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Rusalka – a water nymph or mermaid

I realize that opera isn’t usually in this blog’s purview, but this morning I discovered that I made a slight (ahem) mistake about the exact month of a blogathon. But the mistake has left me without a subject for today. I’ve also been meaning to review a book, but I’ve been in a reading rut and have not finished anything in two weeks! But I have been listening to opera and it has a slight connection to literature.

I greatly enjoy the music of Czech composer Antonin Dvorak and recently I’ve been listening to his opera “Rusalka.” The libretto was written by Jaroslav Kvapil, who based it on the fairy tales of Czech writers Karel Jaromír Erben and Božena Němcová. A rusalka is a water nymph (or mermaid), but the story bears a lot of similarity to two other stories: Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” and Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué’s “Undine.” I’m actually planning to read these two stories this year and I understand that “The Little Mermaid” has a less happy ending than the Disney film, making it closer to the opera. In an NPR article on the opera, it compares the story of the opera to the romance between Arwen and Aragorn in the movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings…if Aragorn had dumped Arwen after she gave up her immortality.

The opera’s most famous aria “Song to the Moon,” is so beautiful it almost makes me cry every time I hear it. The water nymph, Rusalka, is singing to the moon about her love for a human prince who periodically swims in the lake where she lives and she wants to be human, too, so she can embrace him. Of course, after her wish is granted, she loses her voice to the witch, Jezibaba, and then the prince proves unfaithful to her, but realizes his crime and sacrifices himself for her in death (though it doesn’t exactly save Rusalka).

This version of the song is sung by Leontyne Price.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2016 in Music

 

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Video

“You’re the Top”

So, I’m taking a brief break from my blog. A dearth of ideas (I’m clearly not watching enough movies right now) coupled with a busier week than usual has resulted in little blogging. I was straining to think of something for Friday, but then it occurred to me that chatter for the sake of chatter probably does not make for compelling reading. But I will be back Monday…and will still be online reading blog posts.

However, today I thought I would post a song that I absolutely adore. I’m in the process of learning the lyrics. At the moment, I keep singing the first few verses ad nauseam. “You’re the Top” was written by Cole Porter for his 1934 musical, “Anything Goes.” It was introduced by Ethel Merman. The musical never did get a good film adaptation, but has been revived multiple times on Broadway, most recently in 2011. I even got to see it once in Seattle (though I thought the tap dancing was a bit flaccid, but perhaps my standards are a bit high).

The lyrics are delightful, but filled with so many contemporary allusions that I went in search of an article that provides historical annotations to the lyrics, which I definitely recommend reading.

Here is a somewhat bleary video featuring Ethel Merman and Bing Crosby in the less than faithful 1936 film adaptation (half the songs were apparently removed to make way for songs written specifically for Crosby). But the rapport between them is fun. The lyrics have, however, been considerably modified.

And Ethel Merman again in a 1934 recording.

And I can’t leave out Ella Fitzgerald. She is pure pleasure to listen to.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2016 in Music

 

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Video

“Humorous Verbs – so specific that they’re vague”

In lieu of anything original to say on this slightly sleepy Wednesday, I thought I would instead share this hilarious video that Andrea Lundgren shared with me about using specific verbs to forbid action – thus revealing the absurdity of it.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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