps Laura to escape. Later, an outraged Badoero orders Laura to take poison, but La Gioconda gives her a sleeping draught to make her appear dead, then has her summoned to meet Enzo.
To ensure Enzos freedom, La Gioconda offers Barnaba her body and when he comes to claim it, she stabs herself. If Verdi dominated Italian opera in the nineteenth century, Puccini took over at the turn of the twentieth.
La Bohme, his finest work, dates from and has become the most popular opera of all time. Quite apart from its wonderful melodies, which flood the work from the first bar to the last, its construction itself is perfect.
As Edward Greenfield has pointed out in his book on the composer, the opera might be compared to a symphony, with a finely balanced first movement, set in a garret high above Paris. Here the four male principals indulge in horse-play, ending with the most rapturous duet in all opera when Mim enters and meets Rodolfo. She loses her key and, in searching for it, their hands touch, to produce one of the most familiar lines in all opera: Rodolfos Your tiny hand is frozen Che gelida manina.
Then follows the spectacular Caf Momus scene, dominated by Musetta, who loves Marcello a scherzo in all but name. During the slow movement, set outside an inn near the gate of Paris, which takes place two months later, all four lovers, Rodolfo and Mim, Marcello and Musetta, meet to try to settle their differences, resulting in a magnificent quartet. The finale recapitulates the opening music from Act I, until the sudden arrival of Musetta with the dying Mim, and the poignant end of the opera is almost unbearably touching.
Puccini himself wept when composing the final scene. But Puccinis first operatic success in had been Manon Lescaut, following much the same story as had been previously used by Massenet, about a profligate heroine who chooses the riches of the high life to her real lover, Des Grieux. She is deported, and the only drawback of a lyrically inspired work is that the final Act in the Louisiana desert, where she dies in her lovers arms, is unconvincing.
The ultra-passionate Tosca came next and is full of thrilling music. Tosca, herself an opera singer, has the famous autobiographical Vissi darte, Toscas lover, Cavaradossi, sings one of Puccinis most potent arias, E lucevan le stelle and Puccini interpolates a superb choral Te Deum for Scarpia, the Roman police chief.
In the operas key scene, when he tries to seduce Tosca, she stabs him instead. One fine day is another of the composers most memorable arias, and the haunting Humming Chorus when Butterfly anticipates her lover Pinkertons return, is equally moving. La Fanciulla del West, set among American gold minersis underrated, as is Il Trittico combining Il tabarro with the affectingly sentimental Suor Angelica and the engagingly humorous Gianni Schicchi.
But the last is often heard on its own and has one very famous aria for Schicchis daughter, Lauretta, O mio babbino caro. Puccinis least-known opera undeservedly so, for it is a real charmer is La Rondine, originally intended for a Viennese debut, but because of World War I eventually first performed in Monte Carlo in Set in Paris, it has something of the lighthearted flavour of Viennese operetta, and Puccinis melodic gift is unabated, with the heroine, Magdas, lovely Che il bel sogno di Doretta totally memorable.
The plot has something in common with La Traviata, although the poet, Prunier, is an important subsidiary character. But Magda is a sophisticated and self-contained heroine and when, at the close, Ruggero, her lover, cannot marry her because his respectable family will not accept a courtesan wife, the lovers part sadly but not tragically.
Turandot, Puccinis last opera, which he left unfinished, was effectively completed by Franco Alfano. It is a tale of a formidable princess who will only accept the hand of a suitor if he can answer three seemingly impossible riddles. Prince Calaf, the hero, is successful and so avoids the death sentence. The opera is most famous for Nessun dorma, a splendid aria which Pavarotti has proved he can sing perfectly ten times out of ten.
The heroine also has the memorable, soaring In questa reggia, while the subsidiary character, the slave girl Li, sings the enchanting Signore ascolta. There is light relief from the emperors ministers, Ping, Pang and Pong, but the great success of the opera rests on the great choral scenes.
German opera In the German repertoire Beethovens Fidelio stands high among other nineteenth-century operas, a work in which he celebrates the loyalty and dedication of a woman.
Florestan, falsely imprisoned by the governor, Don Pizarro, is saved and freed by his devoted wife, Leonora, who adopts the breeches role of Fidelio to gain access to the prison.
The music is magnificent especially the Prisoners Chorusand Beethoven wrote four different overtures for the work, Leonora Nos. Weber had one great operatic success in Der Freischtz The characterization of the lovers is not strong, but their music is engagingly, tunefully romantic. Agathes two arias are unforgettable. Max has to win his beloved, Agathe, in a shooting contest.
To ensure his success, in an electrifying scene in Wolfs Glen, he bargains with the demon, Samiel, for magic bullets. But the opera ends happily with Maxs weakness forgiven and his bride restored to him. Three immensely successful light operas must not be overlooked. Humperdincks Hnsel und Gretel, faithfully based on the fairy tale and with most engaging music not least in the Overturewas premired with Richard Strauss conducting inand it became an enduring popular success, famous for the childrens Dance Duet, the Sandmans lovely music and the Witches Ride.
Lehrs Merry Widow Die lustige Witwe arrived ina lighthearted Viennese-style frolic about the wooing of wealthy Hanna Glawari by her previous lover, Count Danilo, for purely financial reasons that are connected with the finances of Pontevedro, where they live.
The operetta fizzes with vivacious numbers, but its most famous hit is the lovely waltz duet, Lippen schweigen, which comes at the very end of the piece and is surprisingly short. With the Land of Smilesboth Taubers fame and Lehrs commercial success were at their height. The story of Lisa, an aristocratic Viennese girl, falling in love with a Chinese prince gave the opportunity for Lehr to embrace the opulent sound-worlds of both Puccini and Richard Strauss, though of course translated into Lehrs brand of melancholy lyricism.
Unlike most operettas, this one has a more downbeat ending: Lisa is unable to accept the conventions of the Chinese in which all passions have to remain concealed behind disciplined smiles, and the lovers renounce their love. One of the works most celebrated numbers, Dein ist mein ganzes Herz, is particularly gorgeous.
Much of this score demands a high standard of singing, not least in the fine duets. The title comes from Dr Falkes bat Fledermaus costume in which he is forced to find his way home from an earlier party, and he wants to avenge himself by playing a joke on Eisenstein, the man who left him in this predicament.
But the operetta centres on Prince Orlofskys masked party, which everyone attends, including Eisensteins wife, Rosalinde, and her maid Adele. Eisenstein, who is due to serve a prison sentence at 6 a. All is sorted out at the prison before the end of the piece and the cast finally toast the effect of champagne to one of the composers finest tunes.
Der Zigeunerbaron followed, made famous by a tune which we know as One day when we were young but, enjoyable as it is, it has never had the success of Die Fledermaus. Wagner For most listeners, Wagners music represents the zenith of German romantic opera, and his huge musical influence, not least its passionate chromaticism, extended to every other musical format. In order to have complete control over his works, he wrote the librettos himself and even built a Festspielhaus at Bayreuth dedicated to their performances, in particular the four Ring operas.
Bert Grant and A. Tell us how. And Brown proceeds to praise the dance without describing it. They were all like that—the walk, the toddle, the hop. By far the most common of these genres was the so-called coon song— or, really, the whole range of stereotyped minority-group numbers, taking in also Irish, Italian, Jewish, and German subjects. But even comic opera made room for these southern-idyll numbers, where they might have seemed like curiosities but for their go-everywhere popularity.
But the interpolation was likely to be the song hit that propelled a show to success through sheer musical publicity. Until the acculturation of radio in the s, the only way most Americans could hear music was by going to the theatre or making it themselves on the home keyboard.
So the piano, music sheets, and Broadway were in an essential alignment. Further, the sheets themselves were a glory of the age, king-size at eleven by fourteen inches and bearing attractive colored covers, an art in themselves.
Herbert was in the pit one night, proudly leading his orchestra in his music. However, Cahill preferred Marie Cahill Numbers, baptized in the copyright of starry glamor. Coyly erotic, touring the genres from coon song to rag, these personalized pieces gave the star a chance to thrust the show aside and get intimate with her public.
As the story goes, Herbert disdainfully handed his baton to the concertmaster: Here, you conduct this drivel! Shaken, Cahill left the stage. A minor player, Pauline Frederick, was promoted to replace Cahill, an odd note in the saga because Frederick was to become famous as a silent film star.
More oddly, Frederick was then replaced by Blanche Ring, another seriocomic, with a penchant for interpolating Blanche Ring Numbers. Flynn and Will D. The nearest modern parallel would be Barbra Streisand or Gilda Radner, performing Their Very Own Television Special in their bedroom at the age of ten as they dreamed of changing the rules for woman-lead show biz.
Cahill and Ring could be seen as decendents of Lydia Thompson, but she was a revolutionary while Cahill and Ring were mainstream. Cahill and Ring played to gender-equal, middle-class family audiences.
Al Jolson represented the newcomers—he was actually born in Eastern Europe—and along with his coevals Fanny Brice and Eddie Cantor he often cast a more observant eye upon American culture than Americans did: because the outsider has perspective.
Cohan, for that matter—Jolson played comic roles, where personality mattered more than vocal tone. Of course, Jolson was a singer, touted by some as the voice of the age. But his timbre was rough, even unattractive. Worse, he relentlessly added distracting extra words to kick a lyric along, and he so toyed with note values that songs he introduced were not properly heard till someone else got to them. Jolson had hit sweat, tearing his ego apart before your eyes the better to thrill you.
The black makeup marks the influence of the minstrel revue and the jokes were corny, too. But these were, in fact, book musicals, in which a subservient supporting cast sang the very derivative core numbers while Jolson reveled in interpolations. And [Jolson adds: you know] where there are wild men, there must be wild women! Big as Jolson was, one star was bigger, on Broadway if not in Hollywood. She, too, could sing and dance—both hoofing and ballet. And she could act.
Further, she was a looker, in the modest yet radiant girl-next-door mode, with a fabled stage presence that lit up the house the second she entered: Marilyn Miller. Raised in a vaudevillian family, Miller was just shy of fifteen when she hit Broadway, in a Shubert revue.
Florenz Ziegfeld stole her away three years later for the Follies, then repositioned her as a heroine of story shows. The first of these was the emblematic smash hit of the Second Age, though it premiered at the start of the Third: Sally Everything about this show was old, but everything else, so to say, was new, for Ziegfeld was a revolutionary conservative.
So it was the old story of the sweetheart and the clown, the very essence of the musical. Before directors and choreographers, before even the notion of a newly written score, there was Lydia Thompson and George L. What Ziegfeld did was to bind their very different arts in a single work, just as his Follies revues centered on showgirls and comics.
Wodehouse and B. De Sylva among others. It had originally been a small piece—called, in fact, The Little Thing. Kern, Bolton, and Wodehouse had planned it as part of their series for the Princess Theatre a landmark genre we will get to presently.
But Ziegfeld never put on anything small. He saw the musical as something important and demanding, glamorous above all. The leading lady must be not only a great entertainer but an ideal of youthful beauty, and the leading man not a hunk but a comic—a great one, with a distinctive style. It was a great LP), but not a great work. The title number is an idiotic mess; when Warner Bros. And what went wrong, really, was Ziegfeld.
His focus was always on the beauty of it all, not on composers. It arrived a mere seven years after Sally—but by then Ziegfeld realized that the theatregoing public had discovered a new essential in the making of musicals: a first-division score. Still, where does composition end and producing begin? Did Ziegfeld commission this gala—at times frenzied—showpiece, or did Kern and Grey come up with it on their own? Was Sally written or Ziegfelded?
Nevertheless, the composer and lyricist are about to take over the history, right in the middle of the era of Ziegfeld and Miller. But first, let us backtrack to trace the rise of the important score and how it redesigned the way a musical told its story.
Though Blossom tended to write for the more accomplished composers in comic opera, he had a musical-comedy mentality. The musical-comedy identification inheres particularly in the two leads, for this was the follow-up title for Montgomery and Stone after The Wizard of Oz. They played Americans stranded in a Dutch village, unable to leave till they pay for their lodgings.
Various principals then enjoy establishing numbers. The plot thickens, for Gretchen loves a ship captain improbably named Doris this is always changed in revivalsbut her father has implacably betrothed her to the district governor. In The Red Mill, he had two, the first on his entrance, falling backward down an eighteen-foot ladder.
And they whistle the funereal final phrase. By this time in other shows, Mrs. Watson—but just now comes the first-act finale, wherein Stone pulls off his second acrobatic stunt. To separate Gretchen and Doris, the Burgomaster has locked her in the haunted mill. Surely someone is going to rescue Gretchen— and that would be Doris, right?
A flunkey guards the mill door, but he finally falls asleep. Time for Doris to tiptoe in and. Today, Victor Herbert is the CEO of operetta, but while he did start off in comic opera, he worked in every available form including revue from Babes in Toyland on. His coeval D. Griffith was to American cinema as Victor Herbert was to the musical: grammarian, innovator, and debate-club coach.
However, Herbert had been singing in his own style almost from the beginning, with a heavy use of rubato and, again, that fastidious sprinkling of sixteenth notes that is less European than Herbertian. More important, he reshaped the very structure of American song, shortening the verse and lengthening the chorus till his heirs, from Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern to Rodgers and Hart and the Gershwins, had a more dramatically protean format to work with.
This is incorrect. The notion that Herbert needed to lift a tune instead of drawing from his bottomless well of melody is so absurd it does not bear pursuing. However, even the compleat musician employed assistants. At the start of the — season, Herbert composed three musicals that launched their tryout within a single five-week period: Miss Dolly Dollars on August 30 in Rochester, Alice and the Eight Princesses on September 14 in Buffalo, and Mlle.
Modiste on October 7 in Trenton. Are we to believe that Herbert wrote and scored three works at the same time? At that, the Alice show, a combination of Alice in Wonderland and The Twelve Dancing Princesses, was so violently revised before Broadway that the Lewis Carroll figures were discarded though the piece came in as Wonderland and the score was all but rewritten.
So Herbert could not possibly have done all his own orchestrations. He wrote forty-one Broadway shows besides making substantial contributions to various Ziegfeld titlesand we might call him the Father of the Musical but for his having arrived too soon: before there were librettists to match his stature.
He infused romance with the Big Sing, trimmed satire with sass. Perhaps Herbert felt a tale of the idle rich getting into idiotic mischief needed a musical buildup, strengthening his characters with strong music. Conversely, in Miss Dolly Dollarsa musical comedy about an American heiress adventuring in England and France, Herbert mixed just a bit of high-end singing into a fun-filled, snazzy score. Still, the whole Dolly Dollars score is amusing Sousa And Strauss In Reverse - Various - Hear Them Again (Vinyl than lyrical, as when Dolly duets with a German Army officer who speaks no English.
Harry B. In other words, Herbert towered over his coevals because he rationalized the helter-skelter musical. Even extravaganza, the most undisciplined of the genres, seems almost Tolstoyan in its organization when Herbert writes one. But now comes a Herbert extravaganza that enjoys almost absolute story unity, Little Nemo Then, in the last square, Nemo would awaken, sometimes pulled out of bed by an impatient parent.
Herbert, with the ever-ready Harry B. Nemo himself, something like eight years old, might have been a casting problem. However, a straight-play adaptation of another Kid-hero comic strip from the Herald, Buster Brownhad starred a performer billed as Master Gabriel, and he played Nemo. This was a disaster for the book writer: everything had to occur in one particular place for an hour or so, and then everything else had to occur in another place—even if, logically, the plot needed to ramble through a slew of places.
The equivalent moment in Babes in Toyland is a jump in the first act between two big sets. A princess laboring in a laundry! Here we go again: comic opera. But Sweethearts is another of those shows, like Maytime and Apple Blossoms, that anticipates the twenties model in the ultra-romantic musical. Like those two titles, Sweethearts was set in modern times Maytime spans the latter half of the nineteenth centurybut in picturesque Europe, where a laundress may be wooed by a handsome stranger who is—Spoiler Alert!
Musicals have a sweet tooth for illsuited romantic leads—the bickering Curly and Laurey of Oklahoma! The Red Mill tempered its romance with the musical-comedy ruses of Montgomery and Stone. Smith and Ms. These two hardly know each other; she hesitantly feels her way through the scene while he, the typical royal, commands. Louis Municipal Theatre Association, an outdoor venue seating ten thousand with an annual season devoted especially to operettas, including the less famous ones.
She fears it, and, suddenly sensitive to her view of things, he asks what future she would wish for. But Herbert never gets credit for this because he appeared too early in the history. All the attention goes to Kern, Berlin, and the other Golden Agers. Except in this book. If anything, Herbert is the animating figure who urged the Kerns and Berlins to launch their own reinventions, to turn musical storytelling into something realistic, intricate, vivid. If Little Nemo is Herbert in musical comedy and Sweethearts his matrix for twenties operetta, his very little known The Madcap Duchess gives us Herbert the master of dramatic technique—unfortunately in a melodically underperforming score.
Okay, we were expecting that—but Herbert lavished upon this tale a meticulous musical narration, filled with vocal acrobatics, turns on a dime, and special effects tied to the physical action onstage.
Herbert seizes the moment: in the music, you can hear the sneeze trying to burst forth and the actor blithely shutting it down. Literally no other Broadway composer in was capable of such niche evocations, and The Madcap Duchess was replete with delicious touches.
The two shows even enjoyed smash-hit revivals in the s. In the end, Herbert not only led American theatre music but defined it; the very sound of the man was everywhere, from the opera house to the summer park bandshell. Herbert was his generation: that was the problem. Their music did not sweep Herbert away, no—at least, not for two generations. Still, in the s, everybody could be divided into two groups. One was hot. The other was geeky.
The geeky group believed in minding your parents, avoiding sex before marriage, and listening to Victor Herbert. His name was Max Dreyfus and he was a music publisher, the head of T.
Harms, which managed the careers of every important songwriting source except the samizdat Irving Berlin and George M. Cohan, the latter of whom went with various secondary firms and, occasionally, his own imprint with his partner, Sam H. Harburg, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe. Kern owned part of Harms himself, which tells us how connected he was in the very history of the musical: he writes great songs, he publishes great songs, he wants to know who else will write great songs.
Kern becomes American music. He brings composers and lyricists together. He recommends them to producers. He packages in the orchestrator, the dance arranger. He is Dreyfus the auteur of the Broadway sound. And when Dreyfus turned you down, you were virtually out. Harms was Broadway and Broadway was Harms.
Marks Company. And now, slowly, Max Dreyfus turns, step by step. Dreyfus signs Rodgers and Hart. Dreyfus offers his advice on whom Rodgers and Hart should write shows with. Dreyfus tells Rodgers about orchestrations and sheet music sales. Nearly every Golden Age name got on fine with Max Dreyfus, because he loved being their music man.
Entrenched publishers like Witmark and Schirmer were instantly rendered old hat while the innovative Harms drew a line: everything before and during Victor Herbert is nothing. Everything after is the future of American music.
Three events of fix this upheaval for us—though, we must note, the Harms imprint was involved with only one of them, the Broadway production of the Sidney Jones-Paul Rubens English show The Girl From Utah.
A thin storyline involved a heroine Julia Sanderson aided in her flight from marriage to a Mormon by a handsome actor Donald Brian and—this is the comic role—a butcher Joseph Cawthorn. As always, producer Charles Frohman sought to juice up the score with American interpolations, and, as often before, Frohman applied for them to Jerome Kern, working with Harry B.
Business as usual. But something bizarre happened this time: Kern turned out, all of a sudden, to have become the master of the New Music, and his contributions to The Girl From Utah—a substantial portion of its American score—are where scholars locate the starting point of the Golden Age.
Nevertheless, the cognoscenti heard the Kerns above all, and when the Victor Light Opera Company released its Girl From Utah medley—the standard recording platform for the dissemination of theatre music—it was almost entirely devoted to the Kern insert numbers. Bustling about the theatre world in his customary way, Harry B.
Smith collaborated on this one, too, his all but plotless book relating the adventures of young people out to see the sights of New York while two of them stand to inherit a fortune and the others try to keep them from it. Producer Charles Dillingham gave the piece a lavish production designed by artists of Vogue magazine, and dance—the latest fad in American middle-class leisure—filled the stage. The two strains are then sung simultaneously, in a form Irving Berlin virtually made his own, but the point is that the gentle tune emphasizes by comparison the ragged tune—irresistibly terpsichorean, less an invitation to the dance than a command.
It was not the score but the concept of the show itself that made The Only Girl one of the most influential musicals of all time. Somehow, Herbert and his librettist, Henry Blossom, came up with the idea of a play with songs—more precisely, a musical that smashes the handbook.
One, they used a small cast without chorus, and, two, all the numbers leaped up out of the plot continuity without a single diversion.
The Only Girl even skipped the opening number, relying on a bit of teasy curtain music, Allegretto scherzando—and there were no act finalettos. For perhaps the first time, an entire score worked submissively within the storyline: four bachelors swear to remain single, then three of them marry while the fourth, a playwright, collaborates with a woman composer on a musical very like The Only Girl. And then he falls in love with her, and she with him.
They kiss. The show was a sensation for its very simplicity. Its logic. Its intimacy, too, had appeal, giving it a snug fit in the seat Thirty-Ninth Street Theatre, though rave reviews led the Shuberts to invite producer Joe Weber to move his production to the Lyric—almost twice as big—just two weeks into its performance run.
Historians invariably make an extended port of call of the Princess shows and their small-scaled, lightly realistic contemporary pieces, usually based on recently produced comedies and set in or around New York City.
Much credit is given to agent Elisabeth Marbury and the Princess managers, F. The series lasted from throughwhen the last title, Zip! Goes a Million, closed in tryout. To them, everything before this trio is just so much genealogy.
Yet if the Princess shows made a revolution, it was a daffy one, because every storyline was contentless farce. In Leave It To Jane, the college vamp beguiles a football ace into playing for the home team. Oh, Boy! A typical moment, from Oh, Boy! Then, too, the song cues often have the air of a public announcement, as when Oh, Boy!
Guy Bolton is an unlikely candidate for revolution in the first place. Born in England of American parentage, he wrote books for Broadway and West End musicals for fifty years, starting in One of them, Follow the Girlsclosed as the longest-running book musical in Broadway history, though it was immediately overtaken by Carousel. And Oklahoma! Yet Bolton was essentially a hack, notable for his faults. A Bolton book was an assembly of more or less autonomous parts—the charming crook, the silly-ass Brit, the helter-skelter disguise as someone bizarre, such as a Quaker aunt in Oh, Boy!
So the series was not remotely as innovative as it is often said to be. Yet even in their brief heyday, the shows struck some commentators as an important breakaway. Why was that? The scores. For love has a language of its own— MEN: Can she learn it? MEN: Would he understand it? Most individually, Wodehouse introduced a highly useful conceit, to be adopted by everyone from Cole Porter to Lorenz Hart: treating history in modern terms. Her clothes were few, but full of style; Her figure slim and svelte.
On every man that wandered by She pulled the Theda Bara eye; And everyone observed with awe That her work was swift, but never raw. Then, after Wodehouse set the music to words, so to say, the fantasy was complete: a girl of today merges with Cleopatra, pastiche as characterization. This sort of thing LP) utterly new to the musical, and Kern matched Wodehouse with innovations of his own. Borodin and Tchaikofsky make guest appearances in Oh, Boy! Perhaps he was growing impatient with the flimsy realism of musicals in general and wanted to authenticate them, substantiate them.
Still, the Princess did run dramaturgical experiments as well. For instance, Oh, Lady! Oh, Lady! True, Wodehouse could simply have replaced the couplet; Oscar Hammerstein did exactly that when the number was slipped into Show Boat, nine years later.
Still, the problem lay not in a stray line or two but in the very idea of the song, so confessional, even disloyal. Anyway, inthe First Number was never a ballad. Princess usage took hold elsewhere on Broadway. Like Going Up, Irene was drawn from a play, a Princess practice also dating back to The Only Girl: because then the new script could follow the old script and stay on plot track, avoiding the tangent of the inserted vaudeville sketch, that curse of the Musical Before Oklahoma!.
Irene was one of several shows to converse with the public on the effects of immigration, as various minority groups began to assert themselves in urban American culture. Harrigan and Hart did the surveying, and George M. Cohan laid the paving stones. Tierney was no Kern, true. The darkly exotic-looking Edith Day, a vibrant soprano, became a major star in Irene, which broke the long-run record at performances.
It triumphed in London as well, and even returned to Broadway albeit in vast revisionwith Debbie Reynolds, in This time, the driver of the action was not the heroine Janet Velie but the hero Jack McGowanwho dreams of changing the world by building inexpensive, pre-fabricated houses for working people. Yet one composer did imitate Kern with the humility of an acolyte: Louis Hirsch. Utterly forgot today, though, prolific and successful, Hirsch was a Kern intimate but impressionable also in general.
Three of the shows cited directly above— the at-the-Princess Oh, My Dear! Oh, My Dear! Based on Jerome K. In all, this is the form that the Golden Age score would take until Rodgers and Hammerstein recentered the use of song to focus on character rather than blues, jazz, and fake flirtations.
So the New Music was creating the New Musical even before the s, rationalizing it, clearing out debris. Once, authors sent a protagonist into exotic geography filled with magic jewels, floods, comically hostile peoples. Now they married you to a Fancy Dan whose butler is your uncle. More important, the score grew more focused yet more varied, engaging with the narrative even as it sought more expansive formatting.
Still she resists, snatching at a chaste topic: the innocence of youth. Boy responds. However, another Kern show, overlooked by all, demonstrates his burgeoning powers, despite its antiquated genre. In the wake of their stupendous success in The Wizard of Oz, Montgomery and Stone went into the extravaganza business with producer Charles Dillingham, each new production celebrated for a spectacular mounting, fresh-corn comedy, and music by the brand names.
Note the gaps between the shows: these were huge hits, with big runs in New York and lengthy tours. The term trio was then used for any middle section. The subject was, very loosely, Little Red Ridinghood.
Wodehouse and before Oscar Hammerstein. A fairy waves her wand, magical things happen. But the plot was always a shadowy element in extravaganza. This was the genre of the sweetheart and the clown, of the set and costume designers, and—especially now, in the s—the songwriters.
Build roads, and folks buy cars. Erect a library, and everybody reads. Write great songs, and theatregoers demand more of them. And as the Victor Herbert generation seems to be replaced by Kern, Berlin, Youmans, Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, and De Sylva, Brown, and Henderson virtually overnight it actually took something like fifteen yearsthe public will start to discriminate among great scores, good scores, and lesser scores. The Stepping Stones is a great score, even though none of it is ever heard today; the title itself means nothing even to most aficionados.
Yet the work is outstanding for its effortless narrative fidelity: the story lives in the music and the music bears the wonder and silliness that storybook extravaganza was made of.
But more: for the first time in his career, Kern set out to write more than just a brace of songs with a couple of musical scenes. Then, too, it took one generation after Caldwell for the veteran Dorothy Fields and the newcomer Betty Comden to promote the notion of women writers in the musical who were as adept as men. Back at the Princess, the chorus did little more than egg events along every so often; in The Stepping Stones, the singers and dancers helped create the atmosphere of a marvelous little world in which even the villains are sort of cute.
But Kern obsessively interpolated pre-existing music into his scores—those college songs into Leave It To Jane, oldtime favorites as an overture to Sweet Adeline. Then, too, keeping the contemporary and the faraway simultaneously in play was elemental in extravaganza, where castles and magic shared the stage with jokes about Charlie Chaplin and the speakeasy. Further, the extensive dance music is closely allied to the vocal pieces, as variations on them or in wacky counter-melodies.
Harms, and thus could publish his music any way he wanted to. Victor Herbert and a few others composed their own dances, but the musicians who arranged them for other songwriters—along with various incidental bits as called for—did not get billing till the mids, when the Big Ballet of the s had become essential to the prestige musical.
To ice the cake, Dillingham gave young Dorothy Stone the greatest coming-out party in history: Broadway stardom. Out of town, she had had featured billing, below the title.
Well, that was the story that Dillingham sent out through the PR circuits, anyway. Pantomime died out, true: but it had never been an important form in the United States. However, the revue was at one time as sovereign a genre as any other. By the s, variety revue was all but dead. There were sequels, but revue as such was not firmly established till Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. Thus, his showgirls were American beauties, whether wearing little more than lighting or costumed to the nth as milkmaids, princesses, the contents of a salad, or as impressions of classical melodies from Schubert to Massenet.
The star was the Follies. The star was Ziegfeld. The star was, even, the audience, smart and hip enough to attend: it was bragging by irony. The notion of combining Nordic beauties with ethnic jesters was very, very ahead of the curve.
Yes, there is a bit of this in the Weber and Fields burlesques, but only by happenstance. Ziegfeld made it a fetish. We can call it bizarre—but all of the Follies was bizarre: sophisticated, worldly, exhibitionistic, silly, crazy, cute, shocking. One thing the Follies never was: ordinary. Two things the Follies often was: dazzling and classy. For example, the gentleman in tails who sang the salutes to the girls on parade was John Steel, a tenor who in timbre, diction, and phrasing sounded exactly like John McCormack, arguably the most popular but also prestigious tenor after Enrico Caruso.
With his extraordinarily sweet sound, Steel lovingly presented the girls while teaching the art of pear-shaped vowels. To attend was to join the elite—or so it appeared, for Ziegfeld was a master of PR technique and Follies opening nights were the first in Broadway history to count as Celebrated New York Events, with hyperbolic newspaper coverage, mounted police, and surging crowds framing the arrival of the rank and fashion of the town.
A Chicago-born child of cultured immigrants from central Europe, he was a spendthrift and dangerous-stakes gambler, a plunger betting it all on the turn of a card. In fact, each Follies was conceived, rehearsed, and even performed in utter chaos, for Ziegfeld lived in a state of intensely decisive changes of mind, and his art was like his life.
Smith, who helped Ziegfeld fashion the first few Follies, shares in his memoirs an illustration of just how unreliable—or perhaps resourceful— Ziegfeld could be.
In Monte Carlo with a friend, Ziegfeld chanced their every last sou at the casino and won a fortune, which he entrusted to his friend. Not too much later, Ziegfeld asked for their mutual winnings. No: demanded the money, for it was madness to desert a winning streak. The friend yielded, and Ziegfeld gave it up at the gaming table, right down to the last chip.
But then the friend, strolling through their hotel, caught Ziegfeld in the dining room, hosting a fabulous supper. And no one had: not like this. Ziegfeld was waving his wand. Barnum started but Ziegfeld perfected it: the art of getting everyone to talk about you. To hear recordings of John Steel today is to visit a tinkly puppet show of the nevermore. It was boutique art, yes, but it had resonance. So why is everyone so down on him?
Ethnic integration is elemental in show business today; it was unheard of when Ziegfeld launched the Follies. More than unheard of: impractical. Forbidden by unwritten law. As the buddy of powerful millionaires like the at the time New York—based William Randolph Hearst, Ziegfeld could defy orthodoxy. Still, his ecumenical appreciation of first-division talent was literally wonderful. Where did it come from? One of the most influential aspects of the Follies was the way it unified a series of unrelated sequences.
That was another Follies quality—the spontaneity. Still, the freewheeling nature of the comedy in musical comedy, free in the truest sense in the nineteenth century, when audiences and actors found themselves locked in a fragile embrace, now loving and now noisily vexed, enjoyed its last hurrah in the Follies.
Ziegfeld sometimes built this unpredictability into the script. Then, too, the Follies began as audience members started arguing about what sort of entertainment they hoped for; of course, these, too, were cast members.
In the Follies—often cited as the best of the entire line—Ziegfeld had his four male singing leads offer a close-harmony medley of old southland numbers in front of the traveler curtain.
It was an odd quartet: three of them were comic in spirit Eddie Dowling, Van and Schenck while the other was that superhero of suave John Steel. Then the traveler parted on a fabulous tiered set of pink, silver, and white, the company attired to match in traditional minstrel-show grouping, with Eddie Cantor and Bert Williams as Tambo and Bones and George LeMaire as the Interlocutor.
Each of the stars then took stage for a specialty. As for the music of the Follies, the early scores were grab bags by all and sundry. Nevertheless, it was Stamper and Buck who articulated Follies song style, to be imitated by other Follies songwriters. There were as well the au courant songs, spoofing events of cultural interest. HE: How do you do, my dear, I only wish that you were here. HE: How is the fair out there, they tell me that it is a bear.
In a book show, one had to tend the plot motion with love songs, character songs, and the like. There was a lot of housekeeping to be done. In all, the Follies seemed an ideal proposition because, unlike story shows, it had extra helpings of the good parts, especially star turns and visual spectacle. Ziegfeld had launched his Broadway career in story shows—all his Anna Held titles, from the revival of A Parlor Match already spoken of to Miss Innocencewere book musicals, and he put on others at the time.
But from the very first edition it was thoroughly Americanized, Broadwayized, Ziegfeldized. The revue annuals proliferated nonetheless: the folksy revue, from our old friend Raymond Hitchcock, Hitchy Koo — And of course there would be the fumbly, cheap revue from the Shuberts: The Passing Show —, —along with Artists and Models —, which title at least sounded edgy and daring.
Two of the revue annuals managed to imitate Ziegfeld without imitating him—that is, adopting his form with significant modifications. Hitchcock, for instance, left out the showgirls. George White sought the best in music, first using George Gershwin with lyricist B. The Music Box Revues hewed closely to Ziegfeld, especially in their capitalization. As late as the turn of the century, the stage was truly a national construction. It was centered on Broadway, but there was much creative activity in other regions; Chicago had almost as many theatres as New York.
However, the expansion of theatre—more playhouses, new producers to fill them with software, larger audiences attracted by the hoopla—in the s and s made New York more than the center of activity: the source of it. After the Follies, we can speak of the concept of Big Broadway, in which imposing powers combine not just to entertain but impress the public, urge on the art.
Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. But if the composer and lyricist have arrived, the bookwriter of quality is rare. That will change within the s. Still, one technical problem will hobble the musical till the s, one that we have already touched on: set design. This procedure, still experimental in the s, was not wholly in use till the s.
In the s, none of this was possible. As in the early days of Victor Herbert, shows kept to one set per act, or alternated each big scene with those aforementioned short scenes in one while the stagehands, out of sight, changed the decorand so on. Revue and extravaganza were more generous, but most musicals held to one or two main locations per act.
What, all of them? And how did they get into her apartment? Veteran librettists used a work-around, constructing a dramatis personae in which almost everybody already knew everybody else. The only outsiders were the evil uncle and his henchmen and his niece and nephew, all of whom quickly made themselves at home. Amusingly, the show began with a surprise.
Still, one set per act made everything easier, especially in three-act pieces. The question is: has the Bible man— engaged in holy work, after all—been intimate with his charities, or is he purely philanthropic? Extremely gifted but eventually sidelined by tuberculosis, Youmans enjoyed little more than a decade of stage work, including two huge hits, Wildflower and Hit the Deck!
Yet the book has some thematic content, for young Nanette is trying to break out of genderist confines, and almost everyone else is scheming to make or spend money—even Pauline, the maid. The show is so twenties that Sandy Wilson used it as his template for a nostalgic English piece, The Boy Friend London, ; New York,with an all-pastiche score. Speaking of Rodgers and Hart, Dearest Enemy was another three-act work, though it used one set twice.
The other pieces are either solo bass improvisations - one for each musician - or duets, making this an incredibly varied and at the same time balanced album, despite the restrictions of the line-up.
The sounds of the individual instruments are extremely well captured and remain identifiable throughout, which allows for a clarity and sharpness of interaction even in the deepest plucked tones. It's hard to say whether the music is composed at times, yet it is clear that some patterns emerge and that every track has its own character and vision, offering us incredible sonic experiences, not only in the long " Rotations ", which gradually evolves from repetitive plucked and bowed phrases into absolute sonic mayhem, but also in the shorter pieces such as " Interlude 1 ", which sounds like little girls hopping in the street, to the more dark and ominous sounds of " Inside ".
The great risk about bringing like-minded musicians playing the same instrument in one band, is that you risk having music that is focused on the instrument, and that is a pitfall which is gloriously avoided here. The music itself stands at the center of the performance, but it could only be brought to live by having these instruments and musicians. Of all the albums in the review list here, this is possibly the one that will be most compelling to non-bass players.
A great album. The composition consists of six parts, totalling a little more than half an hour. The overall result is probably less than expected, which may be the result of the impossibility to capture all these instruments perfectly by the sound engineer.
Sure, there is lots to hear, with moments of obvious tension and drama, yet it comes across as if the gimmick of setting up a performance with fifty bassists seemed more important than the actual quality of the music. I'm sure that was not the intention. Over the years he has trodden a very consistent stylistic path, which has naturally developed during the course of time and can be clearly heard when listening to music from his back catalogue.
His early albums are adorned with pin-up style photos of himself which any self-respecting pop star would love to have, whilst the music contained inside is completely avant-garde yet also very personal in style. Having carefully built this calm and relaxed soundscape an electronic buzz-saw type sound then gate crashes the scene completely cutting through the musical fabric in stark disparity.
This contrast of sounds seems to be something that is part of his compositional principles where timbres are carefully chosen not just for their moment-to-moment dynamism but also for the overall shape and structure of the piece. Just as important within that strategy is the use of silence, which Miguel uses to heighten the effect of his music. These musicians are not employed on all tracks but appear in carefully handpicked combinations over each of the three pieces.
By Stefan Wood " Monk's Mood " is a loving and hard swinging tribute to the great jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk, a live session with two recording dates, in June of and December of Featured are two veteran musicians who have imbibed Monk's music throughout their careers, continuing to promote his music as well as their own -- saxophonist Steve Lacy and pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach.
Wolfgang Schmidtke plays alto and soprano sax, as well as bass clarinet, leading the ten person orchestra on a variety of tunes by Monk and by Lacy. The music is energetic and very fluid -- there are no ponderous or overly meditative moments.
Once the performance starts, the band comes out charging! Standout tunes are the opening track " Blinks ," written by Lacy, a strong hard bop tune with great playing by either Lacy or Schmidtke, strongly evoking the percussive piano playing of Monk and his signature hesitations.
Monk's " Introspection " is a wild, almost free form version featuring Lacy or Schmidtke with a Coltrane like spiritual blowing that evokes Coltrane's Africa Brass.
Another Lacy tune, " Esteem ," showcases von Schlippenbach as he provides Monk like odd key signatures and phrasings. Overall, one gets the feeling of a deep love for the music, as well as it being so ingrained and rehearsed that the tunes seem effortless, dynamic and fun.
The humor, quirkiness and intelligence of Monk is more apparent as a result, and everyone feels so loose that it feels spontaneous. By Stef Probably the hardest thing to explain or even share with somebody else is the esthetic beauty of sound. You can only experience it, and this album is a great introduction to that concept. Great improvised music is often played outside of fixed genres, looking for innovations and moving boundaries, while at the same time finding a common language for the musicians involved.
Again, this album is a great example of this. The band is led by Didier Petit, who wrote all but one of the pieces, on cello and voice, with Miya Masaoka on koto, Xu Fengxia on guzheng and voice, Sylvain Kassap on clarinets and Larry Ochs on tenor and sopranino saxophones. The outcome is exceptional, because there is no such thing as continental cultural divides, no such things as incompatible instruments, while at the same time all musicians are true to their own voice and sound, even if that sound by itself goes beyond the tradition of their respective instruments.
You can call the result magic, and that's probably what it is. The music flows slowly, with all instruments cautiously contributing to the overall sounds, weaving phrases together on a bright canvas of sky, full of respect for each other, full of carefully added touches of emphasis, finding their way through the roadmap that Petit sketched. As such, it is hard to speak of compositional structure, with themes or harmonic guidelines or repetitive patterns even.
There is no sense of urgency, no sense of self even, no soloing, no sense of drama, just instruments beautifully contributing to the whole. The music flows, from one musician to the other, with phrases coming and going like waves on a stream, and all this with a deep emotional, or even spiritual, authenticity, full of fragile and sensitive moments while being at the same time direct and stubborn.
In sum, a great and coherent musical vision, with character and soul, and with wonderful mastery of the instruments, and much stronger than the excerpts you find on Youtube, even if the one below will gives you a perspective on what you can expect. If you like this music, I can easily recommend two albums also with Miya Masaoka and Larry Ochs, which received a five-star rating. By Stefan Wood Akio Suzuki is known as a sound artist, one who examines the concept of making sounds, how it is heard, and the relationships between it and the listener.
For over 55 years he has devoted his art to the desire and art of listening to sounds, and he has performed internationally at galleries and performance spaces. Mu Ro Bi Ko is a live recording of a performance in Milano, Italy, playing the Analapos an echo instrument that Suzuki inventedrocks, and a glass harmonica. It is only 34 minutes long, comprising of three tracks. Analaposrunning over 11 minutes, is a very concentrated effort comprising of sounds, vocals, etc.
The use of silence is very important, as one becomes very aware of it in relation to the sounds, like positive and negative. Stones at just over six minutes is percussion using stones. Glass Harmonicathe final piece, at over 15 minutes, is the most interesting track, as Suzuki seems to cull from a history of Japanese percussive music with a battery of rhythms and sounds, delicate and loud. Mu Ro Bi Ko as a sound performance piece is an example of an experienced artist at work, and for those who are interested in sonic art, this is a welcome addition.
Next to this duo, guitarist Ron Anderson is the odd man out here. Here, however, his penchant for spacious melodicism is for the most part overruled by his collaborators. So, what we have here is a one-hour-plus recording on the gnarly end of the free improv spectrum. In other moments, though, Maximalism sounds menacing rather than cartoonish: The sprawling minute piece that is track 3 proceeds in a volcanic manner, spewing out white-hot chunks of sax- and slide-guitar-noise while Walter adds ramshackle double-kick patterns that sound as though a Poltergeist had hijacked his kit.
In the second half of said track, Pitsiokos trades his sax for electronics to produce chirping and hissing noises that recall an excited R2-D2. Of course, this attempt was and is certainly not completely alien to free jazz practitioners, but Maximalism goes beyond the relative freedom of even the freest jazz record, eschewing, for the most part, chords and melodies in favor of an emphasis on sound as such.
They feature an unusual combination of instruments for a quartet -- saxophone, sousaphone, vibraphone, and drums. The intent is to create different sonic textures than one would expect from a standard jazz quartet tuba and vibraphone replacing piano and bass.
On the album " Mind the Gap, " they are joined by Tony Malaby, well known NYC based saxophonist whose playing ranges from post bop to free improv. The album starts strong with "Sound of Divorce", a Threadgill meets 60's Bobby Hutcherson era influenced tune, Debellafontaine providing the rhythms, Koerner delivering propulsive drumming and the others playing their instruments off one another.
Other stand out tracks are "Hymn aux lucioles," a very tender ballad, and the high energy track "Floating Head," featuring Caracci's vibe playing. Soro allows for a lot of freedom for the other musicians to playfully improvise in and out of the confines of his compositions, which allows for a loose playing style, and also at times lack of direction. There are a lot of confused moments -- a track that starts in one direction will suddenly pause and move elsewhere, unfocused or obtuse.
With the exception of Malaby, the musical chops don't sound very strong, as if they are not convinced or confident with certain pieces. Sometimes LP) playing feels derivative, not distinctive. When they are on, the group's personality comes through, a synthesis of post bop mannerism and free style improv, that acknowledges the past yet looks Sousa And Strauss In Reverse - Various - Hear Them Again (Vinyl.
It's a decent effort, yet the flaws are too apparent. Apart from the inevitable head shaking, his birthday prompted the release of this celebratory CD by Incus, the label founded by Oxley, Evan Parker and Derek Bailey in as a means of releasing improvised music that the large labels had no interest in taking on. CBS had a brief flirtation with the music in the late s, but dropped Oxley after two — now classic — albums: The Baptised Traveller and 4 Compositions for Sextet.
Oxley was a pivotal figure in the early days of British improv, having formed part of the Joseph Holbrooke Trio — along with Bailey guitar and Gavin Bryars bass — far from London in the outpost of Sheffield. That original version can only be heard in a brief rehearsal fragment, again a reflection of how recording technology and practices have changed.
Oxley was a firm supporter from an early stage, miking up his kit to extend the range of possible sounds and more importantly, subjecting them to real-time manipulation.
One senses a dissatisfaction with the available technology, and the limited processes available. Certainly, the electronics can sound rather crude and less resolved when judged by the standards of later technology. This might also have been for practical reasons, however: the drummer Paul Lytton — an admirer of Oxley and another proponent of live electronics — simply found the logistics of carrying the extra equipment to gigs, too much.
On this CD, Times is similar in conception: the sound of what appears to be vibrating wood, amplified to produce waves at different speeds. The Earth Sounds comprises the trio of Oxley amplified percussionIan Brighton guitar and Philipp Wachsmann violinwho produced the similar sounding — and titled — Sounds of the Soil 2 on February Papers.
It consists of static layers of pure sound: scrapes, plucks and harmonics natural and electronic in which everything is ensemble texture.
Again, the February Papers session — at about half the length — sounds rather more focussed. The other recording from is Kelsona duo with Paul Rutherford trombone and electronics. The highlight of the CD — and the longest contribution — is two pieces recorded at the Bracknell JazzFestival inby a quartet consisting of the established duo of Oxley unamplified drums and percussion and Derek Bailey guitar with two performers from the next generation of improvisers: Pat Thomas keyboards and Matt Wand sampler.
These are predominately sounds in themselves rather than a transformation of something else, and together Thomas and Wand provide a rapidly shifting mesh of pops, bleeps, thumps, screeches, radio blasts, and arpeggios.
This can prove difficult music for listeners, and the reasons are obvious. The sheer range of activity produces something that seems to be in an almost continual state of flux, with no narrative progress, and where nothing stands still long enough to allow the ear to settle and gain a foothold, it can feel like trying to grasp mist.
As a result, this is challenging music that does not deliver up its secrets easily, and requires patient and attentive listening, which many — even though musically sophisticated — are understandably, not prepared to undertake. I would be suspicious of anyone who claimed to be entirely comfortable with this music from the outset. His first really great work — Early One MorningTate — presents a variety of different components, unified by the industrial red paint, in which the interest is not in the components themselves so much as the changing relations between them, the different vectors and planes in which the weight and force of each part in relation to another is altered depending on the view.
Caro himself likened the work to a piece of music. Things come together, sometimes briefly — such as the odd dialogues between drums and drum machine — and move apart just as quickly. This is music of ever changing perspectives where not all of the musical parts need be given the same attention. Something at the periphery can move back into focus, and then retreat.
One element can remain fixed, such as a drum or guitar pattern — sometimes regular, other times disjointed — while other sounds move around it. Once one becomes attuned to this kind of music it can prove endlessly fascinating, while retaining an air of surprise. Ivo Perelman is a creative monsoon. Never one to shy away from interesting combinations, the latest downpour from this monsoon is another trifecta of releases on Leo Records.
Recently, it seems Ivo has fallen into a groove with Leo and is releasing 3 albums, twice a year in varying small group combinations. All members have worked together in previous combinations with Ivo and on record as a trio with Cama De Terra. The music is free flowing, with the entire album feeling as one long take broken up into bite size pieces. Its interesting going back and listening to the same trio from almost twenty years ago. The trio performing with Ivo in this quartet are long standing and the telepathy developed shows.
The interactions between Ivo and individuals in the band happen throughout and often. For moments Ivo will let the trio breathe before returning with his unique and individual vernacular on tenor. Given my affinity for The Edge, I had high hopes for this release but was also timid that my expectations could not be met. I am glad to say that those expectations were exceeded and this collection of improvisations resulted in an album that is my favorite from Ivo over the past couple years.
As a huge fan of Ivo and a fan of Matt Maneri, who here is on viola, I still was not sure what this duo would yield and if it could contain my attention for a full album. From the moment I hit play I realized two things.
From the onset of this album, Ivo and Matt play in unison, stepping and strolling together before running some back and forth on part two. The interesting connection is inherent through out.
From their ability to mimic each other or finishing improvisations on the same note, the duo pull off moments of magic over and over. His guitar-like approach at times is refreshing and keeps it interesting. In the end its just two men walking.
In the process of moving from an acoustic, mellower, and rather inaccessible approach towards a more electric and extroverted sound, Brio have also become angrier.
Magija Sa Đerdapa - Various - Grand Folk Hitovi (CD), Various - In The Mix Now Vol. 4 (CD), Inkey$ - FaltyDL - RA.170 (File, MP3), Nisei - Davide Cali* - Synchrony (File, MP3, Album), Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo - Grateful Dead* - Wake Of The Flood (CD, Album), Pickin Up The Pieces, Ticket To Ride - Carpenters - Yesterday Once More (Greatest Hits 1969 - 1983) (CD), Ooh Ooh My My Oh Oh - Various - Jazz Jam Session (Vinyl, LP), Luv Ya Sister - Olav Basoski - Water Fire Rhythm Love EP3 (Vinyl), Now Its Dark - Anthrax - State Of Euphoria (CD, Album), Death Of The Beast (Original Early Version) - Alan Menken, Howard Ashman - Beauty And The Beast (Ori, Bill Marx Trio* - My Son The Folk Swinger (Vinyl, LP)