March 18, 1902: Italian Tenors Are a Lire a Dozen

Tenor Enrico Caruso recorded ten arias for the Gramophone & Typewriter Company in Milan, Italy. He was paid 100 pounds sterling, and was not required to do any typing. These acoustic recordings, recorded in a hotel room on March 18, 1902, created a win-win situation for both Caruso and the Gramophone Company. The gramophone, and its flat circular discs, quickly became victorious in the recording competition, besting both Thomas Edison’s phonograph cylinders and eight-track tapes. The gramophone recordings became best-sellers, helping to spread the 29-year-old Caruso’s fame.

Caruso was signed by London’s Royal Opera House for a season of appearances in eight different operas ranging from Verdi’s Aida to Don Giovanni by Mozart. His successful debut at Covent Garden occurred just two months after his recording session. The following year, Caruso traveled to New York City to take up a contract with the Metropolitan Opera.

By 1920, Caruso had made nearly 300 recordings. His 1904 recording of “Vesti la giubba” from Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci was the first sound recording to sell a million copies. All of these recordings are available today on CD, as digital downloads, and in garages throughout the world on eight-track tapes.

 

Ivan Was Probably a Baritone

Ivan IV Vasileyevich, known to his friends as Ivan the Terrible, died in 1584 while engaged in a particularly wicked game of chess. He rose to prominence, and some might say infamy, as the Grand Prince of Moscow a position he held from 1533 to 1547, when he declared himself the first ever Tsar of All the Russias, a title he held until his death. He was succeeded by his son, Feodor the Not So Terrible.

Historians disagree on the exact nature of his enigmatic personality. He was described as intelligent and devout, yet paranoid and given to rages, episodic outbreaks of mental instability, and late-night tweet storms.

He was also know as Ivan the Fearsome but is not to be confused with Ivan the Gorilla.

 

October 22, 1883: When the Fat Lady Sang

In April of 1880, a group of 22 men met at New York’s Delmonico’s restaurant. These were men of considerable wealth – Morgans, Vanderbilts, Roosevelts – nineteenth century industrialists, bankers, operaand builders.  Nevertheless, they were men excluded from the inner circles of the One Percent, because they were not “old money”: they were the nouveau riche, “brazen new money.” They met that April with the goal of upsetting the Big Apple cart.

The Academy of Music opera house was the opera venue in New York City; subscribers to its limited number of private boxes represented the highest stratum in New York society.  And it was a place where the old money families had circled the upper crust wagons. Tired of being excluded, the insurrectionists at Delmonico’s determined to build a new opera house that would outshine the old Academy in every way. The new theater would include three tiers of private boxes in which New York’s powerful new industrial families could flaunt their wealth and reinforce their social prominence. Their vision became reality on October 22, 1883, when the Metropolitan Opera opened for business with a production of Gounod’s Faust.

The Academy of Music’s opera season folded just three years after the Met opened.  The building became a vaudeville house.

One hundred and thirty years later, The Metropolitan Opera is the largest classical music organization in North America, presenting more than two dozen operas each year in a season which lasts from late September through May. The operas are presented in a rotating repertory schedule with four different works staged each week. Several operas are presented in new productions each season, while the balance are revivals of productions from previous seasons — in all, over 200 performances in a season.

And today’s audiences are a blend of old money, new money and no money at all.

Inspirational Quote for 10/22/16

jmartin

 

October 22, 1883: When the Fat Lady Sang

In April of 1880, a group of 22 men met at New York’s Delmonico’s restaurant. These were men of considerable wealth – Morgans, Vanderbilts, Roosevelts – nineteenth century industrialists, bankers, operaand builders.  Nevertheless, they were men excluded from the inner circles of the One Percent, because they were not “old money”: they were the nouveau riche, “brazen new money.” They met that April with the goal of upsetting the Big Apple cart.

The Academy of Music opera house was the opera venue in New York City; subscribers to its limited number of private boxes represented the highest stratum in New York society.  And it was a place where the old money families had circled the upper crust wagons. Tired of being excluded, the insurrectionists at Delmonico’s determined to build a new opera house that would outshine the old Academy in every way. The new theater would include three tiers of private boxes in which New York’s powerful new industrial families could flaunt their wealth and reinforce their social prominence. Their vision became reality on October 22, 1883, when the Metropolitan Opera opened for business with a production of Gounod’s Faust.

The Academy of Music’s opera season folded just three years after the Met opened.  The building became a vaudeville house.

One hundred and thirty years later, The Metropolitan Opera is the largest classical music organization in North America, presenting more than two dozen operas each year in a season which lasts from late September through May. The operas are presented in a rotating repertory schedule with four different works staged each week. Several operas are presented in new productions each season, while the balance are revivals of productions from previous seasons — in all, over 200 performances in a season.

And today’s audiences are a blend of old money, new money and no money at all.

 

September 2, 1969: A Hole in the Wall

One_Armed_BanditCustomers lined up outside Chemical Bank in Rockville Center, New York, on September 2, 1969, to try their luck at the new one-armed bandit that was generously dispensing cash. They quickly realized that this was not a traditional slot machine finally making its way into New York. It was much more dependable at handing out its goodies than the gambling machine that had preceded it by a good 80 years. The new device was called an automated teller machine (ATM) or banking machine or cash machine. (In Britain, they call it a hole in the wall.) This new contraption did have one drawback; it required customers to have money in the bank in order to withdraw it.

lockhornsA similar device had appeared in London a couple of years earlier, the brainchild of an inventor who, while soaking in the tub imagined a vending machine that dispensed cash instead of chocolate bars.

Today there are well over a million ATMs located in holes in the wall practically everywhere. In some places, they’re conveniently right alongside one-armed bandits.

 

Folks can’t carry around money in their pocket. They’ve got to go to an ATM machine, and they’ve got to pay a few dollars to get their own dollars out of the machine. Who ever thought you’d pay cash to get cash? That’s where we’ve gotten to.  — Bill Janklow

 

September 2, 1935

“I think the music is so marvelous, I don’t believe I wrote it,” said George Gershwin as he signed his name to the 700-page completed orchestral score of the opera, Porgy and Bess on September 2, 1935. Critics pretty much agreed, calling it the first and finest American opera.

In February 1934, George and Ira Gershwin along with DuBose and Dorothy Heyward began their collaboration on a libretto, songs, and music for DuBose Heyward’s novel, Porgy, about African American life in the fictitious Catfish Row (based on the real-life Cabbage Row) in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 1920s.

porgy1During the summer of 1934, Gershwin spent several weeks at the Heyward’s beach cottage on Folly Island off the coast of Charleston, observing local customs and music, and joining in such rituals as “shouting” which involved rhythms created by hands and feet as accompaniment to spirituals.

The play opened at the end of September in Boston and early October in New York . The cast included the Juilliard-trained singers Anne Brown as Bess and Ruby Elzy as Serena; Todd Duncan, a Howard University music professor as Porgy; and vaudevillian John W. Bubbles as Sportin’ Life. The music, a brilliant synthesis of jazz, blues, and folk elements, has found a permanent spot in the American folk and popular repertoire – “I’ve Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’,” “Bess, You is My Woman Now,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and “Summertime.”

The play had a Washington D.C. run, during which Todd Duncan led the cast in a strike to protest the National Theater’s segregation policy, saying they would never play in a theater that barred them from purchasing tickets to certain seats because of race. Theater management gave in to this demand and for the first time an integrated audience attended the National Theater.

West Coast engagements proved a financial disaster, and the play folded, languishing in the United States for many years, while remaining popular in Europe and the Soviet Union. A complete production was not mounted on an American stage again until 1976, when the Houston Grand Opera staged a critically acclaimed revival.  In 1985, fifty years after its Broadway premier, the “folk opera” was performed by New York’s Metropolitan Opera, and has since become a permanent fixture in the American opera repertoire.