HERE THE MAESTRO DIED
The world premier of Giacomo Puccini’s last opera “Turandot” was held at Milan’s La Scala on April 25, 1926, two years after his death. Arturo Toscanini conducted. Toward the end of the third act, Toscanini laid down his baton, turned to the audience and announced: “Here the Maestro died.” Puccini had died before finishing the opera. Subsequent performances at La Scala and elsewhere included the last few minutes of music composed by Franco Alfano using Puccini’s notes. A highlight of the opera is “Nessun Dorma,” probably the most famous aria in all of opera.
Down at the End of Lonely Street
Elvis Presley scored his first number one hit on the Billboard Pop 100 on this date in 1956. Recorded and released as a single in January, “Heartbreak Hotel” marked Presley’s debut on the RCA Victor record label . It spent seven weeks at number one, became his first million-seller, and was the best-selling single of 1956. The song was based on a newspaper article about a lonely man who committed suicide by jumping from a hotel window.
Sick in de Stomach, Part 4: Happy Birthday, Dear Albert
A full hour passed before Christian shouted to Basil. “Is it done yet?”
“This pesky turtle won’t stick his head out so’s I can bop it.”
Basil remained seated next to the tortoise for the rest of the afternoon, leaving only to refill his glass of rum every fifteen minutes or so. Christian and Mutton finally rejoined him.
“Y’know,” Basil confessed, “I sort of forgot which end this turtle’s head is suppose to come outten. Another thing. I got sort of hungry here smellin’ that soup cookin’ so I been having a few tastes now and then and y’know, it tastes sorta good. I think this here turtle’s been sitting next to it so long that it kinda got some turtle taste. I’ll bet if we just add a little sissy sherry, even ol’ Albert’ll like it.”
“Turtle, you say,” said Albert, taking another sip from the bowl that sat on the table in front of him. The others ringed the table, watching in anticipation.
“Caught ‘im myself,” said Basil, grinning.
“It tastes more like sherry with a lot of pepper in it,” said Albert, forcing another sip. By the time they had added the sherry, all that remained of the soup, thanks to the prolonged boiling and Basil’s frequent tasting, were a few charred leaves. Peaches had tried to perk up the bowl of hot sherry and leaves with a healthy dose of pepper. “Interesting leaves,” Albert mused. “My good sherry, I suspect.”
“Only the best for ol’ Albert.”
“I always preferred sherry in a glass, accompanied by a good cigar,” said Albert. “But it’s so much more delicate served hot with leaves floating in it. Perhaps you’ll let me savor it in solitude. I’m afraid I might spill a precious droplet or two with everyone watching. If you’d be so good as to bring a cigar when you return.”
They marched out, and when they returned five minutes later, all that remained of Albert’s birthday soup was a little dampness on the lips of his satisfied smile. Only Peaches noticed the curious puddle underneath the table.
“Thank you, my friends,” said Albert, lighting a cigar. “I only wish there were another bowlful, such is my appetite for turtle soup. Perhaps I’ll go to Guadeloupe tomorrow.”
“Here’s to ol’ Albert bein’ seventy,” said Basil, downing a glass of rum. “Happy birthday, Albert,” chorused the others. Albert smiled, and Peaches was compelled to recite: “Tiger, tiger, burning bright . . .”
Sick in de Stomach is one of the 15 stories from Calypso, Stories of the Caribbean, available as an ebook or in a print edition with real pages and everything.