Wednesday, 24 February 2021

favola in musica

The early Baroque adaptation of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice by composer Claudio Monteverdi and librettist Alessandro Striggio premiering on this day in Mantua in 1607 to ring in Carnival season and L’Orfeo is considered one of the first true and fully developed operas.

Presented in five acts, action is split between the fields of Thrace and the Underworld and follows the legendary musician and poet whose song is all to charm all things (speaking to virtuosity of the collaboration, I suppose)—even the stones and beating the Sirens as part of the Argonaut crew beat the Sirens at a sing-off to save them from wrack and ruin—fell in love with the beautify and graceful Eurydice (Wide Justice) and lived a happy but short time together. Calling upon Hymen, the god of matrimony, to bless their union but was foretold that the marriage was to end in tragedy. Fleeing from a lusty shepherd called Aristaeus, Eurydice was bitten by a serpent and died instantly—causing Orpheus great sadness and his outpouring moved the whole world and the heavens towards grief and sorrow. Resolving to descend into Hades to visit his wife, Orpheus was able to tame the fierce Cerberus, the three-headed hound of Hell that prevents the living from entering the realm of the dead. Hades and Persephone, impressed by his playing and devotion, tells Orpheus he can take Eurydice with the caveat that he cannot look upon her until they’ve emerged into the light of day, lest he loose her forever. As a reasonable and patient individual, Orpheus was confident that he could resist temptation and rescue his wife, but as a disembodied shade, Eurydice’s footfalls made no sound, and thinking he was fooled by Hades, turned to check after her. Zeus strikes down the mourning Orpheus with lightning, fearful he might reveal the secrets of the Underworld.

Sunday, 14 February 2021


a note to asterius’ daughter signed ‘from your valentine’: the reliquary and relics of the third century martyr 

lost in my dms: a brief history of Dungeons & Dragons the animated series—see previously  

barlow & bear: talented duo bringing Bridgerton the musical to TikTok  

but patty’s only seen the sights a girl can see from brooklyn heights: a century of the identical twin trope of Hollywood and one actor playing multiple roles, juxtaposed with actual twin child actors sharing a single role 

universal language: two examples of diplomats breaking out in song—here and here 

anteros: Cupid in the arts through the millennia

Saturday, 13 February 2021


the lady and the dale: a con-artist and the “car of the future”  

the lovers, the dreamers and me: after a five-year hiatus Snarkmarket makes a return to analyse and discuss two songs from The Muppet Movie—via Kottke and RSS reader 

tennesee tuxedo as a school-marmish cereal cop: children’s animated breakfast commercials often touted dark, authoritarian narratives  

i don’t want to be carrot man but i am carrot man: a delightful vintage guide on making costumes 

act-out: one hundred eighty-five German stage, television and film stars stage mass coming-out in support for greater representation and gender diversity in roles, via Super Punch 

like a small boat on the ocean sending big waves into motion: Trump’s legal defence wraps up a bizarre, specious rebuttal  

the witch of kings cross: a dramatization of the persecution that a sorceress and healer faced in 1950s Australia—via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump

Friday, 29 January 2021


testi stampati: the riotous typographical illustratrations of Lorenzo Petrantoni  

painterly realism: Nathan Shipley trained a neural network to turn portraiture into convincingly true-to-life photographs 

civilian climate corps: a vision of how putting people to work on conservation projects can help save both the environment and the economy  

narratology: a purportedly exhaustive list of dramatic situations—see also here and here  

stonx: a long thread explaining the GameStop short-squeeze—via Miss Cellania  

paradoxical undressing: National Geographic forwards a new theory to account for the Dyatlov Pass Incident (previously) of 1959  

butler in a box: before digital assistants there was domestic aid in the late 1980s 

will success spoil rock hunter: Art of the Title looks at the opening montage of the 1957 CinemaScope classic


Brought to the stage in Mรผnchen in operatic form on this date in 1811 as the premiรจre work of Peter Josef von Lindpainter (*1791 – †1856) the figure associated with Demeter was a popular subject of the prior decades. Seeking her abducted daughter Persephone in the guise of an old woman, calling herself Doso, Demeter wanted to repay the hospitality she received from the by making the titular young prince into an immortal and being nursemaid to Demophรถon (given the tough name, meaning “killer of men”), the king’s son by Metanira. To realise her plan to turn him into a god, Demeter anointed the infant with ambrosia and nightly placed him into the palace hearth to burn away his mortal spirit. His mother walked in one evening to witness this ritual and reacted like any mother would to the sight of her baby in the fireplace among the burning logs—which annoyed Demeter who had to abort the immortalisation process over the interruption. Though unscathed but still subject to decrepitude and death, Demophรถon acquired immortality of a sorts through a hero cult and enduring fame. As a consolation to the family—having failed in her first act of kindness, Demeter taught his older brother Triptolemus (threefold-warrior) the art of agriculture, which he spread across the Greek world. Lindpainter’s most successful opera, Der Vampyr, was also another popular theme and debuted in Stuttgart two decades later.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

heaviside layer

On this day in 2006, with its seven-thousand-four-hundred-eighty-sixth performance Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera over took the composer and impressario’s other long-running stage piece Cats with the most iterations on Broadway in the latter’s eight-year run, twice-revived in the West End for twenty-one mostly parallel years in London. The establishing megamusical phenomenon, the piece has proved polarising and defining for the entertainment industry and arguably introduces quite a bar to entry.


zip-tie guy: as bad as this act of terrorism was, the Ku Klux Coup (see previously) could have turned out much worse  

election, objection, ambition, sedition: another pitch-perfect Randy Rainbow political parody 

regrets only: Trump’s final missive confirming he would not be attending Joe Biden’s inauguration—cornerstone to a peaceful transition of power—is interpreted as another way of casting aspersions on a legitimate election and gets his account suspended from Twitter—permanently  

privilege check: race and the cos-play veneer of the invasion combined with remorse over more heavy-handed tactics over the summer allowed them to organise and launch their raid unchecked—see previously  

us capitol police: encomnia for officer killed protecting senators and congress members from the Blue Lives Matter crowd  

jericho march: more Cos-Play with Evangelical Christians (previously) rallying in D.C. blowing shofars

no pension, no secret security detail, no travel allowance, no chance to hold high office again: a second impeachment has consequences even a few days out and Congress is moving swiftly to make it happen, nearly as fast as Mr Rainbow above or Lego

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

en attendant godot

The original French version of the play, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot had its premiere performance on this day in 1953 at the Thรฉรขtre de Babylone in Paris, coming in translation to London’s West End two years later. Held as one of the most significant English-language theatrical pieces of the twentieth century, the tragicomedy extolling existential conundrums in the milieu of vaudeville in two acts follows the characters Vladimir and Estragon (see also) as they await the titular Godot, whom never arrives. The author grew weary and distracted by what he felt was over-analysis, declaring he had not imbued the play with deeper meaning, but later Beckett came to embrace these multiple readings and interpretations.

Friday, 18 December 2020


Debuting in Saint Petersburg on this day in 1892 (Old Style, 6 December), the stage, fairy ballet (ะฑะฐะปะตั‚-ั„ะตะตั€ะธั) adaptation of the short story by E. T. A. HoffmannThe Nutcracker and the Mouse King—opened as a double-feature with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ultimate opera Iolanta, a one-act performance about the Duchess of Lorraine, Yolande de Bar—a romanticised biography of figure who was more retiring and reserved in real life. Though initially not well-received and critics using rather harsh language, the overture and suite that the composer score was an enduring success, with countless Christmas season performances accounting for an incredible forty percent of attendance for ballet companies in North America in normal times.

Sunday, 13 December 2020


Via Memo of the Air, we are transported back a few years to enjoy this carol recounting one particular up-and-coming reindeer as told in the timeless style of rapped-through narrative of one of America’s Founding Fathers by a capella group the Eclipse Singers.

Thursday, 10 December 2020

sit, ubu, sit

The surreal and obscene stage play Ubu Roi (see previously) by Alfred Jarry opened and closed to audiences on this day in 1896 at Thรฉรขtre de l'ล’uvre in Paris after the performance incited rioting. A synthesis of Macbeth, Hamlet and King Lear through the comic grotesque lens of Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel franchise. Jarry (*1837 – 1907) expounded on the symbolism and allegory behind his controversial play in a novel published two years after its celebrated primier, The Exploits and Opinions of Doctor Fasutroll, Pataphysician that defined the discipline of 'pataphysics, the underpinning theme throughout his writing, as beyond the metaphysical realm and concerned itself with finding imaginary solutions and the study of laws that government exceptions, as a primer to his two sequel—unfornutately never staged in Jarry’s life time. The US television production company founded by Gary David Goldberg (Family Ties, Spin City) has for its mascot the producer’s dog, namesake of the titular character. See more at the links above, including a modern performance at the link up top.

Monday, 30 November 2020


The 1956 sponsored projector-reel short having fallen into obscurity until lambasted as an MST3K episode (previously) interstitial, airing first on this date in 1991 was meant to be shown during class assemblies to encourage budding musicians and was commission by the C.G. Conn company that manufactured and marketed a range of brass instruments.

The eponymous title character is short of an androgynous pixie that embodies the sense of fun in music with an additional biography in their 1957 circular Baton that was issued to American public school music programme teachers—“Mister B Natural is the spirit of music in everyone… a sort of LepreCONN who is always no more than an inch anyway from the fingertips of anyone. Mister B has a code, however, that prohibits him from showing himself for anyone unless he reaches out and calls for the spirit of music.” A withdrawn and reticent pre-teen named Buzz summons Mister B, whom through a range of magic, music and dance convinces him to take up the trumpet. Bruce “Buzz” Podewell (his own nickname, also appearing on Watch Mister Wizard and would have perhaps been familiar to the target audience) went on to become a professor of theatre and dance and taught for four decades at Tulane University in New Orleans. Mister B Natural was the last role of long time (“Knew your father I did”) Broadway and television personality Betty Luster.

Saturday, 28 November 2020

the great bed of ware

Via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump, we are directed to one unusual artefact of the Victoria & Albert Museum collection in the monumental and for the time of its acquisition in 1931 for a princely sum of four thousand pounds budget-breaking piece of furniture.

Originally housed in the White Hart Inn in the town as sort of a tourists’ draw for the stopping off point a day’s journey outside of London to points north, the massive four-poster bed—at three metres wide big enough to accommodate four couples—and was built by carpenter Jonas Fosbrooke in the last decade of the sixteenth century with Renaissance style marquetry and ornament inspired by Hans Vredeman de Vries—and to add to its history and provenance, couples have carved their names or initials in the headboard to mark their stay and is mentioned by name in Twelfth Night (circa 1601) and works by Ben Jonson and Charles Dickens.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

the mousetrap

The murder mystery stage play by Agatha Christie debuted on this day in 1952 in London’s West End and ran continually until 16 March 2020, temporarily sidelined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the work first presented as a radio drama as a birthday present for Queen Mary in 1947 under the title Three Blind Mice. The author had requested, due to its twist ending that theatre audiences are asked not to divulge—that the short story not be published, nor adapted as a film, until it was off the West End, a wish that has been respected all these years.

Monday, 23 November 2020


First historically documented in a competition to find the best tragedy (ฯ„ฯฮฑฮณแฟณฮดฮฏฮฑ, literally goat song, suggesting that that was the top prize)—that is stagecraft with an actor portraying a character rather than themselves singly and distinct from the chorus, on this day in 534 BC performer and playwright, according to Aristotle, Thespis is credited in Western traditions with the invention of acting, performing short dithyrambs—that is, stories about gods and heroes with choric refrains, ฮดฮนฮธฯฯฮฑฮผฮฒฮฟฯ‚ or hymns to Dionysus and a way to frame enthusiastic speech—playing all the roles himself and differentiating each part by donning a different mask (persona). 

Building on his successful showing at the contest, Thespis then went on, according to Horace, to invent theatrical touring, transporting his masks and costumes in a horse-drawn carriage, Thespis’ wagon (ฮ†ฯฮผฮฑ ฮ˜ฮญฯƒฯ€ฮนฮดฮฟฯ‚, Carro di Tespi) being a popular theme for the visual arts.

Sunday, 15 November 2020


ginger-reveal party: photographer Kieran Dodds has spent years capturing images from red heads all over the world  

nacelle: a handy camper turned a surplus jet engine into a deluxe caravan trailer 

thursday afternoon: the video paintings of Brian Eno—see previously 

lawn and order: perhaps Spain ought to get out of the art restoration business and other items of note from Hyperallergic’s weekly digest 

we’ll let the supreme courtyard marriot decide the outcome of the vote: apropos the entry above, more roundups and rundowns from the week from Super Punch  

julia’s name is going to be julia gulia: a team of volunteer correspondents answer missives left to Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers  

matita: a treasury of vintage Italian pencils 

macroscopic: a pairing of recent posts from the always excellent Nag on the Lake celebrate capturing images of the tiny at extremely close range

Sunday, 25 October 2020

ss. crispin and crispinian

Twin brothers from a wealthy third century patrician family, they fled to the provinces to escape persecution for their Christian faith, eventually settling in Soissons (capital of the Belgic tribe of the Suessiones)—evangelising to the native population by day and funding their mission and aiding the poor by making shoes at night.

Their enterprise drew the attention of Gaulish governor (a Vicarius—a vicar, that is a deputy of Rome) Rixius Varus, who is said to have martyred with zeal hundreds of Christians under Emperor Diocletian before eventually repenting, converting and becoming a victim of the machine himself, who devised cruel, elaborate tortures for the brothers using their own cobbler’s implement before tying millstones around their necks and tossing them into the River Aisne. The pair survived to Varus’ acute frustration, at this juncture the Emperor intervening and putting them to death by beheading on this day in the year 286. Crispin and Crispinian’s patronage includes shoemakers, saddlers, tanners and lace workers. A number of battles fall coincidentally on their feast day, symbolism and significance applied retroactively, though sometimes noted by contemporaries—with the most famous being the 1415 Battle of Agincourt (cemented in popular imagination by Shakespeare’s Henry V “Band of Brothers” speech)—others being the Siege of Lisbon (1147), the Battle of Balaclava (1854), the Second Battle of el Alamein and the Battle of Henderson Field at Guadalcanal (1942).

Sunday, 11 October 2020

studio 8h

For the decade leading up to the show’s debut on this evening in 1975, NBC had ran reruns under the title Best of Carson of the Tonight Show on the weekends to round out the evening’s programming until host Johnny Carson told network executives that he would prefer being taken out of the Saturday or Sunday schedule and save the curated segments for during the week to afford himself time off.

In order to fill the time slot, producers approached Lorne Michaels and developed the idea of a variety show featuring comedy sketches, political satire and musical and celebrity guests. Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Laraine Newman, Michael Coe, Chevy Chase and Michael O’Donoghue were the premier comedy troupe of the show originally billed as NBC’s Saturday Night as rival network ABC aired a short-lived, awkward Saturday Night Live with sports-caster Howard Cosell—very much out of his element with this concept—and co-starring Bill Murray, who’d later join the cast of NBC’s revue to replace Chase after he left the show. The initial concept was to have a rotation of permanent hosts in Lily Tomlin, Richard Pryor and George Carlin but soon changed the model to guest hosts once Pryor’s act was censored. The pilot episode also established the Weekend Update news segment and the first of the show’s recurring characters—Killer Bees.

Friday, 9 October 2020

opรฉra populaire

It is theatre season, and on this day in 1986, the Andrew Lloyd Webber, Richard Stilgoe, Charles Hart stage musical adaptation of the 1910 novel by Gaston Leroux (primarily a writer of detective fiction of equal stature and influence to Arthur Conon Doyle) that relates the narrative of disfigured musical genius haunting the maze of passageways beneath the opera house of Paris and becomes obsessed with a beautiful soprano had its opening night at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. One of the longest-running productions of all time, it has been performed by troupes all over the world. 


Thursday, 8 October 2020

les mis

Formally opening at London’s Barbican Centre on this evening in 1985 after a week of preview performances to mixed critical reception, the stage musical collaboration of Victor Hugo’s Les Misรฉrables from Claude-Michel Schรถnberg, Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel—translated by Herbert Kretzmer is one of the West End’s and the world’s longest-running performance—in good company with Cats (previously) which coincidentally saw its Broadway premiere on the same day three years prior. Following the storyline of Hugo’s 1862 novel, informed and inspired by the Artful Dodger and company of street urchins’ song and dance routine in Oliver! (Twist), doggedly determined police inspector Javert (relatedly) pursues Jean Valjean for breaking parole (sentenced and having served nineteen years hard-labour for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s staving baby) and are carried away with a cast of characters to a Paris on the brink of revolt and revolution.