Ballet manga, in which the heroine withstands numerous trials to become a notable dancer, is very popular among Japanese girls and women, and has greatly contributed to the establishment of ballet in Japan.
The genre emerged during the 1950s; with an increase in its popularity, more children began attending private ballet classes, since Japan had no official ballet schools. After some decades now, many Japanese dancers have begun winning international dancing competitions.
While most ballet manga is fictional, some examples have been based on the lives of famous ballet dancers such as Vaclav Nižinskij and Maria Tallchief.
This according to “The relationship between ballet and manga in Japan” by Yukiyo Hoshino, an essay included in Writing dancing/Dancing writing (Birmingham: Society of Dance History Scholars, 2014, pp. 103–106).
Above, the first volume of Swan, a popular serialized ballet manga from the 1970s; below, the related genre of ballet anime.
When Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was a little boy he was, as he described himself, “shy, clumsy, obedient, and uninterested in sport.”
He started piano lessons when he was nine, and these led indirectly to his second great artistic pursuit, drawing and painting. It took many years for him to try his hand at oils, but by the 1970s his two homes were filled with many testimonies to his skill. “It helps to release the tensions and strains of my profession,” he told an interviewer.
This according to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, mastersinger by Kenneth Whitton (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1981, pp. 16–17).
Today would have been Fischer-Dieskau’s 90th birthday! Above, a self-portrait from 1985; below, a brief film presenting several of his portraits.
BONUS: Fischer-Dieskau’s much-celebrated recording of Schubert’s Die Winterreise with Gerald Moore, from 1962.
Bach’s Brandenburgische Konzerte are not the epitome of absolute music, as some scholars contend; rather, they comprise an allegory of princely virtues. This reading of the works puts them in the framework of both Bach’s cantatas and the allegorical iconography that was common in the decorations of Baroque palaces.
Although not all the concertos were conceived in relation to the Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg, they were chosen for the cycle dedicated to him and are meant to reflect themes connecting him to particular figures in classical mythology: the hunter (Diana), the hero (Hercules), the patron of the arts (Apollo and the Muses), the shepherd (Pan), the lover (Venus and Mars), and the scholar (Athena).
This according to “Bachs mythologisches Geheimnis: Philip Pickett, Reinhard Goebel und das verborgene Programm der Brandenburgischen Konzerte” by Karl Böhmer (Concerto: Das Magazin für Alte Musik XII/109 [December–January 1995–96] pp. 15–17).
Above, Venus and Mars presenting arms to Aeneus by Gérard de Lairesse (1641–1711; click to enlarge). Below, the Freiburger Barockorchester performs the corresponding concerto.
Mozart’s wittiness is famously illuminated through many of his letters. Less known are his small humorous sketches, which appear here and there throughout his correspondence.
The sketches range from mysterious stick figures to bizarre caricatures; some are still riddles to scholars.
This according to “Mozart, der Zeichner” by Gabriele Ramsauer, an essay included in Mozart-Bilder–Bilder Mozarts: Ein Porträt zwischen Wunsch und Wirklichkeit (Salzburg: Pustet, 2013, pp. 25–28).
Above, a drawing at the top of a letter from Mozart to his cousin Maria Anna Thekla Mozart, known as Bäsle, dated 10 May 1780, titled Engel (Angel), with labels fig. I Kopf (head), fig. II Frißur (hairdo), fig. III Nasn (nose), fig. IV Brust (breast), fig. V Hals (throat), fig. VI Aug (eye); inscribed below VI: Hier ißt leer (Here is empty).
The full text of the letter (untranslated) is here; below, the finale of Mozart’s Ein musikalischer Spaß, which ends with his celebrated foray into polytonality.
The Archives de Paris holds 1200 registrations, mainly by instrument builders working in the former département of the Seine. The same company could have several different trademarks or hallmarks, either to differentiate among products or their quality, or due to various acquisitions or inheritances. In the 1890s trademarks for phonographic machines using cylinders or records, as well as for player pianos, were also registered.
These trademarks are rendered by labels, stamped imprints, dry point, and other means. They include various combinable elements: initials, patronyms, handwritten signatures, instrument names, common names or qualifying adjectives, names of cities, proverbs, or maxims. There are also figurative elements: notes, emblems, coats-of-arms, instruments, stars, animals, photographs, exhibition medals, certificates, and so on.
Les marques de fabrique des facteurs d’instruments de musique déposées au greffe du Tribunal de Commerce de Paris de 1860 à 1914 is an open-access online resource that includes a detailed chronological inventory of 1200 trademarks with illustrations and three indices: of names, of cities, and of figurative elements. The site is published by the Institut de Recherche en Musicologie (IREMUS).
Above, a trademark registered by La Compagnie Générale de Cinématographes, Phonographes et Pellicules in 1898 (click to enlarge).
“Sculpture, music, text: Winckelmann, Herder, and Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride” by Simon Richter (Goethe yearbook VIII  pp. 157–71) considers Gluck’s opera in the context of Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s writings on the statue known as Laocoön, widely regarded as the measure for classical beauty in the second half of the 18th century, and Johann Gottfried Herder‘s writings on the human voice as a common origin for both music and language.
According to Richter, Gluck’s Iphigénie enacts a musical version of Winckelmann’s classical aesthetics, which in turn may have consequences for the way in which Iphigénie is performed, staged, and interpreted. Gluck is in every respect staging the allegorical triumph of his opera reform as the musical counterpart of Winckelmann’s classical aesthetics.
This year we celebrate the 250th anniversary of the publication of Winckelmann’s Geschichte der Kunst des Althertums (Dresden, 1764)! Winckelmann revolutionized the understanding of stylistic changes in Greco-Roman art and deeply influenced archaeological studies. His concept of edle Einfalt und stille Grösse (noble simplicity and quiet grandeur) put the excessive complexities of Baroque aesthetics to rest, influencing Gluck and others.
Above, the sculpture in question (click to enlarge); below, Véronique Gens as Iphigénie.
The music on Al Di Meola’s 1998 album The infinite desire was largely inspired by the work of the Venetian painter Andrea Vizzini.
“We had books of his collections laying around the studio,” Di Meola said in an interview, “and all of the musicians involved would periodically glance through them for inspiration. Even people who aren’t normally versed in art are moved by his work.”
“He’s about fifty and showed up at one of my shows last year when we played outside Venice. I was really moved that he was gassed by the music! He’s actually painting to my music right now, so we’re planning some exhibitions at some point down the road.”
This according to “Al Di Meola: Art imitating art” by Bret Primack (JazzTimes XXVIII/10 [December 1998] pp. 88–90, 201–202).
Today is Di Meola’s 60th birthday! Above, Vizzini’s cover for the album (click to enlarge); below, Di Meola’s Vizzini (a track from the album) with a slideshow of the artist’s work.
The newly discovered scenic collection of the Stadsschouwburg in Kortrijk, Belgium, comprises 13 backcloths, 21 borders, and over 298 framed units, plus authentic stage furniture, practicables, and sound effects.
This forgotten treasury houses a near-complete set of generic stock sets next to genuine production materials for Aida, La bohème, Carmen, Faust, and other blockbusters from the operatic repertoire. The décors were designed and executed by Albert Dubosq (1863–1940), an acknowledged master of the Parisian school of scenic painting,
Despite the groundbreaking research done at a few historical theaters, the study of operatic iconography still tends to focus on visual renderings—designs, artists’ impressions, and photographs—rather than on primary, scenic artifacts thereof, such as flats and drops. The discovery of these valuable holdings allows new examples of authentic scenery to be subjected to scholarly scrutiny.
This according to “Jumbo-sized artifacts of operatic practice: The opportunities and challenges of historical stage sets” by Bruno Forment (Music in art XXXVIII/1–2  pp. 115–125. Above, Dubosq’s Forêt asiatique for Lakmé; below, his Extérieur égyptien for Aida (both from 1921).
A five-note motive in Rahmaninov’s Ostrov mërtvyh (The isle of the dead, op. 29), which evokes the opening of the Dies irae melody used by Berlioz and Liszt, is strikingly similar to what Bernard Herrmann referred to as the motive of power or fate in his score for Citizen Kane.
Rahmaninov’s work was inspired by Arnold Böcklin’s painting Die Toteninsel (above; click to enlarge), and Herrmann’s statements about his creative process suggest that the opening images of the film might have unconsciously reminded him of the painting, which in turn could have aroused an association with Rahmaninov’s symphonic poem.
This according to “The Dies irae in Citizen Kane: Musical hermeneutics applied to film music” by William H. Rosar, an essay included in Film music: Critical approaches (New York: Continuum, 2001, pp. 103–116). Below, the first minutes of Citizen Kane.