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Archive for the ‘Artist Anecdotes’ Category

Howard’s End or Venice Beach?

No doubt, the re-release of Howard’s End has inspired readers to pick up E.M. Forster’s brilliant novel only to discover amusing gems that never made the film. In one such scene, protagonist Margaret Schlegel tells her soon-to-be fiancé Henry Wilcox about a place she recently visited where “it’s all proteins and body-building, and people come up to you and beg your pardon, but you have such a beautiful aura.” Margaret then adds teasingly: “Never heard of an aura? I scrub at mine for hours!” This dialogue seems more befitting to the juice fanatics and Kombucha-swillers of modern-day Santa Monica or Venice Beach rather than the tea-sipping denizens of Edwardian England. Ah…Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

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Rossini’s Risky Business

“Please don’t throw me out the window!! I’m a MAESTRO!” Does Procrastination lead to Defenestration? Professor Robert Greenberg, in a wonderful lecture for the Teaching Company, read a letter in which opera composer Gioachino Rossini (nicknamed “The Italian Mozart”) confessed his last minute habits. According to Rossini: “Wait until the evening before opening night- nothing primes inspiration more than necessity! Whether it be the presence of a copyist waiting for your work or the prodding of an impresario tearing at his hair (In my time, all the impresarios of Italy were bald by 30). I wrote the overture to La Gazza Ladra the day of its opening- in the theater itself- where I was imprisoned by the director and under the direct surveillance of the stage hands who were instructed to throw my original text through the window, page by page,

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American opera singer Lillian Nordica’s Wacky Wedding

Lillian Nordica

Soprano Lillian Nordica’s Wacky Wedding Crime of Passion or Fairly Typical Operatic Engagement? * You Decide. by Leticia Marie Sanchez Lillian Nordica, the first American opera singer to perform at Bayreuth, gives a whole new meaning to the phrase shot gun wedding. While performing in New York, Lillian attracted the attentions of an American suitor which vexed her beau in Hungary. The gossipy hotel maid in the opera singer’s New York hotel suite reported the soprano’s every move to her boyfriend back home. Upon getting the scoop of the new suitor from the Chatty-Patty-cleaning-lady, Lilian’s Hungarian beau set sail for New York. As soon as he arrived in Manhattan, he showed up at the opera diva’s hotel room, not with a bouquet of freshly fragrant Magnolias for his lady, but brandishing the cold, steel barrel of a pistol. He pointed the

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Young Verdi: Altar Boy

Verdi

By Leticia Marie Sanchez       Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered Trademark In honor of the 200th birthday of Italian Composer Giuseppe Verdi, Cultural Cocktail Hour will be sharing anecdotes about the life of this illustrious maestro. In his Book of Musical Anecdotes, Norman Lebrecht relates a revealing incident from Verdi’s childhood. The seven-year-old Verdi, born into a modest family, once served as an altar boy at the church of Le Rencole. During Fête Day, the young boy heard the organ for the first time. Transported by the emanating musical harmonies, the child did not hear the priest’s request for water. Three times did the priest make his demand, to no avail. Enraged at the child with his head in the clouds, the priest struck a severe blow, pushing young Verdi down the three altar stairs, knocking him into unconsciousness. When

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Giotto and Dante

One of the most illustrious artists at the forefront of the Italian Renaissance, Giotto di Bondone, enjoyed a friendship with his contemporary, the celebrated author of the Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri. Legend has it that one day, Dante made an impudent comment to Giotto about the painter’s eight children, who according to Dante, were quite homely. “Giotto,” Dante inquired, “how can a man who creates such beautiful paintings create such ugly children?” “Well,” Giotto quipped, “I did make them in the dark.” Above Painting: Giotto Painting The Portrait Of Dante. 1852. D. G. Rossetti 

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Escape from the Doge Palace: Casanova and the buttered Gnocchi

  Cultural Cocktail Hour reports from the Secret Passageways of the Doge Palace, Venice. Escape from Doge Palace: Casanova and the Buttered Gnocchi by Leticia Marie Sanchez Photography and text © 2012 Leticia Marie Sanchez Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark In typical prison escapes, inmates rely on wires, jackhammers, or drills to plan their bold getaways. Not so for Casanova. The eighteenth century’s infamous Venetian ladies man successfully fled from the Doge Palace thanks to….. a heaping plate of buttered Gnocchi. Cultural Cocktail Hour visited the Doge Palace’s secret passageways, torture chambers, and gloomy inquisition spaces set up by the Doge’s spies. Our tour guide revealed that although Casanova’s cell was fully furnished (which is how he was able to cook up a plate of Gnocchi), the terror of being sequestered in a space by volatile rulers (who never even told

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The tumultuous love life of Richard Strauss- part deux- Strauss versus Stransky

Since so many of my readers enjoyed reading about Richard Strauss’s unusual engagement to the libretto-throwing singer Pauline De Ahna: Strange Love: the berserk engagement of Richard Strauss  we will now continue onto his roller coaster marriage. Due to a letter mix-up, his wife Pauline de Ahna filed for divorce. In his book, Richard Strauss, Tim Ashley reports that while Strauss was working in England, his wife opened a letter from a female opera fan. The fan mentioned looking for a composer at Union Bar and asked for opera tickets. The harmless letter caused Mrs. Strauss to foam at the mouth. She contacted an attorney, telegraphed Strauss (who was working in England) to let him know that she was filing for divorce, demanded to draw their life savings from a bank, and prepared to vacate their apartment.  Strauss telegraphed his wife

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Strange Love: the berserk engagement of Richard Strauss

by Leticia Marie Sanchez Some men plan a midnight stroll by the beach. Others a calm picnic under stars… Richard Strauss‘ engagement to temperamental soprano Pauline de Ahna involved: 1. being shrieked at by a soprano, having a musical score thrown at his head, and ducking flying objects Elizabeth Lundy, in her book, Secret Lives of Great Composers, reports that after being conducted by Strauss in an opera rehearsal, Miss Diva Pauline went ballistic over a difference of opinion over tempo. “Pauline threw her score at Strauss’s head…the entire orchestra tiptoed.. so they could listen to the screaming, shrieking, and occasional thuds as objects flew around the room… The musicians announced that in respect for their conductor and in protest of Pauline’s outrageous behavior, they would refuse to participate in any further production in which Fraulein de Ahna had a role. “That distresses me,” said Strauss,

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Jamming Django

Legend has it that prolific Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt enchanted Andrés Segovia with a jazz crepuscule. After the captivating performance Segovia asked if he could take a peek at the sheet music. Django laughed and replied, “I just made it up.”

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