Archive for the Classical Category

On the Man Who Gave Us Eurhythmics

Posted in Classical, Music, Rock and Pop with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2017 by travsd

I think I just saw him get off the L train in Williamsburg

If you come expecting a post on the great 80s synth pop band starring Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart, I hope you will only be slightly disappointed. This post will explain the name of the band, but the bulk of it is about the ORIGINAL eurhythmics.

Eurhythmics was a music education technique devised by a radical pedagogue named Émile Jaques-Dalcroze (1865-1850). Ethnically French, Dalcroze was born in Austria, and studied in Switzerland, where he also began his teaching career. He set up his school in Germany in 1910. Anita Berber was one of his pupils! Basically Dalcroze felt that the prevailing way in which western music is generally taught, notated, read, etc, that is,  through repetitive exercises and rote memory, was fundamentally flawed, because there was a primary disconnect between the systemization and the meaning and purpose of music, which is, or ought to be, intensely emotional. While music is intellectual and abstract on one level, there is an important way it is very real and concrete — what it does to our bodies. We tense, we relax. Our pulse quickens, it slows down. We involuntarily tap our toes, nod our heads, sway, and otherwise move our bodies to the rhythm. Dalcroze devised an elaborate method for teaching music that doesn’t just take this basic fact into account, it makes it the primary entry point for encountering and learning to listen to, play, and compose music. Movement, integrating the whole body, becomes the way music is internalized. (It must be said most “untrained”, or self-trained musicians take an approach much closer to this than conventionally trained musicians do. It’s about going directly to “owning” the music. Good trained musicians eventually get to the same place but by a somewhat circuitous route that alienates a good portion of the music loving public — including your humble correspondent!)

At any rate, I’ve never taken in a course in this, much as I’d like to have done, but it seemed to me worth celebrating Dalcroze in a show biz context on this his birthday. By the way, Annie Lennox was formally trained at the Royal Academy of Music, where she undoubtedly first encountered Dalcroze’s theories, which she and Stewart named the band after, removing the “h”: Eurythmics. And my wife makes the amusing point that in certain photos, Dave Stewart definitely seems to be channeling Dalcroze:

Tomorrow at Dixon Place: A Great Free Opera

Posted in Classical, Indie Theatre, LEGIT, EXPERIMENTAL & MUSICAL THEATRE, Music, PLUGS with tags , , , , , , on February 3, 2017 by travsd


A couple of years ago we waxed enthusiastic about the samples we heard of The Hat, an opera-in-progress by Karen Siegel and Zsuzsanna Ardo at Opera on Tap’s New Brew series (same folks presenting our opera section tonight). Now Siegel and Ardo’s show is more topical than ever. It’s about the affair between a young Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger. It’s been both heartening and dismaying to know that sales of Ardent’s books have gone up the past few weeks (she’s the person who coined the phrase “the banality of evil” to describe the rise of the Nazis). And Heidegger of course, though one of the most brilliant existentialist philosophers of the 20th century, actually became a Nazi apologist! The romance sounded do distant and faraway the last time I heard it. Now it’s hitting terrifyingly close to home.

They’re presenting the whole thing tomorrow night at Dixon Place in the Lounge — admission is free. An edifying way and place in which to spend a winter evening.

This Friday: A Piece of My Rat Opera at “Opera on Tap”

Posted in Classical, ME, Music, My Shows, PLUGS with tags , , , , , on February 1, 2017 by travsd


This Friday, February 3 at 8pm, at Barbes in Park Slope, Opera on Tap will be showcasing a small section of Curse of the Rat-King, the opera-in-progress I’m developing with David Mallamud (with direction by Beth Greenberg). It’s part of their New Brew Series, 15-Day Hangover Edition. Also on the bill, world premieres by Daniel Felsenfeld and James Barry/Tim Braun. This program will include special guests Jenny Lee Mitchell and Maria Dessena.

Featuring Opera on Tap company members: Anne Hiatt, David Gordon, Kamala Sankaram, Sara Noble, Cameron Russell, Krista Wozniak, Seth Gilman & Christopher Berg. 

$10 suggested donation. Barbes is at 376 Ninth Street, Brooklyn. See you there, I hope!

Christmas in Italy!

Posted in Classical, Dance, Italian, Music with tags , , , on December 19, 2016 by travsd

Photo by Annie Watt

We got a badly needed lift yesterday, as well as a much overdue dose of Christmas spirit, and a highly welcome injection of “red sauce” directly into our veins, at Cristina Fontanelli’s 13th Annual “Christmas in Italy” Presentation at the Washington Irving Campus Landmark Theater near Gramercy Park.

Host Ornella Fado of the NYC-TV show Brindiamo! launched the festivities with welcoming remarks and then the mic was passed to world-renowned soprano Fontanelli, founder and prime mover of this heartwarming holiday event, which combines the best of high and popular cultural traditions, ever since its inception. The first half consisted primarily of well-known operatic selections by Italian composers like Verdi, Puccini and Rossini, ending on “The Italian Street Song” from Victor Herbert’s Naughty Marietta. We could have listened to her heavenly singing voice all night, but she generously shared the stage, singing a duet with tenor Blake Friedman (Rossini’s “La Danza”); sharing the spotlight with pianist David Maiullo, and mandolin players John La Barbera, Barry Mitterhoff, and Jay Posipanko; and even turning the stage over to accordionist Angelo Coppola, whom she said she discovered playing on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx’s Little Italy.

That last detail was the kind of touch that particularly endeared her to me, and I believe to most of her audience. Don’t get me wrong — she has the kind of gift, and the kind of skill, that’s liable to make you feel like a piker no matter what you do in life. If you’re a plumber, you’ll say “I’m okay at my job — but I sure wish I was as good at plumbing as she is at singing.” On the other hand, she has this down to earth personality that seemed to shrink the large auditorium down to the size of a family kitchen. Her aunt was there; Fontanelli dedicated a song to her, and got us all to join her in “Happy Birthday”. She greeted old friends in the audience. She grieved for the loss of her mother, who passed away this year. There were hundreds of us in the audience, but the distance between us seemed very small.

And the second half of the show was even warmer and more family-oriented, for that’s when the Christmas part of the program kicked in and we got to hear The Christmas in Italy Choir sing their beautiful rendition of “Silent Night”, and to watch recitals by large numbers of adorable children from The Little Language Studio and the Jersey City Ballet, and to meet the winners of the Miss Italia USA Scholarship Program, and to enjoy Plu Sayampol and his dancers. And to see Santa Claus!

As I’ve been bragging to everybody lately I’m 2% Italian, and that 2% was fully on the ascendant yesterday evening. Afterwards, we rapidly decided what was for dinner. I had the spaghetti and meatballs; my wife had the chicken parmesan. The 14th Annual concert is already on our calendar for next year.

Anna Fitziu

Posted in Classical, Singers, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2016 by travsd


Today is the birthday of Anna Fitziu (Anna Powell, 1887-1967). Originally from West Virginia, she started out in New York City as a chorus girl and singer in 1902 using the stage name Anna Fitzhugh, in honor of some of her posh colonial relations. For the next four years, she appeared in musical comedies, operettas and in vaudeville. From 1906 through 1915 she spent her time in Europe and South America, first studying voice in Paris and changing the spelling of her name to “Fitziu”. In 1915 she returned to America and played all the great American opera houses through her retirement in 1927, becoming known for her roles in Pagliacci, La Boheme, Tosca, Madama Butterfly and others. In 1927, shortly before her retirement she returned to vaudeville briefly with a performance at the Palace. The balance of her career was spent as a vocal instructor.

To learn more about vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


Jules Bledsoe

Posted in African American Interest, Broadway, Classical, Music, Singers, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2016 by travsd


Jules Bledsoe (Julius Lorenzo Cobb Bledsoe, 1897-1943), was an operatic baritone, one of the first African Americans to gain acclaim on the American stage. Much like Paul Robeson, in addition to having been a trained singer, he was also distinguished academically in other subjects. He was his class valedictorian at Bishop College in 1918; he studied medicine at Columbia University from 1920 to 1924. Sol Hurok presented him in his first professional concert at Aeolian Hall in 1924. While he went on to star in operas like Aida and Boris Godunov, he is best known for having been the first “Joe” in the original 1927 production of Show Boat. Like many big stars of the 20s, he also played big time vaudeville, including the Palace.

To learn more about  old school show biz especially vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


David Bispham

Posted in Classical, Music, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , on January 5, 2016 by travsd


Today is the birthday of the American operatic baritone David Bispham (1857-1921). Bispham’s should be a heartening story for all late bloomers. The son of Philadelphia Quakers, Bishop spent most of his twenties working in the wool business and in the office of a railroad, honing his singing talents in amateur productions and church choirs. It wasn’t until he was 28 years old that he went to Florence to study seriously. He made his professional debut in 1891. His American debut at the Metropolitan Opera (in Die Meistersinger) was in 1896, when he was nearly 40. There followed two decades of international fame as an opera star.

Bispham was one of the first acts Martin Beck booked for vaudeville’s Palace Theatre in 1913, prompting to Variety to chide him for his high brow aspirations. It didn’t hurt the Palace any.

To learn more about vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


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