David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Opera


• Early in her career, Ernestine Schumann-Heink studied the lead role of Carmen. At first, she learned the part by ear, then she studied various performances of Carmen, learning something from each performance. Unfortunately, after she sang the role professionally for the first time — in an emergency and without a rehearsal — the conductor, Gustav Mahler, laughed and said that she had memorized the mistakes of all the different Carmens she had seen and heard. (She was a hit, nevertheless.)

• Mezzo Mignon Dunn was five-foot-nine, and many of her fellow male opera singers were shorter than she, so on stage she often sang with her knees bent. However, one day director Tyrone Guthrie saw her doing that and asked, “You cow, what on earth are you doing?” Afterward, she sang with unbended knees.

• Tenor Giacomo Lauri-Volpi was proud of his sustained high notes. In Trovatore in Rome, he raised his sword and hit a sustained high-C note, but a curtain fell too quickly, in his opinion. Still singing the high-C note, he parted the curtain and brandished his sword, finishing the note when he felt like it.

• Each time soprano Birgit Nilsson returned to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, general manager Rudolf Bing got on his knees before her. After he had been knighted, he kneeled again at her return to the Met, and she told him, “You do that much better since you practiced it for the Queen.”


• Steve Earle’s life has been more interesting than most, although except for the music and the moments of happiness, that may not be a good thing. For example, in 1994 he kicked heroin — after spending four months in jail. Also, he had seven failed marriages before marrying fellow musician Allison Moorer. Mr. Earle says, “Trust me, when you’ve been married as many times as I have, you figure out that you’re at least part of the problem.” Giving up heroin and stopping being an alcoholic just might help marriage number eight to work. By the way, Mr. Earle is interested in politics, although some politicians are not interested in him. At a political event, a friend wanted a photograph of Mr. Earle with Al and Tipper Gore, but Mr. Earle says that the Gores “pretty much levitated [in] trying to avoid it.” During the 2008 Democratic Presidential primary contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Mr. Earle said, “It does make a difference to me if it’s Clinton or Obama, but I won’t publicly go on record to say which one I prefer. I’ve learned it probably doesn’t benefit the candidate for me to do that.”

• Mandy Patinkin is an excellent singer, although he is best known for his performance in Rob Reiner’s movie The Princess Bride, in which he said these famous lines: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” His singing has touched people. He says, “Generally, you have very little connection with the audience — to whoever is buying the CDs. But individuals have come up to me and said, ‘I can’t tell you how you got me through chemotherapy, or my father’s death, or the death of my child.’ You just don’t know how people are using the music.” During the 2008 United States Presidential campaign, he went door to door to urge people to vote for Barack Obama. Mr. Obama, who became President Obama, certainly had an enthusiastic organization. One irritated woman told him, “Will you tell your supervisors that four people have already come by today?” Mr. Patinkin remembers, “Then a minute later she came running over — I guess her neighbor had told her who I am — and she says, ‘Oh, my God. I’m so sorry. Will you come in and have some salmon?’ I said, ‘No, no. It’s OK. Just vote for Obama.’”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Buy:

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Music Recommendation: The Space Agency — “Teeside Guitar”


Music: “Teeside Guitar” from the album THE CELESTIAL SOUNDS OF THE SPACE AGENCY

Artist: The Space Agency

Artist Location: Hove, UK

Info: “Formed in 2002 by Simon Jones from England, Hiromi Jones from Japan & Andrew Bowler from Wales, they have released four albums of their unique, out of this world Instrumental Sounds.”

Christopher Miller (a fan) wrote, “This one is a buffet of stylings compared to their earlier releases. A few are old favorites (Bomb Pots). Some of it is just plain Weird (the Munchies). I would expect no less from the Space Agency! To Sum it up in a word … Eclectic. Favorite track: Bombay Potatoes.”

Simon Jones – Lead Guitar, Guitar 
Hiromi Jones – Baritone Guitar 
Andrew Bowler – Drums

Price: £1 (GBP) for track; 7£ (GBP) for 12-track album

Genre: Instrumental. Surf.


The Space Agency on Bandcamp