In what is described by New York Times classical music writer Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim as the company’s “wider shift toward more new music,” on June 5, Opera Philadelphia will present the premier of composer Daniel Schnyder’s “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird,” which stars Lawrence Brownlee as the bebop legend.
According to Fonseca-Wollheim, Opera Philadelphia has “a general willingness to take risks on unorthodox subjects and genres. Philadelphia’s last season featured the American premiere of Ana Sokolovic’s ‘Svadba,’ a raucous Balkan wedding ritual; October will bring a ‘Popera’ about Andy Warhol, mixing elements of cabaret and opera.”
“The mix of musical styles is especially risky in ‘Yardbird,’” Fonseca-Wollheim writes, “since it offers […] Continue reading »
Chantal Doolittle wasn’t like anybody else she knew. Who else, for example, would stand transfixed before a record player or stereo, still as stone while listening to music — not merely attending to it — her very cells taking in the song, calculating and absorbing. “That girl is special,” Nana Esther always said.
When she was a kid and Motown was the thing, Chan would sing Marvin Gaye’s tunes to her grandmother in their high ceilinged apartment, where, more often than not it was soul music, the harmonizing voices of The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Supremes, drifting in from the surrounding windows and disappearing into the sky that was perennially a washed out gray, as if there was an invisible flag always at half mast, hanging outside heaven. From the time she was five or six, all Chan had to do was hear a song once and she would know it. She knew all the Motown tunes word for word, and sang them right on key, perfectly, which is why Nana Esther dubbed her, “my little songbird.”
Of course, there was nothing little about Chantal, but, being her grandmother’s one and only, she was “a little one” to her. Chantal was tall, big for her age, and when she developed as a young woman, busty too. She stood out even before she opened her mouth, due to her attitude. Her nana had taught her to be “confident as a man,” and she had seemingly […] Continue reading »
His jazz is thick,
mantled in hair
black with twists
rich with shine
absorbing the lights
as his hands
push the track of
of his love
[…] Continue reading »
Queen Latifah’s homage to Bessie Smith, the HBO film Bessie, offers a look at the complexity of this transcendent entertainer’s life. The movie is wonderfully entertaining with strong performances by Latifah throughout, but, like most “biopics,” it is also somewhat flawed. For example, while her overt bi-sexuality, alcohol abuse, violent temper, and tempestuous marital life were central to her life story – and thus important to this film – her great musical talent didn’t feel completely honored in performance.
Given that the myth encompassing Bessie Smith’s death has dominated her life story to the point where prominent historians believe she was better known for her death than for what she accomplished in life, it was not surprising that Latifah chose to end her film without […] Continue reading »
“They are dead; but they live in each Patriot’s breast,
And their names are engraven on honor’s bright crest.”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
[…] Continue reading »