David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Language, Letters, Media

From Bruce Anecdotes

Language

• In 1921, a Metropolitan Opera production of Modest Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov featured Feodor Chaliapin singing the title role in Russian, while everyone else sang in Italian. This production was a great success.

• Jean Francaix set some bitter satires by Juvenal to music, but his friend Nadia Boulanger joked that the singers ought not to pronounce the words correctly to avoid scandalizing the audience.

Letters

• Many people hope to discover geniuses, but geniuses are rare. When cellist Pablo Casals wanted to go to Paris (for a second time) in 1899 to become a famous musician, he asked for a letter of introduction from Count Guillermo de Morphy to famed French conductor Charles Lamoureux. Mr. Lamoureux read the letter, and then he groaned, “Everyone thinks to discover genius.” However, he allowed Mr. Casals to audition for him the following day. After Mr. Casals played, Mr. Lamoureux, with tears in his eyes, told him, “You are one of the elect.”

• Adam Green, who became famous when the Moldy Peaches’ “Anyone Else But You” was featured in the hit movie Juno (which also made the other half of the Moldy Peaches, Kimya Dawson, famous), has something that he is really proud of. He has received a number of fan letters, including one from a French boy who gave him thanks because he wrote “such impersonal music,” but he is really proud of a letter that made its way to him although it was addressed in this way: “ADAM GREEN, U.S.A.”

Media

• Late in 2008, Amanda Palmer’s record company informed her that her latest music video needed to be edited. Why? Because her belly wasn’t flat enough. This shocked Ms. Palmer, who says, “I’m quite sensitive about my ‘fat’ little belly, so if I was overweight, I would have known about it, and I was excited because it looked so hot in the video. I was just amazed. I couldn’t see what in h*ll’s name they were talking about.” She wrote about the incident in her blog, and fans started sending in photographs of their own bellies to protest a culture that overvalues flat bellies. The fans even wrote such slogans as “Love thy belly” on their bellies before taking and sending in the photographs. These acts of activism became known as the Rebellyon.

• Humphrey Doulens, the publicity manager of coloratura soprano Lily Pons, once had what he thought was a great idea for a story. He told a newspaper in Greensboro, North Carolina, where Ms. Pons was singing, that she was a great fan of baseball and would be watching the World Series on TV. At first, the newspaper interview went well, with Ms. Pons telling the reporter how greatly she loved baseball. Unfortunately, during a lull in the interview, Ms. Pons asked the reporter about the World Series, “By the way, who is playing?” Nevertheless, Ms. Pons got a favorable front-page story

• In 1981, the Rolling Stones started a world tour. Usually, band members are willing to grant lots of interviews to media representatives in return for lots of publicity. On September 21, 1981, in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, Stones lead singer Mick Jaggar gave his only face-to-face interview of the worldwide tour. He allowed two girls, 12 and 13 years old, to interview him for their school newspaper.

• A reporter once interviewed Sergei Rachmaninoff, then filed a story that the famed pianist/composer was retiring. The next morning, after reading the story in the newspaper, Mr. Rachmaninoff cleared up the misunderstanding: “I merely said that I was going to bed.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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