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DONORS

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only a donor

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David Bruce: Opera Anecdotes

• Movie clichés sometimes come to life. Opera singer Mary Garden started her career at the top. She was in Paris studying singing, and she attended an Opera-Comique rehearsal of Louiseand fell in love with it. She acquired a copy of the score, and began studying it intensively. She attended performances of the opera, and she took notes on where the singers stood on stage and all the details of acting she could jot down. On Friday, April 13, 1900, she received a note telling her to go to the Opéra-Comique, where she received the news that the woman who regularly sang the title role of Louisewas ill and might not be able to perform, and so she was given a ticket and asked to sit in the audience that night just in case she were needed. Act 1 passed well, as there was little singing for the title character in it, but during the intermission the star singer rushed out of the opera house. Ms. Garden took her place, made a huge hit, and signed a well-paying contract at the Opéra-Comique.

• Soprano Marcella Sembrich managed not to let herself be overly impressed by the fame of other people or of herself. As a young student, she had the opportunity to demonstrate her talents before Franz Liszt. She wrote a friend, “Professor Schell, who takes great interest in me, wants me to meet Liszt when he comes. He wants me to sing and play for him. They say I can reach great achievement — but enough of that — what news of your garden?” Even after becoming famous, she retained her humility. When W.J. Henderson praised her by saying she was the most moving Violetta he had ever seen in La Traviata, she replied simply, “Don’t you remember Patti?” This humble personality may be one reason why, when Ms. Sembrich retired from opera in 1909 with a farewell performance at the Metropolitan Opera in one act each from Don PasqualeIl Barbiere di Siviglia, and La Traviata, Geraldine Farrar honored her by singing the small role of Flora in act 1 of La Traviata.

• A lucky break helped soprano Leslie Garrett get a job with the English National Opera. She was singing the part of Susanna in The Marriage of Figarowhen she received word that ENO managing director Lord Harewood would be present at a performance. Normally, Ms. Garrett paced herself so that she could get through all four acts. However, since Lord Harewood would be present, she decided to sing all-out from the very beginning and trust that some extra strength would providentially arrive to help her get through the end of the opera. She did sing all out from the very beginning, performing brilliantly in the first two acts, but unfortunately extra strength did not arrive, so she sang poorly in the last two acts. She thought that she blown her chances of ever singing in the English National Opera, but luck was with her. Lord Harewood had left after the first two acts, and shortly afterward she got a job singing with the ENO.

• Once a diva, always a diva. When soprano Nellie Melba appeared for the last time at Covent Garden, she gave a remarkable performance, and she seemed overwhelmed at the applause she received at the end of La Bohéme. The stagehands were worried that she would collapse because of all her emotion, so they drew the curtains. Ms. Melba immediately recovered completely and snapped at the stagehands, “Pull back those bloody curtains at once!” They did so, and in front of the audience she once again seemed overwhelmed by emotion and about to collapse.

• Emma Albani sometimes placed herself in ridiculous positions when acting in opera. While she was performing Desdemona to Signor Tamagno’s Otello, Signor Tamagno insisted that the stage contain three steps down which he would roll when he died after strangling Desdemona on a bed on a platform at the top of the stairs. Unfortunately, although the stage did have the three steps, it had no platform on which the bed could stand. Therefore, four men knelt on their hands and knees and supported the bed on which Ms. Albani, as Desdemona, was strangled.

• As a young singer, conductor Richard Tauber especially liked to sing the role of Narraboth in Salomebecause the character is killed 20 minutes into the opera, then dragged off stage. This meant that he could leave the theater early and catch the last showing of a movie if he wished. Unfortunately, during one performance, the guards forgot to drag him off stage, so he was forced to lie on the stage, breathing shallowly for an extra 90 minutes.

• Arturo Toscanini had a policy of allowing no encores, as he felt they interfered with the flow of the operas he conducted. Unfortunately, on the very last night of the 1902-1903 season, the La Scala audience insisted on the encore of a favorite aria from A Masked Ball. Toscanini tried several times to continue, but he was unable. Finally, he ran from the podium in disgust and an assistant conductor finished the opera.

• When Canadian figure skater Toller Cranston served as a judge at a Miss USA beauty pageant, the contestant from New York told him that she loved opera. However, in conversation, he found out that she had never been to the Met and that her favorite opera was Phantom of the Opera, so he told her, “My dear, don’t even think about going to La Traviata. You would hate it.”

• Arturo Toscanini was known for his fabulous memory, and he often memorized scores. At a performance of Tosca, he was seen consulting a score. During intermission, a couple of surprised music lovers asked one of the musicians if Toscanini was losing his memory. The musician replied, “No, the maestro is just running through Tannhauserfor tomorrow night.”

• In 1910, at an opera house in Vercelli, Piedmont, Italy, Tito Schipa sang the part of Alfredo in his first La Traviata. At the time, he had a very slight build, but the diva playing Violetta was very large. As Violetta crushed Alfredo to her bosom, a man in the audience shouted, “Don’t crush the poor boy — we want to hear him sing!”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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davidbrucehaiku: IF IT’S REAL, IS IT PARANOIA?

https://pixabay.com/en/forest-fog-dark-loneliness-fear-549664/

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IF IT’S REAL, IS IT PARANOIA?

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It follows me home

And paranoia begins

Then it eats my head

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Inspired by “GOODNIGHT MOON”:

Shivaree – Goodnight Moon (1999)

There’s a nail in the door

And there’s glass on the lawn

Tacks on the floor

And the TV is on

And I always sleep with my guns when you’re gone.

There’s a blade by the bed

And a phone in my hand

A dog on the floor

And some cash on the nightstand

When I’m all alone the dreaming stops

And I just can’t stand.

What should I do

I’m just a little baby

What if the lights go out

And maybe and then the wind just starts to moan

Outside the door he followed me home.

So goodnight moon

I want the sun

If it’s not here soon

I might be done

No it won’t be too soon

’til I say goodnight moon

There’s a shark in the pool

And a witch in the tree

A crazy old neighbor and he’s been watching me

And there’s footsteps loud and strong coming down the hall

Something’s under the bed

Now it’s out in the hedge

There’s a big black crow sitting on my window ledge

And I hear something scratching through the wall.

What should I do

I’m just a little baby

What if the lights go out

And maybe I just hate to be all alone

Outside the door he followed me home

So goodnight moonI want the sun

If it’s not here soon

I might be done

No it won’t be too soon

’til I say goodnight moon.