Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tizku leshanim rabbot*

שנה טובה ומתוקה

*May you merit many years - the old Shepardic gretting for Rosh Hashanah

The response to which is: ne'imot ve-tovot (pleasant and good ones)
In the seventh month, on the first of the month, there shall be a sabbath for you, a remembrance with shofar blasts, a holy convocation.
Leviticus 16:24

Tonight begins the celebration of year 5772 in the Jewish Calendar - which is traditionally calculated by adding up all the ages of people mentioned in the Torah to pinpoint the date of Creation.  Though as someone wisely says its more symbolic than accurate and most Orthodox or Reform Jews believe that the world is certainly more than six thousand years old.

I extend to all my friends - those who are observing this High Holiday and those for whom it is an unknown custom - a wish for all our new days and new years: May you merit many years.  And indeed may they be pleasant and good ones.

28 settembre/September - Capodanno ebraico

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Lunedi Lunacy

Flash mobs are starting to lose some of their pizazz but they can still bring life to a street in the Market area of Ottawa on a drizzly Sunday afternoon. The good people at Ottawa's Greek Fest decided to liven up the afternoon to the well-known, perhaps too often played, but still captivating music that Mikis Theodorakis wrote for Zorba the Greek.

On all my trips to Greece I can't recall seeing it at any of the places we went where plates were broken except once when a waiter dropped one in Corinth - but apparently its expected by tourists searching for that "real" Greek experience. There are many explanations for that particularly Greek custom as an expression of "kefi" - the outpouring of joy, excitement and passion. Some say that it derives from ancient traditions and there are other schools of thought that suggest it has more modern origins

Many thanks to Cathy for passing this on and to my darling Yannis, Fotis and Marius in Athens - Μου λείπεις τόσο πολύ!

26 settembre/September - Santi Cosma e Damiano
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Memories of....

A few years back a well-known grocery store in Canada started marketing items - mostly sauces and condiments - under the name "Memories of....".

The whole campaign suggested that the use of these products would revive memories of exotic places visited, grandma's kitchen or delightful childhood events. I'm not sure how successful they were as aide-memories but as a campaign it was - and still is - successful. As I settle in to our new home I'm unpacking things that trigger memories of the past four years - exotic places visited, if not grandma's kitchen then certainly some exceptional nonne's kitchens that served up incredible food and again if not events from childhood then assuredly ones that fulfilled childhood dreams and gave delight.

I realized that with all the books, pamphlets, programmes and catalogues on hand plus the enumerable photos taken in the past four years I have enough material to do my own series of "Memories of .....". That and a look at the Post List shows a fair number of pieces on sights and cities that I started but didn't finish - perhaps completing them wouldn't be a bad idea while I still have "memories of ...". Now I must admit this idea could also be viewed as a rather pathetic attempt to hold on to Italy and what amounted to some of the most wonderful years of my life. If that's the case ... so be it - I'll also post a few things about life here in Bagdad on the Rideau as I once heard a Cabinet Minister call it.  That is - as Italy was for the past few years - my current reality so I'll deal with it. I'm looking at a calender that is filling up with some interesting concerts, dance, theatre and occasions with dear friends. Plus there is always the joys of the frozen canal, snow and -35c (before wind chill) to look forward to and capture with camera clicking and teeth a chattering.

Coming soon to a grocery shelf near you a computer near you:  Memories of .....  Italy.

24 settembre/September - Beata Vergine Maria della Mercede

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Frolic

Okay I just couldn't keep this one for Lunedi Lunacy - its just too funny. So here for our Friday Frolic is a touching story for the religious right or the righteously religious .

Many thanks to my darling Larry in Roma - miss you and Vin caro.

23 settembre/September - San Lino

Monday, September 19, 2011

Lunedi Lunacy

When they first appeared on the scene Raphael's little cherubs from his Sistine Chapel Sistine Madonna* had a certain silly charm. Now they've appeared on everything from note cards, to CD covers, to fridge magnets, to rolls of toilet paper. And I'm honestly getting tired of seeing their cherubic little faces peering out at me from card stands and souvenir shop - and I actually saw a fridge magnet of their smug little faces with OTTAWA - CANADA and a maple leaf emblazoned on it. Ottawa???? Canada???? Sistine Chapel Sistine anything???? Raphael???? - oh yeah I see the connection.

All this to say I'm sick and tired of these two and have a feeling that all this new found fame may well have led them down the paths of unrighteousness.

Wait till the National Enquirer gets a hold of this one!

And I just got a message from my friend - pastry chef and photographer extraordinaire - Anna in Rome to correct an impression that I've had for years.  And I will confess as I wrote the above I was trying to remember Raphael's in the Sistine Chapel; I knew that he had done tapestries but wondered about anything else.  I should have done my research!

Just one thing -- although they come from a painting called "The Sistine Madonna," they have nothing to do with the Sistine Chapel.  I discovered this in the mid-nineties, when I visted the Old Masters' Art Gallery in Dresden. Ever since, I've thought Dresden really gets the short end of the stick in all this, as most people think those cherubs are in Italy. Ciao, Anna! 

And she adds that she should have mentioned  that it was painted for a monastery in Piacenza.

19 settembre/September - San Gennaro

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Whether the Weather

It was almost zero and there was a mist rising from the canal this morning when I took the kids for their walk. It was a reminder that the cold nights and cooler days are just a foretaste of the winter to come. But this short cartoon by Konstantina Zafiri, created for the animation course at the Department of Graphic Design, T.E.I. of Athens, is a tongue-in-cheek but none the less potent reminder that some climate change is not seasonal.

Thanks to Gary for passing this one on.

17 settembre/September - San Roberto Bellarmino

Friday, September 16, 2011

On The Bill - Part II

Though the performance dates are ten years apart and the theatres they took place in are over 285 kms apart two of those old playbills I picked up in London in 1969 have a common thread:  Mr and Mrs Tayleure.

I know very little about the Tayleures other than that the spelling of their name though unusual for our time was the common spelling of what was to become Taylor in modern times and that Mr Tayleure's first name was John.  They were a theatrical couple who sometime between 1811 and 1821 moved from Liverpool to London.  I often speculated on what had occurred during that 10 years and what had befallen them when they made the journey from the  Theatre-Royal of the provinces to the Theatre-Royal of the metropolis.  At one point I thought that perhaps Mr Tayleure's career had taken an up-turn and in that time he had moved from playing secondary parts (Weazle in The Wheel of Fortune) to lead comic roles (Bombastes Furioso in the famous burlesque of the same name) while his good lady seem to have sunk to smaller parts.  Had perhaps many children and the gin bottle taken a toll on Mrs Tayleure's performances - her star ascending while her husband's rose?

I couldn't have been more wrong - my version being more Dickensian than Regency -  recent investigation revealed the story behind the Tayleure's lives after Liverpool.

The first playbill advertises an evening's entertainment at the Theatre Royal Liverpool on July 17, 1811.  It was the "last night but one of" an engagement by John Philip Kemble, with his sister Sarah Siddons the most renowned of the theatrical family.  Though known for his Coriolanus  and other Shakespearean roles Kemble also appeared in popular comedies such as Richard Cumberland's The Wheel of Fortune (1795).  Along side Mr Kemble were my Mr and Mrs Tayleure (née Grant)  who it appears were popular favourites with Liverpool theatre-goers.

They had been married in Liverpool and started their professional life in the theatre there.  John Tayleure was tall - he was called "six feet two of melancholy" by his friends - and it was often joked that the wonder was such a tall man could be such a low comedian.  He was compared to the more famous John Liston for his portrayal of bumbling servants and comic old men.  He played many of the older actor's signature roles in Liverpool and later when he and Mrs Tayleure moved to London. His wife - I have not been able to discover her first name as the custom at the time was to list actress as Miss or Mrs only - came from an acting family and was known for her comic portrayals of old women. They also toured the provinces and a review for their appearance at the Theatre-Royal Norwich in 1806 tells us that "Mr and Mrs Tayleure are very good performers.  Mrs T. plays old women's characters in a very good style."  However in 1830 the correspondent for the Tatler - a daily journal of literature and the stage - suggests that her portrayal of Lady Handy in Speed the Plough at Drury Lane did not live up to that of Mrs Davenport who had created the part. Even then critics could never agree.

The Theatre Royal, Williamson Square, Liverpool was rebuilt on its original (1772) site in 1802 and saw the appearance of many of the great performers of the period - John Philip Kemble, Charles Kemble, Sarah Siddons, Edmund Kean, John Vandenhoff and my two personal favorites: Mr and Mrs Tayleure.  The Theatre was closed in 1960 to make way for a planned new "Civic Centre".  For eight years it served as a cold storage depot and was finally torn down to make way for a new street.
The move to London was not an entirely successful one for Mr Tayleure as an actor.  Despite his appearances at both the the Haymarket and Drury Lane the London public were not entirely enamored of the "Lancashire Liston" and his engagements began to dwindle.  Perhaps the key lays in the nickname - was his style? his accent? too provincial for the big city audiences?

Though the area around the Theatre Royal The Haymarket has changed since John Nash's building was opened in July of 1821 the imposing facade with its six Corinthian columns still dominate the street.  What I saw on my last visit there in 2009 was an interior that had been gloriously restored and a tradition of great acting continued with Sir Ian McKellen, Roger Rees and Ronald Pickup in Waiting for Godot.
But if one career was on the wane another was on the ascent: according to a Mrs Cornwall Barron-Wilson the Tayleure's had been "prudent in pecuniary matters and are independent of the world and their profession."  Mr Tayleure had one of the largest collections of rare prints in London, if not indeed in England, and he turned his hobby to his profit.  He opened a gallery to the west of Saint Martin-in-the Fields where the public could view and purchase pieces from his accumulation of some 50,000 old and scarce prints of the theatre and the arts. 

Though his good wife appeared several times on the playbill the evening of July 10, 1821 Mr Tayleure only played the title character in William Barnes Rhodes popular burlesque Bombastes Furioso.  This had been one of John Liston's famous role and Tayleure had played it often in the Provinces.
Mrs Tayleure continued to accept engagements into her advancing years when the part suited her and the salary were good.  I was happy to find that not the gin bottle - though that is the better story - but solid middle-class English respectability accounted for the change in her professional life.

Mrs Tayleure appeared that evening in both the main piece and in one of the after-pieces - in both playing comic servants.  Though never a great star she was seldom out of work and due to her husband's business acumen was able to pick and choose her appearances.

Perhaps there is more than a whiff of serendipity in my finding these two playbills 40 years ago in an old map and print shop just around the corner from St Martin-in-the-Fields. Not all that far from where Mr Tayleure had set up his business selling old theatrical prints - never suspecting that 200 years later the fragile record of his own theatrical career would be up for sale.

16 settembre/ September - Santa Ludmilla di Boemia

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Lunedi Lunacy

Ah the innocence of bygone times. Political correctness was a term that meant you voted the way your father before you had voted; "gay" meant happy; Equality smacked of "communism"; and every dad wanted to be Jim Anderson.

And please understand that none of the following reflect the attitude of the management and are merely presented as historical documents.

Thanks to my friend Charlie for sending these over.

12 settembre/September - San Tesauro Beccaria

Sunday, September 11, 2011

April 1611 - September 2001

In the 490 years since Shakespeare penned this lyric for his Cymbeline the words perhaps have never resonated as much as they do today. I just heard them spoken by Christopher Plummer and I only wish I had recorded them as the quiet intensity he brought to the verse was a moving and an unintended tribute to those who died on this day ten years ago and those who have passed on since as a result of those horrific events.

Fear no more the heat o' the sun;
Nor the furious winter's rages,
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney sweepers come to dust.

Fear no more the frown of the great,
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke:
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dread thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan;
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renowned be thy grave!
William Shakespeare - Cymbeline
Act IV, Scene 2
April 1611

11 settembre/September - Requiem æternam dona eis

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Words Would Be Inadquate

11 settembre/September - Lux æterna luceat eis

Friday, September 09, 2011

Ain't It the Truth... Eh?

Perhaps someone should tell this to our politicians? Oh hell what's the point its more than three words and at least one of them has two syllables - they won't understand.

Thanks to Skip at Skip's House of Chaos for this one.

 09 settembre/September - San Brizio di Tours

Thursday, September 08, 2011

S is for Shoes.. or maybe Shirli

 'When I design a shoe I think about it as a sculpture to wear, an art piece you live with. You and your body affect its look and it affects yours. Footwear should have its life with and without being on the feet, on the contrary to cloths that exist only when being worn'.
Israeli freelance shoe designer
Now I know it may seem that I've revealed a streak of retifism during the four years I was in Italy but honestly I'm not turned on by shoes.  I just find that what designers expect women (and sometimes men) to put on their feet sometimes entertaining, often funny and frequently high art.    I do have other friends who's obsession with shoes does seem a tad unseemly - oh hi Shirli Happy Birthday this one is for you.





In my artistic footwear design the shoe is my canvas. The trigger to create a new piece comes when an idea, a concept and/or an image comes to mind. The combination of the image and footwear creates a new hybrid and the design/concept comes to life. The piece is a wearable sculpture. It is "alive" with/out the foot/body. Most of the inspirations are out of the "shoe-world", and give the footwear an extreme transformation. The result is usually humoristic with a unique point of view about footwear.
Kobi Levi




And my favourites:

Apparently Kobi is currently working on a collection of shoes for men.  I can hardly wait? 

Thanks to Elaine for passing these on - and I repeat I am not a retifist!

08 settembre/September - La Natività della Beata Vergine Maria

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

On The Bill - Part I

As the tedious process on unpacking, sorting, jettisoning and placing "stuff" continues there are a few constants that have been in many of the places I've called home in the past 60 odd years.  Amongst them a small crystal penguin given me by my colleague Norma Jean when I left Toronto, that infamous bell of my mother's, a Rosenthal bowl Laurent gave me our first Christmas, the Hirschfeld Josephine Baker and four old playbills that I brought back from my first trip to London in 1969. I had them framed the next year and they have always had a place in our various homes in Toronto, Ottawa, Warsaw, Aylmer, Rome and once again now in Ottawa.

As we arrange them the other day I decided to do a bit of research into the names and places mentioned on these sightly tattered and fragile old handbills that would be distributed in the streets, taverns and shops to highlight the theatrical delights that awaited audience in Liverpool, London and Toronto. Toronto?

Yes Toronto.  The most recent of them is a playbill from the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Toronto dated  June 6th 1854.  The Royal Lyceum was the first purpose built theatre in the city.  Opened in December of 1848, according to reports it was a noble edifice in the style of the times (I've been unable to find a photo or drawing).  Built by wealthy landowner John Ritchey it seated 750 people and was complete with orchestra pit, balcony, dressing rooms and gaslight.   For the next 26 years it as to be the temporary theatrical home of all the great performers as they passed through Toronto on their North American tours:  Sir Henry Irving, Ellen Terry, Lily Langtry and the divine Sarah Bernhardt were amongst the famous names that delight Toronto audience at the Royal Lyceum. And on July 8th, 1853 Luigi Arditi's opera company presented the first full length opera to be seen in the city:  Bellini's Norma with the Dutch soprano Rosa Devries singing the title role.  The playbill assures the spectator that it will be performed "With appropriate scenery, Dresses, Full Choruses Male and Female and a Magnificent Orchestra".

This photograph from the University of Illinois Theatrical Print Collection shows John Nickinson in his most famous role: Havresac in Napoleon's Old Guard.  At his side - as she often was on stage - Charlotte, his daughter and successor as manager at the Royal Lyceum in Toronto.

From 1851 until it was destroyed by fire in 1874 the Royal Lyceum was leased by the Nickinson Theatre Company - led first by John Nickinson then his daughter Charlotte (Nickinson) Morrison.  Until 1858 when she retired from the stage to marry the Toronto newspaper editor and critic Daniel Morrison, Charlotte was the leading lady of her father's company. After her husband's death in 1871 she took over the Royal Lyceum and went on to manage the Grand Opera House during its first seasons.  Other members of Nickinson's company included his daughters Virginia and Eliza and his second wife Elizabeth .J. Phillips, who he met while lessee of the Metropolitan Theatre in Hamilton.  After John Nickinson's death in 1864 Miss Phillips continue her appearances on stage in a 45 year career first as an ingenue and then as a leading character actress. The Nickinson Company toured throughout the continent but used Toronto and the Royal Lyceum as their home base, often being joined by a "guest star" to give a bit of added lustre to the season.

As I mentioned the playbill I found in a shop in London, of all places, is for a performance by the Nickinson Company on June 6th, 1854. For that week the British-born American actor C. W. Couldock was appearing with the Company as the title character in Richelieu, a historical drama of the type so dear to theatre goers of the time. At the start of his career Couldock was known for his Shakespearean roles and became one of the most beloved character actors of his time. His last appearance was on November 21, 1896 in Kansas City; for 59 of his 82 years he had been on stage, first in England and then America.  He died two years later at his home in New York City still much loved and respected amongst the members of his profession and theatre goers.
Color portrait of C. W. Couldo... Digital ID: 1627793. New York Public Library
In this portrait from the New York City Library Theatre collection,
drawn in 1897, artist C. A. Muller shows Couldock  in the popular play Won At Last.
He was particularly famous for his portrayal of Iago in Othello and that play marked his first professional appearance on stage but in the title role. In the New York Times Obituary a full, and I think very funny, discription of that debut appears in Couldock's own words.
In 1837, a year after my grandmother's death, I got a letter from the late William Oxberry, the comedian, to an actor named Burton, who played second old man at Sadler's Wells Theatre, who was about to have what was called a 'ticket night' – that is he was to receive half the proceeds of the tickets he sold. I had studied the Shakespearean drama pretty thoroughly and I wanted to play Othello. This I told Burton and I offered to take £10 worth of tickets if he would allow me to make my début at his benefit. He heard me recite the part, and obtained permission from his manager, Nelson Lee, to give me the opportunity to act it. I distributed my tickets among my friends, mostly clerks in wholesale houses and I was thus assured of the presense of a large favourable element in the audience.
Well, the night came, and I played the part. I had a very good actor to assist me as Iago in the person of M. T. Hicks, then quite prominent on the London stage. My friends encouraged me by lavish applause, and the audience as a whole, was disposed to be friendly. ..... I got through the performance quite well up to the last act, when, as I was about to stab Desdemona I found I had no dagger. I was embarrassed, of course, but an amateur will often get out of a difficulty better than an old stager, and so I imagined the blade and struck her with my fist.
The next day my friends, the clerks, subscribe £50 to aid me in continuing on the stage, and thus encouraged I resigned my situation and got an engagement playing 'utility' with a small travelling company......
New York Times - November 29, 1898.
Mr. C.W. Couldock as Cardinal ... Digital ID: 818290. New York Public Library
Again from the NYC Library Theatre collection this print by Frederick Chapman
shows Couldock in one of his later Shakespearean roles: Cardinal Wolsey in Henry VIII.
Richelieu or the Conspiracy was a very popular piece amongst the leading actors of the day: William Charles Macready commissioned it and Sir Henry Irving revived it four times.  It was filmed in 1935 starring the wonderful - but largely now forgotten - George Arliss with a young Maureen O'Sullivan as his co-star. Little known today its one claim to fame is that author Edward Bulwer-Lytton coined a well known phrase in a passage spoken by his leading character:
True, This! —
Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanters wand! — itself a nothing! —
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Cæsars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword —
States can be saved without it!
Bulwer-Lytton is also know for penning that immortal phrase: It was a dark and stormy night; ..... as the opening of his novel Paul Clifford.

The after-piece was also a popular farce of the time. Boots at the Swan was written in 1837 by Charles Selby, one of the prolific playwright-actors of the time. The part of Jacob was the calling card of Charles Peters, who became Eliza's husband the year he played the title character at the Royal Lyceum along with other members of the Nickinson clan. I notice that Charlotte and John are the only members of the family who did not seem to "do" farce.

One of the things that caught my eye on the poster was the bilingual tag at the bottom - well over a hundred years before official bilingualism in Canada.   Laurent suggests that it may have been there because at the time France was a close ally of England in the conflict in the Crimea.  Rather amusing in their eagerness to honour Napoleon III they manage to change his gender.  Perhaps even then there was a Commissioner of Official Language as it was corrected on future playbills.

7 settembre/September - Santa Regina

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