Tag Archives: Dramatic arts

A pipe organ for a vaudevillian

charles-herbert-barritt-memorial

Charles Herbert Barritt (1869–1929, more generally known as Clifton Barritt) spent much of his life as a vaudevillian and music hall entertainer and his last years as a London publican.

Born in Manchester, Barritt was already treading the boards in his early twenties. Local newspaper notices chart a twelve-year career that took him from Ulster to the Isle of Man, Reigate to Grantham, and all points in between—there seems hardly a pier or stage that did not feature Barritt’s mellow baritone and perfect comic timing at some time between 1892 and 1904. One of his many favorable reviews praised his ability to imitate the styles of various composers, performers, and instruments, adding that he was “always funny, but without being vulgar.”

Barritt remains a notable figure to this day, as his funerary monument in London’s Hampstead Cemetery replicates the form of a life-size pipe organ (he was not known to play the organ at all).

This according to “‘Always funny, but without being vulgar’: Charles Herbert ‘Clifton’ Barritt (1869–1929), Hampstead Cemetery” by David Bingham (The London dead, 25 February 2015). Above, the monument in question.

Leave a comment

Filed under Curiosities, Dramatic arts, Humor, Iconography, Instruments

Kecak beyond tourism

cak-inovatif

Kecak, one of the most popular dramatic dance forms performed for tourists on Bali, was developed cooperatively by Balinese artists and Western expatriates—most prominently I Wayan Limbak and Walter Spies—with the explicit purpose of meeting the tastes and expectations of a Western audience.

Driven by economic considerations, in the late 1960s kecak was standardized into the kecak ramayana known today. Kecak ramayana does not appeal to Balinese audiences in an artistic sense; instead it is perceived as a traditional way of generating income for the community. In contrast, kecak kreasi or kecak kontemporer has been developed by local choreographers since the 1970s.

With its use of both pre-1960 traditional elements and Western contemporary dance, kecak kreasi is rooted in the contemporary Balinese performing arts scene. These dances appeal primarily to a Balinese audience, showing that kecak as a genre can be more than income from tourism; in its contemporary form it is valued by Balinese audiences on the basis of its artistic value.

This according to “Performing kecak: A Balinese dance tradition between daily routine and creative art” by Kendra Stepputat (Yearbook for traditional music XLIV [2012] pp. 49–70); this issue of Yearbook for traditional music, along with many others, is covered in our new RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text collection.

Above and below, Cak kolosal inovatif at SMA/SMK Negeri Bali Mandara in September 2016.

BONUS: A taste of the tourist version.

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, Curiosities, Dance, Dramatic arts

Benedetto Marcello: Cassandra

marcello cassandra

In 2016 A-R Editions published Benedetto Marcello: Cassandra, a new critical edition edited by Talya Berger.

Benedetto Marcello composed Cassandra in 1727 to a poem by Antonio Conti written at Marcello’s request. The work is a large-scale dramatic cantata for solo alto voice with unfigured basso continuo for the harpsichord; it was not published in Marcello’s lifetime.

Cassandra describes the events of the last years of Trojan War as told by the prophetess Cassandra. Unique in its formal design, the cantata blends arioso sections with recitatives and arias. The expressive vocal line conveys grief, rage, terror, and happiness, and demands vocal agility and technical command from the singer. The work was among the most popular of Marcello’s cantatas during the eighteenth century, and it continued to be performed regularly up to 40 years after it was composed.

Below, a performance by Giovanna Dissera Bragadin and Nicola Lamon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Baroque era, Dramatic arts, New editions

Kabuki animals

kabuki

In the eiri-kyōgenbon (illustrated editions of kabuki plot synopses) of the Genroku reign (1688–1704), evidence is found for the representation of exotic animals on the kabuki stage: tigers and elephants, regarded as Chinese animals, in plays of the Edo tradition, as fierce opponents of the protagonist; and peacocks in the Kamigata (Kyōto-Ōsaka) style, in kaichō scenes (the unveiling of a Buddhist image).

It is not clear whether stuffed prop animals were always used or if actors portrayed the animals; it seems certain that real animals were not used.

This according to “元禄歌舞伎に登場する動物” (Animals in Genroku kabuki) by 鎌倉 恵子 (Kamakura Keiko), an article included in Kabuki: Changes and prospects—International Symposium on the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (Tōkyō: Tōkyō Kokuritsu Bunkazai Kenkyūjo/National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, 1998, pp. 135–47).

Above, Bandō Mitsugorō I as a samurai subduing a tiger; below, a modern-day kabuki dragon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals, Asia, Dance, Dramatic arts

John Reed and Gilbert and Sullivan

john reed

The great Gilbert and Sullivan singer John Reed was renowned for urbanity, verbal inanity, touching humanity, antic insanity, and a singular lack of theatrical vanity.

Among the attributes that equipped Mr. Reed spectacularly well for the job were an elfin physique, fleetness of foot (he had been a prize-winning ballroom dancer as a young man) and, perhaps most important, the elocution lessons he had taken in his youth, which let him sail through the patter songs that are the hallmarks of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic baritone roles.

This according to “John Reed, master of Gilbert and Sullivan’s patter songs, dies at 94” by Margalit Fox (The New York times CLIX/54,965 [20 February 2010] p. A26).

Today would have been Reed’s 100th birthday! Above and below, one of his signature roles: Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner, in The Mikado.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dramatic arts, Performers

Meeting the Simpsons

The Simpsons

The one-minute opening of The Simpsons, a luscious symphonic overture complete with sound effects, introduces the five family characters plus the small-town suburban culture that surrounds them.

Inscribed within Hollywood’s cinematographic language, the music is a powerful generic marker often projecting absurdity and irony. Notwithstanding the pantomimic effect, these comedic contradictions address the dysfunctional life of the Simpsons, defining the American Dream in ways distinct from other television shows from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

This according to “Trope and irony in The Simpsons’ overture” by Martin Kutnowski (Popular music and society XXXI/5 [December 2008] pp. 599–616). Below, the sequence in question.

1 Comment

Filed under Dramatic arts, Humor

John Eccles: Incidental music

eccles incidental music

A-R Editions launched the series John Eccles: Incidental music in 2015 with Plays A–F (the volumes are sorted by the plays’ titles).

Eccles’s active theatrical career spanned a period of about 16 years, though he continued to compose occasionally for the theater after his semi-retirement in 1707. During his career he wrote incidental music for more than 70 plays, writing songs that fit perfectly within their dramatic contexts and that offered carefully tailored vehicles for his singers’ talents while remaining highly accessible in tone.

These plays were fundamentally collaborative ventures, and multiple composers often supplied the music; thus, this edition includes all the known songs and instrumental items for each play. Plot summaries of the plays are given along with relevant dialogue cues, and the songs are given in the order in which they appear in the drama (when known).

Below, an instrumental work that Eccles composed for a 1661 revival of John Fletcher’s The mad lover.

Leave a comment

Filed under Baroque era, Dramatic arts, New editions, New series

Saul, HWV 53

saul

In 2014 Carus-Verlag issued Saul, HWV 53, a critical edition of Händel’s oratorio that presents for the first time the version conducted by the composer himself.

Saul is one of the most dramatic of Händel’s oratorios, and to a greater extent than almost any other oratorio it reveals with its gripping power its proximity to opera of its era.

The score demands what was at the time Händel’s most varied orchestra; the normal opera orchestra of the day was augmented by trombones, harp, solo organ, glockenspiel, and large kettledrums. The choir functions for the first time as a central participant in dramatic action, while also undertaking commentating functions as in a Greek tragedy.

This new edition makes use for the first time of musical material revealed by the latest Händel research, based as its most important source on the conducting score from which the composer himself directed his performances. Only this research has shown which arias, choruses, recitatives, and instrumental pieces, after he had made numerous corrections in his autograph, Händel chose for his performances, and in what order they were given.

The result has produced, apart from many changes of details (e.g. autograph instructions concerning the use of the organ), an uncommon ordering of individual pieces, and passages with altered notes.

Below, a dramatic excerpt.

Leave a comment

Filed under Baroque era, Dramatic arts, New editions

The Takarazuka Revue

Takarazuka Revue

The Takarazuka Kagekidan (Takarazuka Revue) is a Japanese all-women musical theater troupe that delivers a wide array of performances, including Broadway musicals, traditional Japanese plays, and flashy Vegas-style revues.

Performers are assigned a stage gender that, with rare exceptions, they stick to and perform as throughout their time with the company. Women who play women on stage are referred to as musumeyaku, while those who portray men are called otokoyaku.

When comparing images of otokoyaku over time there is a palpable shift in appearance, from a look that seeks to portray a convincing male to a more androgynous aesthetic. While the otokoyaku’s shift in appearance from classically male to more androgynous and almost feminine may have been instigated by the male authorities of the Takarazuka Kagekidan, this different way of presenting themselves as male can in fact be seen as liberating and offering new opportunities for expression to the performers.

This according to “Dude looks like a lady: The otokoyaku’s transformation in Japan’s Takarazuka Revue” by Michelle Johnson, an essay included in Dance ACTions: Traditions and transformations (Birmingham: Society of Dance History Scholars, 2013, pp. 193–201).

Below, the opening of one of the musicals in the Rose of Versailles series, which provides the main examples in the article.

Leave a comment

Filed under Curiosities, Dramatic arts

Oscar Hammerstein and Carmen Jones

 

Oscar Hammerstein’s Americanization of Georges Bizet’s Carmen—68 years after its premiere—altered its form from the operatic genre to that of musical theater and transformed the place and time to a setting more familiar to a Broadway audience.

Instead of playing in Seville, Carmen Jones takes place in a city of the American South, African Americans become the sociological equivalent of Spanish gypsies, and the cigarette factory becomes the more topical World War II army parachute factory.

The change from bullfighting to boxing, a spectator sport that had become increasingly popular in America since the 1890s, demonstrates how Hammerstein distances the Carmen story from the world of Prosper Mérimée’s novella without diminishing its universal constants of human tragedy.

This according to “Carmen am Broadway: Oscar Hammersteins Carmen Jones” by Manfred Siebald, an essay included in Caecilia, Tosca, Carmen: Brüche und Kontinuitäten im Verhältnis von Musik und Welterleben (Tübingen: Francke Verlag, 2006, pp. 225–234).

Today is Hammerstein’s 120th birthday! Above, a portrait by Abbey Altson from 1943, the year of Carmen Jones’s premiere; below, the trailer for Otto Preminger’s 1954 film version.

1 Comment

Filed under Dramatic arts, Opera