Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mercoledi Musicale

One of the lovely things about the internet is being able to tap into the knowledge and enthusiasms of people from all over our small planet.  I have been very lucky in that respect in getting to know people with wide ranges of experiences and interests particularly musically.

Perhaps a bit frivolous for this posting but I
found this cartoon of Saint-Saëns conducting
his Carnival of the Animals delightful.
I've learned so much - discovered so much - from people such as my friend David in London - a man who has influenced my reading and listening habits greatly in the past seven years.  And not just things classical - I flew to London at his urging to catch Dame Edna in her one and only Panto and have eaten at three great London restaurants at his suggestion and in his and his diplomate's delightful company.  I've also met some delightful and interesting people of their acquaintance to add to the pleasure.

And the past month or so I've been getting suggestions on music - and jabs about Canadian politics, but those I ignore - from a FaceBook friend in New York City who is constantly coming up with intriguing musical selections.  One morning he had me pumped to Shostakovitch's #3 and another day he suggested this rather elegiac piece by Camille Saint-Saëns .

La Muse et le Poète pour violon, violoncelle et orchestre, op. 132 is a relatively unknown, late (1909 - 1910) piece from Saint-Saëns' vast catalogue.  There has been some attempt to assign instruments to the characters of the title however it appears that the name was given to the piece a time after its composition by Jacques Durand , the composer's publisher.

In 1909 at the age of 74 Saint-Saëns had just finished composing the world's first film score for  a silent costume drama called La Mort du duc de Guise.*  Exhausted and in need of a vacation he went to North Africa, his favourite destination.  He composed this seventeen-minute, single-movement piece while relaxing in Luxor in December of the year.   Originally scored as a  trio for violin, cello and piano,  the composer played the piano part himself at the 1910 premiere in London with the Belgian virtuoso Eugène Ysaÿe and the German cellist Joseph Hollmann.   The piece was originally intended as a memorial for Mme. J-Henry Carruette.  The later orchestration is a direct transcription of the piano part.   Despite the difficulty of the two solo parts, the work was never intended as a virtuoso piece; Saint-Saëns himself described it as "a conversation between the two instruments instead of a debate between two virtuosos."

This particular version is taken from a project to record all twenty-eight of Saint Saëns compositions for violin and orchestra and cello and orchestra.   It is a joint venture between The Queen Elizabeth Music Chapel - a music school founded in 1939 by Eugène Ysaÿe - and Zig Zag Territories.  Young violinists and cellist from the school are accompanied by the Liège Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of the Viennese conductor Christian Arming.  

February 26 - 1909: Kinemacolor, the first successful color motion picture process, is first shown to the general public at the Palace Theatre in London.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Lunedi Lunacy

Again best known for her - to me irritating - Hyacinth Bucket as I mentioned last week the marvelous Patricia Routledge is capable of so much more.  Her three Talking Heads monologues are miracles of subtle inflections and amongst the great moments recorded for television.  The combination of Alan Bennett's superb writing and Routledge's performances make these stories of ordinary people extra-ordinary theatre.

On the same level but in an entirely different "fach" is her comic performances - including this riotous "Kitty" series she did for Victoria Wood in the mid 1980s.  Closer to her Hyacinth though not far from her Miss Schofield in Bennett's A Woman of No Importance Routledge shows shows her versatility in looking at the same type of woman from a different angle.  Though many of the references are British-specific and often dated its the delivery that makes the wonderful non-sequiturs sparkle and bring a smile and more often outright laughter to my lips.

Her Miss Schofield in Bennett's monologue is available here.   Though it is lengthy it is well worth the watching for the sheer brilliance of the writing and the acting.

February 24 - 1387: King Charles III of Naples and Hungary is assassinated at Buda.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Happy First (Seventh ????) Birthday!*

I originally wrote this post four years ago (2010) to be published on the first anniversary of the births of The Hounds from Hell and then for some reason (a busy life, work, study...  laziness) didn't finish it.  So I thought that perhaps four years later I'd go back and revise it to reflect things that have changed since that first year.  Changes - if any - are in blue.  I've added a few pictures - some of which may well have appeared here before - from over the past few years.

*This was the original title but of course it should really read Happy Fifth (35?) Birthday! 

The first day we saw them - March 13, 2009 - they almost fit in my hand.
At the end of their first day with us - April 24, 2009.  It was an exhausting day for everyone.

The Hounds from Hell turned one year old this week - Nora actually last week (February 19), she's the older of the two. (Nicky was born on February 23 - they are from two different litters) There was no party and nobody got any presents but I was reminded of a friend who worked her way through collage as an events planner. At the time there was a television personality called LouLou or something like that, who was very popular in Quebec and she asked my friend to plan a birthday party for her poodle and the other dogs from the off-leash park in Outremont. The party mostly consisted of Loulou and her friends enjoy cocktails upstairs as the dogs scrapped, peed, craped, humped, slept and created mayhem amongst streamers and balloons downstairs. Every twenty minutes a progressively more festive Loulou would call down to ask how things were going - though since she purported to be a psychic you'd think she would have known? Apparently she  missed the guests destroying the rather elaborate doggie biscuit cake while a great Dane tried to hump her beloved Bijoux.  My friend said it was a total disaster but at least it paid for her books for that year's courses at University.

A year later in April, 2010 they fit their lovely big kid collars from Auntie Cecilia and pretty much
owned the house and had the humans trained the way they wanted them to be.

But I digress - back to the kids! In honour of their first fifth year I thought I'd post this adaptation I made of a great e-mail I got from my friend Charlie and added some pictures of the HFH from the past two months five years.

If I Didn't Have Two Dogs ....

  • All the carpets would be in place to cover those cold tiled and marble hardwood floors.
  • All flat surfaces, clothing, furniture, and cars would be free of hair.
These photos were part of the original post so I thought I'd leave them as is.

Nick really is intrigued and I might add distressed by suitcases - signs of an adventure to come or being left alone! And he does love to pose!
  • When the doorbell rings, it wouldn't sound like a kennel.
  • When the doorbell rings, I could get to the door without wading through barking, fuzzy bodies who beat me there.
Honestly Nicky hasn't been drinking - its just one of his favourite ways of laying - even when he was a puppy.

And another favoured position is this sort of pile-on - which was fine when they were puppies
- a bit more cumbersome when they got a bit bigger.

    • I could sit on the couch, at the computer or on my bed the way I wanted, without taking into consideration how much space several fur bodies would need to get comfortable.
    • I would be able to get up to answer the phone or the call of nature without having 10 kilos of fur glower at me for disturbing their rest.
    Our Nora has always had a Zen side to her - her mantra is the Daschie equivalent of "Kill the Squirrel".
    And Nicky is always more interested in things of - or more to the point on - the table.

    • I would have money, and no guilt when I go on a vacation.
    • I would not be on a first-name basis with 3 veterinarians, as I put their yet unborn grandkids through college.
    Semper iacebat in sole - the Daschie motto!
    And sometimes a girl has to forgo elegance to get that all important tan just right.

    • The most used words in my vocabulary would not be: NORA, NICKY, out, sit, down, come, NO, stay, and leave him/her/it ALONE.
    • I would not have to pretend to eat from the dog dish to establish who is the alpha or at least in my case beta in the household.
    • I would not talk ' baby talk' in French and English:  'Mange, mange!' 'DoeDoe'. "Who's the most beautiful girl/handsomest boy on Mcleod St
    • I would no longer have to spell the words W-A-L-K, T-R-E-A-T, G-O, R-I-D-E, B-I-S-C-U-I-T.
    Yeah well you can say: get off! as much as you want - if you turn the heat off outside
    in October we're planning on being warm and comfortable inside until it comes back on. 

    • I'd look forward to a gentle fall of rain without thinking "O God! Mud! Puddles!".
    • My pockets would not contain things like poop bags, treats and an extra leash.
    • Walks November through April would not entail unending struggles with boots and coats
    • It would not be necessary to go back into a snow bank to retrieve boots that have been kicked off by over-exuberant little back feet.

    You say Patriotic - I say just plain embarrassing!  And you want me to go out dressed like this?

      Our Nora - every vigilant!  Just in case some other dog walks by four floors down
      - she'll sound the warning!  And god help the dog that dares come up here!

      • I would not have to explain to concerned joggers that I am NOT "doing anything" to that dog its just that she's seen a squirrel and that's her hunting howl.  
      • Okay let me say this more slowly - she is a hunting dog,  yes she is small but you wouldn't want to see her take on that squirrel!
      Explain to me again why I left a warm patio in Roma for this?

      Yes red is "my colour" but honestly enough is really enough!
      • I would not look strangely at people who think having ONE dog/cat ties them down too much.
      • I would not have to answer the question "Don't two dogs really interfere with your life?" from people who don't understand that yes they do but the joy they bring into my life more than makes up for it.
      Your coffee table?  Where on earth did you get the idea it was your coffee table?

      Yep the Hounds from Hell are still pains in the butt but they are our pains in the butt and we love them almost as much as they love us - particularly if we have a two biscuits in hand.

      February 21 -  1739: Richard Palmer is identified at York Castle, by his former schoolteacher, as the outlaw Dick Turpin.

      Wednesday, February 19, 2014

      Mercoledi Musicale

      Memory can be a confusing thing. For some reason I thought that the first time I had seen Patricia Routledge on stage was with Alastair Sim at the 1969 Chichester Festival.  I have written previously about the comic delight that was Sim's Mr Posket in The Magistrate and that Patricia Routledge once said that it was through working with Sim that she perfected her comic timing.

      Patricia Routledge as Alice Challice in Darling of
      the Day
      , the 1968 musical that won her a Tony Award.
      However a quick look through Broadway records tells me that the first time I saw her was in Darling of the Day (it was called Married Alive when my friend Charlie and I saw it) on its pre-New York try-out in Toronto.  It starred Vincent Price and the lyrics were by E. Y. Harburg and the music by Julie Styne and despite the billing the real star was Patricia Routledge.  And yes it was a musical and that year - 1968 - she won the Tony Award as Leading Actress in a musical.

      What most people don't realize is that Hyacinthe Bucket was a trained singer and that many of her early stage appearances were in musicals.  And most people don't realize that in 1976 she also starred in Alan Jay Lerner and Leonard Bernstein's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue playing every American First Lady from Abigail Adams to Eleanor Roosevelt.  The show was a legendary flop but opening night Routledge stopped the show with Duet for One where she played both Julia Grant and Lucy Hayes on the day of Rutherford B. Hayes's inauguration.  With a simple re-angling of her bonnet and a slight change of accent she switched from one to the other in a brilliant display of her musical and dramatic abilities.  Bernstein would not allow an original cast recording so unfortunately only a less than perfect pirated recording of that opening night performance exists.

      Several years before that virtuosic performance she recorded an album of show tunes and romantic ballads released by RCA in 1973 under the title Presenting Patricia Routledge.  Unfortunately the orchestrations are the lush arrangements of the period that swamped many a lesser voice;  the simplicity of her singing and delivery ride over the throbbing violins and cut through the saccharine to the heart.

      Many standards of the time are included along with the occasional lesser known piece such as this lovely song from Jerry Herman's Dear World.

      I was one of those people who resisted the cloying Gallic charm of Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and I was never that fond of its hit song I Will Wait For You - even if it was mouthed by Catherine Deneuve.   I'm trying to think of a single singer of the time that didn't cover Michel LeGrand's song but not many gave it quite the same operatic treatment as Routledge does here.  Still can't say that I'm fond of it but she does a fine job and its the only other cut from this album I've been able to find.

      And somewhere out there in the ether there must be a copy of her singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the 1994 revival of Carousel at the National Theatre.   Her Nettie was universally praised in a highly praised production but unfortunately she didn't accompany the show on its transfer to New York.

      And by the way yesterday (February 18th) was her 85th birthday and she seems to still be going strong.

      February 19 - 1674: England and the Netherlands sign the Treaty of Westminster, ending the Third Anglo-Dutch War. A provision of the agreement transfers the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam to England, and it is renamed New York.
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      Monday, February 17, 2014

      Lunedi Lunacy

      "Parody is making a new wine that tastes like the old but has a slightly lethal effect."
      Dwight Macdonald
      Random House, 1960
      And there were few that could tramp out those grapes of wrath as well as the gang at SCTV:

      February 17 - 1863: A group of citizens of Geneva founded an International Committee for Relief to the Wounded, later known as the International Committee of the Red Cross.

      Saturday, February 15, 2014

      Cantrice, Castrati e otre Bestie - Part II

      During the years Anton Maria Zanetti welded his pen to capture the entertainment scene in Venice it was one of the great centres of opera in the world.  Unlike Napoli, Milano and other city-states on the Italian peninsula the theatres in La Serinissima had no royal patrons.  Theatres in the Republic were just like any other business - privately owned and run for a profit.  Teatro San Cassiano,  the first commercial theatre built exclusively for opera, had opened during Carnevale season in 1637.  In those days the celebrations went on for a longer period than today beginning just after Christmas and continuing until the first day of Lent.  It was still in operation during Zanetti's lifetime but had been joined by seven or eight major houses mainly those built by the Grimani family who included opera houses amongst their many other business investments.

      The Teatro San Giovanni Grisotomo was the site of a great ball in honour of Edward Augustus, Duke of York in June 1767.  The Venetians merchants were recognizing the new importance of England as a trading partner and displayed its finest for the Royal visitor.  Sadly the Duke was unable to report to his brother on the glorious occasion: he died later that summer as he returned from his Italian sojourn.

      The most famous of their theatres was the Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo, known today as the Teatro Malibran.  Opened during carnival in1678 it was the first of the Grimani chain and the most opulent theatre in the city.  The greatest singers of the time appeared there in works written by many of the great composers of the period.  Of course the likes of Scarlatti and Handel played second fiddle to the renowned singers they wrote for; and in the ranks of singers almost everyone played continuo to the (in)famous prime donne and castrati  of the time.   Zanetti was to capture these brilliant stars in their various personages as goddesses, gods, tragic queens and great heros but little, or no time, was spent immortalizing the mere composers of the music given these deities to sing.

      Antonio Maria Bernacchi (23 June 1685 – 1 March 1756) 


      I am giving Bernacchi pride of place because it was the caricature below that first caught my attention at the recent exhibition.  Zanetti's wittily catches the beauty and power of the voice as well as the slightly ludicrous appearance of the highly regarded contralto from Bologna.   Of course it is well known that, given the nature of the operation that gave them their voice, castrati developed differently physically.  Being robbed of the hormones need for normal growth their limbs were frequently disproportionate to the rest of their bodies, they were often overweight or freakishly tall for the period.  As formal portraits would often gloss over these physical difference we are left with Zanetti's impression - which being caricatures may unfairly exaggerate many of those deformities.  I searched for a portrait of Bernacchi but was unable to find anything other than the rather generic engraving at the right.  Most descriptions of him suggest that, though perhaps not quite as large as Zanetti suggests, he was large man and more than one writer of the time commented on it. When he appeared in London Mary Delany, a close friend of Handel, in one of her many correspondence wrote that: Bernacchi has a vast compass, his voice mellow and clear, but not so sweet as Senesino, his manner better; his person not so good, for he is as big as a Spanish friar.

      Bernacchi as Mitradate, Re di Ponte at Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo in 1723 shows what stuff
      he's made of - his trill could scale up one side and down the other of the Campanella.
      Bernacchi was born, trained and died in Bologna but his incredible technique took him well beyond the confines of Emilia-Romangna.  He was a student of the great Francesco Pistocchi who later was to despair of the style of singing that his pupil was to espouse.  On hearing the "new style" that Bernacchi had introduced into the opera house - an attempt to emulate the sound of an instrument with trills and roulades - his former master shook his head and cried:  Sadly for me, I taught you to sing, and you want to play (an instrument)!

      Enough people were enamoured of his abilities that he became known as Il Re dei cantatori  (the King of Singers) throughout Europe.  As well as being a popular favourite in Venice - 20 operas in the seasons between 1712 and 1724 alone -  he appeared in all of the major opera houses of Italy and became Handel's primo uomo in 1729-30 replacing Senesino, a singer much beloved by the English public.  Though he created major roles in Lotario (1729) and Partenope (1730) and sang in revivals of Giulio Cesare and Tolomeo, Bernacchi was not as highly regarded as the Sienese alto.  His voice was judged to be weak and in many ways defective however he covered these shortcomings with great skill and his singing was more admired by other musicians than by the public.

      Bernacchi in Gaetano Maria Schiassi's Demofonte at
      Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo during Carnivale 1735.
      He returned to Europe in 1730 and continued to appear on the stages of Italy and was a particular favourite of the Elector of Bavaria.  The one city missing from his later appearances was Napoli.  In the 1728 season he had appeared there along with his younger rival Giovanni Carestini and, as so often happened opinions and loyalties were divided along political as well as musical lines.  When contracts were being signed for the 1729 season Bernacchi demanded that Antonia Margarita Merighi, one of his pupils and possibly his "mistress" have her contract extended also.  And more to the point he would sign provided Carestini was not to be reengaged.  At first the Viceroy agreed but then a pro-Carestini party began to make noise; the Viceroy became weary of the controversy and turned the matter over to the impresario who dithered about it.  The older singer tore up his contract and grandly announce that he was a man sought after not seeking and would not stay in a country where he was not welcome.

      It was this episode that made him available to Handel and he, and Merighi, set sail for England.  Merighi was much admired by the British and Handel wrote several roles for her.  Her teacher, and protector, was to return to Europe after that one season whereas she continued to be a great favourite in London in subsequent seasons.

      Larger than life and twice as beplummed Antonio Bernacchi.
      If London had been less than a success Bernacchi was still highly regarded in Europe and continued to perform in Venice, Milan and on the major stages of Europe.  He retired from the stage in 1738 and returned to his native city a wealthy and respected citizen.  He gave the odd concert and composed a few duets and  churches pieces; but his remaining years were devoted to teaching.  He established a school to impart his techniques to a new generation of singers.  His students included Amadori, Mancini, Guarducci and amongst the last of his pupils was the great tenor Anton Raaf.  Many years later the elderly Raaf would create the title role in Mozart's Idomeno.  Though the tenor had arranged for the commission the young composer was not fond of his "antique" style of singing.  In one of his many letters written in Munich while preparing for the premiere he wrote that "his (Raaf's) style itself, the Bernacchi school, is not to my taste." 

      Bernacchi died in 1756 at the age of 71 - many of the castrati lived to a ripe old age - and was buried in his hometown.  His funeral was arranged by and paid for by Farinelli.  His former pupil and rival made sure that all the pomp appropriate to the burial of the "King of Singers" was observed.

      February 15 - 1954: Canada and the United States agree to construct the Distant Early Warning Line, a system of radar stations in the Arctic.

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      Wednesday, February 12, 2014

      Mercoledi Musicale

      Afternoon Tea - a very dressy affair
      if Frédéric Soulacroix is to be believed.
      With not working these days my whole scheduled has been knocked topsy-turvey.   On those mornings when I would get up at 0615, shower, shave and make myself ready to save the world for Canada and democracy a cup of tea was my traditional morning libation.  It had been ever thus.  However in the past few months at the somewhat more leisurely hour of 0830 a mokka pot of coffee (Italian of course) has been set a perking on the hob. 

      And the other thing that has been missing from my routine is the afternoon cuppa with my friend and colleague Lara.  Lara (not pictured left a the tea table but I just know she could so pull that dress off!) is an inveterate tea drinker and her collection of tea leaves is renowned in story and song in the halls and dungeons of Fort Pearson.  However as well as being a tea aficionado she is, amongst other things, a stern upholder of standards both in the workplace and in daily life,  particularly those standards mandated by the ISO in Geneva.   And it came as no surprise when just this week she sent an e-mail advising that that august and much revered institute has a standard for the correct brewing of tea.

      The abstract for ISO 3013 states that the purpose of said standard is:
      The method consists in extracting of soluble substances in dried tea leaf, containing in a porcelain or earthenware pot, by means of freshly boiling water, pouring of the liquor into a white porcelain or earthenware bowl, examination of the organoleptic properties of the infused leaf, and of the liquor with or without milk, or both.
      The details of the exact procedure can be found right here - though I am wondering at what point those of us who take sugar in our tea should be adding our "one lump or two?"

      A Lady knows how to set a fine tea table as shown in Albert Lynch's  Women Taking Tea. 
      Unless things have changed in my absence this is definitely not the office gathering for afternoon tea.
      It should be noted that the Royal Society of Chemistry issued its own paper on the correct method for brewing tea as a challenge in 2003.  There are some points of difference between the two which I'm sure will keep academics - and possibly Lara - discussing the matter over their Lapsang souchong for hours.  And as a further side note the work of the IOS on this important process was recognized with an Ig Nobel Prize in 1999.

      And all this leads us to a musical interlude that in its own fashion sings the praises of camellia sinensis and the infusions it produces.

      In the 1924 musical No No Nannette Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar had their young lovers toasting their romance in "Tea for Two".  It became one of the hit tunes of the period and was played in dance halls and on Victrolas  around the world.  In October 1927, the conductor Nikolai Malko and  Dmitri Shostakovich were sitting around Malko's Moscow apartment - who knows perhaps enjoying a cup of Russian Caravan straight from the ever-boiling samovar - and listening to a recording of Youman's tune.  The conductor bet Shostakovich 100 roubles that he couldn't reorchestrate the piece in an hour after that one hearing.  No surprise: Dmitri won and completed the arrangement in 45 minutes.  A catchy tune is a catchy tune and a great composer is a great composer!

      His "Tea for Two" arrangement, Opus 16, was first performed on 25 November 1928 and was incorporated into Tahiti Trot as an entracte in his ballet The Golden Age first performed in 1929. It is a great favourite with Russian orchestras (and others too) as an encore piece.  And it shows the lighter side of one of my favourite composers.

      And on that note I think I'll just warm up my white porcelain or glazed earthenware pot with a slightly serrated edge and  lid that fits loosely inside the pot (see further instructions at link above to ISO 3013 !)

      February 12 - 1974: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970, is exiled from the Soviet Union.
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      Monday, February 10, 2014

      Lunedi Lunacy

      To some she was Lady Peel; to others she was Beatrice Lillie; but at one time to everyone she was simply known as "the Funniest Woman in the World".

      Born in Toronto in 1894 she made her way from 86 Davenport Road to Drayton Manor House, Staffordshire with stops en route on the stages of London and New York.   During a 50 year career she appeared in over 40 revues and plays but strangely only one musical - High Spirits by her old friend Noel Coward.  It was her last stage appearance.

      She only had a handful of movies to her credit - her style just didn't work that well on celluloid - but her appearances in the early years of television were many.  From variety shows to talk shows her wit and madcap routines made her a welcome - and unpredictable - guest on Jack Parr, Johnny Carson and Ed Sullivan.   She had the singular honour of being the only star that Sullivan devoted an entire show to in the 23 years he was on television. 

      There are Fairies At the Bottom of Our Garden was a popular children's poem by Rose Fyleman that was set to music by Liza Lehmann in 1917.   By the time she sang this on Ed Sullivan it had long left the nursery, entered the realm of the cabaret and lost all innocence in the process. (And this goes out to my friend Ron with big hugs - its me!)

      She was having her hair done at Elizabeth Arden in Chicago when the wife of the founder of the Armour meat-packing company entered, noticed her, and complained loudly that she hadn't' realize there would be chorus girls present or she would not have come. Soon thereafter, as Lillie was leaving and saying goodbye to the manageress in the waiting room, in that voice that carried to the back row of the Schubert, she said, "You may tell the butcher's wife that Lady Peel has finished."

      She appeared briefly on Broadway as Auntie Mame taking over from Greer Garson and then played Patrick Dennis's indomitable Aunt in the West End premiere in 1958.   She clocked up 301 performances at the Adelphi in what was her first non-revue performance in many years.

      She loved telling this story on her friend Noel Coward:  Noel and I were in Paris once. Adjoining rooms, of course. One night, I felt mischievous, so I knocked on Noel's door and he asked, "Who is it?" I lowered my voice and said, "Hotel detective. Have you got a gentleman in your room?" He answered, "Just a minute, I'll ask him."

      In 1924 Queen Bea made her Broadway debut in André Charlot's Revue of 1924 and introduced a number that had been a great success in the West End: March with Me. This clips captures that madcap number as well as a glimpse of the wonderful Ed Wynn.

      During the Second World War she was an inveterate entertainer travelling throughout the various theatres of war.  It was while preparing to go on stage one evening in April 1942 that she learned of the death of her son Robert Peel.  He had been killed in action aboard HMS Tenedos in Colombo Harbour.  She refused to postpone the performance saying "I'll cry tomorrow."  And indeed she did and for many years refused to accept the fact that he would not return.

      Al Hirschfeld captures the indomitable Bea in one of her funniest sketches:  MiLady Dines Alone. 
      She ate the entire meal - corn on the cob, asparagus, lobster without taking her gloves off.
      Though she left Toronto while still in her teens she recalled the city with a great deal of affection.  In her book Every Other Inch a Lady she, perhaps with that Irish love of hyperbole inherited from her father, said:  A little bit of heaven had fallen down from the sky onto the shores of Lake Ontario. So they sprinkled it with stardust and called it Irish Toronto.  You have to wonder if her tongue wasn't pushing itself firmly in her cheek while she penned that sentence?

      In another passage she recalls being feted by Mayor Sam McBride ("with a brogue as thick as Irish coffee").  At the reception he said: Your singable beauty has endangered you to thousands. "I thanked him from the bottom of my galoshes."

      And here's our Bea, one more time, doing another of her signature pieces - sadly without the visual of her perched on a stool with her long string of pearls.  Noël Coward composed this song after he and Beatrice attended a beach party given by Elsa Maxwell in the south of France in 1937 or 1938 and was sung by Bea the the 1939 revue Set to Music The lyrics in the first stanza are based on a real life party:  Coward and Lillie were invited to "come as they were," but on arriving they discovered the other guests were all in formal attire.  Perhaps this explains why the singer claims it was hell to "stay as we were".  "Poor Grace" is a reference to opera singer and movie star Grace Moore who was also a guest. 

      It was during the making of Thoroughly Modern Millie in 1966 that it became apparent that Bea was suffering from the first stages of Alzheimer's.  She died in January 1989 and the lights in theatres in the West End and on Broadway were dimmed in tribute to "the Funniest Woman in the World!"

      February 10 - 1920: Jozef Haller de Hallenburg performs symbolic wedding of Poland to the sea, celebrating restitution of Polish access to open sea.

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      Saturday, February 08, 2014

      Cantrice, Castrati, Amici e Altre Bestie - Part I*

      When I went searching for the catalogue Dr Goldfarb had mentioned of the works of Antonio Maria Zanetti it never crossed my mind that there would have been a copy in the North Suburban Library System in Morton Grove, Illinois.  But there it was - a catalogue from an Italian exhibition in 1969 in the familiar (now yellowing) plastic library cover, with the Dewey Decimal numbers handwritten and attached to the spine.  It even had the original price sticker on the inside back cover:  L3,000.
      I found this obscure little catalogue thanks to the good graces of Dr Hilliard
      Goldfarb and the good people at AbeBooks.  It once graced the shelves of the
      North Suburban Library System in Morton Grove, Illinois.

      How did it get there?    What or who had brought this little hard covered treasure (from my point of view) from the Fondazione Giorgio Cini on Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore to the NSLS on Dempster St in Morton Grove?  Had one of the librarians been in Venice at the time of the exhibition?  Had some benefactor in the area who had travelled donated it?  Had it been given as a lot of books when someone's home was being cleared of a lifetime of accumulation?  There is no library card envelope on the inside back cover.  I find that a bit odd and it would suggest it never went into circulation.  It would have been fun to know how many times it had been taken off the shelf and checked out - if ever.   The stamp on the frontispiece showed that it had been withdrawn from circulation; it then found its way to a bookseller in Evanston and the AbeBooks website; and finally to my bookshelf.

      An engraving of A. M. Zanetti il Vecchio by
      A. Faldoni after a miniature by R. Carriera.
      However it got there, its here now and I've been thumbing through it with great delight.  Not all of the 350 caricatures catalogued are illustrated but enough to catch my fancy and share with you - along with anything I can find about Zanetti, his work and his subjects.

      First a little bit about Zanetti, some caricatures he did of family and friends and a few pokes he took at himself.

      Born into a Venetian family of standing in1679, Antonio Maria Zanetti (il Vecchio - the Older) was a renowned artist and art critic of the period.  A talented engraver and collector - his wise investments in maritime insurance gave him the wherewithal to follow his true vocation - he was adviser on collecting to the royal and noble families of France, England and Lichtenstein.  Aristocrats on The Grand Tour sought him out and through him met many of the major artistic figures of the Most Serene Republic.  Zanetti himself did a type of reverse Grand Tour and visited France and England - in London his purchases included three volumes of the etchings of Rembrandt. 

      Tintoretto's The Vision of St Peter is one of the ten paintings he did for his parish church of Madonna dell`Orto, it was completed in 1556 along with its companion piece The Decapitation of St Paul.
      Over two hundred years later Zanetti created the engraving based on Tintoretto's work. 
      He had been trained as a painter by Sebastiano Ricci but limited his activities to drawing and engraving.  Through  his association with the Ricci family - including Sebatiano's nephew Marco -  he became a member of a large artistic circle that included some of the finest painters, miniaturists, writers and musicians of La Serenissima.   Amongst his proteges were Rosalba Carriera, a highly regarded miniaturist and pastel painter of the period, and his nephew Anton Maria il giovane.   The Zanettis' Delle Antiche Statue Greche E Romane§ was one of the first illustrated catalogues of the period and detailed all the Greek and Roman sculptures in Venetian public collections.  

      Giove from Delle Antiche Statue Greche e Romane
      by Zanetti and his nephew.  It was the first catalogue
      of its kind and listed important works in the Venetian
      public collection.§§
      As an engraver Zanetti perfected the  Chiaroscuro woodcut, producing prints after paintings by many of the great artists of Venice:  Parmigianino, Tintoretto, Castiglione and others.  His prints were popular as souvenirs of that obligatory visit to Venice for the wealthy aristocrat and the starving artist alike.

      Zanetti was an avid collector of engraved gems (cameos, intaglio, seals, rings) and greatly enjoyed showing his collection to his many visitors.  He had catalogued his gems and, being Zanetti, captured them in detail with his burin.  The engravings were published in 1750 as Le gemme antiche.  Aemmae Antique - Dactylotheca with a Latin text by his friend Antonio Francesco Gori translated in to "vulgar Italian" by his nephew Girolamo.   Many visitors thought it was meant as an elaborate sales brochure but Zanetti refused all offers for anything from his beloved collection until the Duke of Marlborough convinced him to part with four gems and paid 1200 zecchini (gold coins) for them.  At a recent auction a copy of the Zanetti/Gori catalogue sold for over $30,000 USD.

       If his engravings,  prints, collections, knowledge and erudition made him a known name during his lifetime what little we know of him today, outside of art history circles, are his caricatures of his friends, family and the great entertainers of his day.   As with all good caricatures these pen and ink drawings - dashed off quickly if one of Zanetti's self-portraits is to be believed - capture the essence of people he was (mostly) gently having fun with.  There are three large collections of these "minor" works that that have survived:  Zanetti's own collection from the Fondazione Cini, the Consul Smith collection in the Queen's Royal Collection and the Algarotti collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario. British Consul Joseph Smith and Francesco Algarotti were members of Zanetti's artistic circle.  Zanetti had left his massive collection to the Republic, King George III purchased Smith's drawings in 1762 and I have not been able to find out anything about the fragmentary series in Toronto.

      The caption tells us that the masked figure is Zanetti "who is making a caricature of his dear Signora Germana Tesi."  Vittoria Tesi Tramontini was the most famous female contralto of her age and is shown as  she appeared as Diana in Endimione at S. Giovanni Grisostomo during the 1742 season.  She was a favourite subject of the caricaturist.
      Often the three collections have overlapping images though those in the Cini and AGO collections have inscriptions/descriptions which the Royal collection lack.  It would appear that Zanetti or one of his studio traced over existing caricatures to make copies - perhaps for distribution to friends or the subjects themselves.

      Until his death in 1767 at the age of 88 he remained active and according to friends still "displaying his full intellect".   Zanetti had no children and his vast collection went to his nephews and was soon thereafter dispersed.   By the late 1700s it was already noted with bitterness by an Abbott Lena that much of the marvelous collection had passed over the Alps and across the sea.

      Family, Friends and those Around Him

      Here are a few of the many quick portraits Zanetti did of the people in his circle or just people he saw in his travels around Venice and Europe.

      The Zanetti family all set for a night "in maschera".   The two tall figures have been identified
      as Zanetti himself and his niece Maria.  The others are labelled Zanetta, Alessandri
      and Nicola - but the note is not in Zanetti's handwriting

      According to Zanetti's note his friend and teacher Sebastian Ricci is looking pensive
      because he is losing money on the season at the Teatro San Cassiano.  Oddly there is
      no mention in any biography of Ricci being involved with the theatre but the financial
      troubles of an impressario would well account for his less than happy mien.
      Even though it is noted that she is an "amica dell'Autore,
      it's hard to imagine that Rosalba Carriera, the famous portrait
      painter, was greatly pleased with this caricature.

      This "cameriere" of Zanetti's is enjoying his coffee - possibly in
      one of the bars in the Piazza?  Plus ça change!

      La Principesssa Pia was the wife of the Hapsburg Ambassador to Venice.  He
      served first for Charles VI and then for Maria Therese as Queen of Hungary. 
      According to Girolamo Zanetti he had to resign his position in April of 1743 as he
      did not have the funds to sustain the lifestyle expected of an Ambassador.

      Zanetti also captured the Mother of Princepessa Pia - noses
      of distinction seem to run in the family.

      On a visit to San Artemio di Treviso in the Veneto  Zanneti sketched Maria,
      the cook at the Ca' Marchi.  And in it he has captured the spirit of every nonna
      or donna who has ever cooked in Italy!

      Zanetti notes that when he did this sketch his friend Marco Ricci was
      "i dolori" in pain and indeed the painter looks unwell.  There's a good
      possibility that this was drawn shortly before his death in 1730.

      If his self-caricatures are to be believed Zanetti was a tall and extremely thin man
      - in one of his later drawings he appears almost skeletal .

       Over the next few weeks I'm working on posting more of these delightful (to me at least) drawings with some history and anecdotes of the people being sketched, particularly the singers and dancers that Zanetti saw in the many opera houses in Venice.

      *Singers, Castrati, Friends and other Beasts

      § I was surprised - and thrilled - to find a complete copy of this remarkable catalogue in PDF format on the University of Heidelberg Library website.  §§The photo used is from the University copy.

      February 8 - 1855: The Devil's Footprints mysteriously appear in southern Devon.
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