Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Born Today January 31: Felice Romani


Famed Italian poet and librettist Romani, was born on this date to a bourgeois (in the original sense of the word) family in the then independent Republic of Genoa.  His birth name was Guiseppe Felice Romani.  He studied both law and literature at Pisa and Genoa.  His studies lead him to become an expert on French literature, which would figure largely in his future work as an opera librettist for famed Italian composers like Bellini and Donisetti, amongst many others.  After turning down a position at the University of Genoa, he chose instead to travel extensively in Europe, returning to Milan in either 1812 or 1813.  There he made friends in both the worlds of literature and music.  After he turned down the role of court poet in Vienna and embarked instead on a career as librettist.  This eventually lead to an appointment of librettist for the famed La Scala.  He would go on to be one of the highest regarded opera librettist of his age; a reputation that continues to this day.  In addition to writing lyrics for operas and poetry, he also prepared a six volume history of mythology and antiquities, focusing on the history of Celts in Italy. In 1834 he additionally became the editor of a newspaper, to which he contributed literary criticism.  Of all musical compositional works that actually lent themselves to silent film treatment, the opera is the most accessible.  In 1909 short Italian film was made using Romani's work, entitled L'elisir d'amore: 'Una furtive lacrima'.  His work would not be used in film again until 1941.  His libretto's have been used in filmed performance many times since then; with most of them coming after the year 2000.  The most recent came in 2014 with the filming of the San Francisco Opera's co-production of Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi, a re-telling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  Romani died on the 28th of January in 1865, just three days shy of his 77th birthday.  He is buried in the Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno, in Genoa, Liguria--which by the time of his death had become a formal part of Italy.

His Page @ The Royal Opera House

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Born Today January 30: (François) Félix Faure (Slightly Sorted Edition!)


France's future president Faure was born Félix François on this date in Paris.  He was the son of a furniture maker. He worked as a tanner and later as a merchant at France's second largest port in Le Havre (where he was also initiated into Freemasonry); managing to acquire a significant amount wealth along the way.  He entered politics, and in August of 1881 he was elected to the National Assembly.  From this seat, he worked his way up the political ranks, until reaching the office of President in 1895.  He would remain President until his untimely death in 1899. For the purposes of silent film, Faure was the subject of numerous short documentaries (or early newsreels) detailing some his presidential activities starting in 1896--most of them were produced by Lumiere. The first was Fêtes franco-russes: Cherbourg, Entrée des Souverains russes et du président de la Republique sous le hall (with a title like that, who needs to watch the 1 minute film??).  The last film featuring his appearance as President of France came posthumously in a German reel entitled Leichenbergräbnis des verstorbenen französischen Präsidenten Félix Faure, and was released in April 1899 following his death in February of the same year.  Faure died under a cloud of scandal on the 16th of February while engaging in some type of sexual activity with his 30 year old mistress, Marguerite Steinhall; he is reported to have had a "bout of apoplexy" which caused his death several hours later--his was 58 years old.  Famed French trickster filmmaker Meliese was reported to have filmed his funeral, but it doesn't seem to have survived.  During his presidency the infamous and shameful Dreyfus Affair came to a head; it remains a stain on his reputation to this day. Faure is buried (like so many other famous Frenchmen) in the huge Parisian burial ground of Pére Lachaise Cemetery in very melodramatic sculpted tomb.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Born Today January 29: Daniel-François Auber


French operatic composer Daniel François Esprit Auber was born on this day in Caen, Normandy.  He was the son of a Parisian print-seller.  His father expected him to continue in the family business, but while he was young, he was permitted to learn several instruments.  He eventually studied music under composer Josef Alois Ladurner.  By the time he turned 20, he had already taken up musical composition.  He produced a concerto for violin that was well received, and he was encouraged by a conductor at the Paris Conservatoire to refresh, if you will, an old comic opera.  That work was complete in 1811, around the time that he began to study with the famed Italian composer Luigi Cherubini, who was living in France.  By the early 1820's he found success, after years of penning operatic works that weren't so well received.  Though he also composed works for the church and even a few ballets, he is best remembered for his opera's. He became one the most successful and prolific comic opera composers of his time and would go on to work with the likes of Donizetti.  In 1842, he succeeded his old teacher Cherubini as the director of the Conservatoire; and in 1857 Napoleon III made him his Imperial Maître de Chapelle.  One of his most famous earlier works is Fra Diavolo, and it is this work that was first to serve as an inspiration for films in the early 1920's. A short film of the same name premiered in 1922; it is the eleventh release in the British series "Tense Moments From Opera" (the IMDb page for the film can be found here).  In the silent era, two of his other opera's served as inspiration for films.  The first was from Italy, based on his work La muta di Portici, and was released in 1924.  The second was a film from Germany, Der schwarze Domino, and was released in 1929.  The first time that his work was used in a sound film came in 1931 with Dantes mysterier, as Swedish film.  It wouldn't be until 1962 that his work was used again in a movie.  Over the decades, his comedic operas have shown up in the variety of films, with the most recent coming in 2011 in Jane Eyre.  Details of his death are sketchy; many reports have him dying of a heart attack on the 12th of May, but that cannot be confirmed.  What is known, is that he lived through the 1870-71 siege of Paris by the Prussians/Germans and that he died (somehow) on the 12th or 13th of May, during the Paris Commune.  He was 89 years of age.  Today the Rue Auber in Paris leads up to the Paris Opera House.  He buried in the wonderfully famous Pére Lachaise Cemetery (Plot Division 4, #2).

Wikipedia Spain (more detail & list of his works, can be translated by Google)

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Born Today January 28 (Not So Silent Edition): Louis Joseph Hérold AKA Ferdinand Hérold


Composer Louis Joseph Ferdinand Hérold was born was on this date in France, he was of Alsatian descent, and came from a family of well known musicians.  His paternal grandfather was on organist, and his father--François-Joseph Hérold was a pianist and a composer in his own right.  At the age of six, he was already in enrolled in the prominent Hix Institute, and while there, studied music theory with Belgian composer and musicologist François-Joseph Fétis.  By the age of seven, he could play the piano well enough to actually compose some pieces for the instrument.  He became most well known as a operatic composer, though he also composed ballets as well.  His music was used for the first time in a motion picture in 1929, with the Fox Film produced Happy Days--a riverboat revue, which they billed as an extravaganza--emblazoning it with the all-caps tagline THE ALL STAR...ALL TALKING...MUSICAL ROMANCE!  The sound was MovieTone and the special black and white "widescreen" film stock was by Grandeur.  The piece of music used in the soundtrack was his Zampa Overture.  That same piece was used again the following year a short film simply entitled Zampa.  In fact, this is the only of his compositions to be used in film, with the only other use coming in the 1957 comedy musical Les Girls, directed by George Cukor. Hérold had long suffered from tuberculosis, and succumbed to the disease on January 18th, just ten days shy of is 42nd birthday.  He was laid to rest in the very famous Pére Lachaise Cemetery in Paris--it is located in Division 13.

His the tomb to the right. The bottom of the tomb has since been modernized.

[Source: David Conway (Find a Grave)]


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Monday, January 9, 2017

Born Today January 9: Luis Coloma


Spanish writer Luis Coloma was born on this date in Jerez de la Frontera.  He would go on to study at the University of Seville, where he focused on law.  He eventually graduated from there with a master's in law, though he never actually practiced.  He began writing in the 1880's, starting with a well known political satire of Madrid high society prior to the Bourbon Restoration for a newspaper in Madrid. Despite being widely criticized at the time of it's publication, and pronounced to have no lasting importance, it remains one of his most well known works.  He would go on to be a prolific writer of short stories, and longer complete works in the fields of history and biography.  Ironically, Coloma had a dislike for the novel form, believing them to be overly sentimental on the subject of religion and a medium through which human life was idealized; ironic because it was one of his few novels that was first used for source material in the world of the motion picture.  His novel, simply entitled Boy, was first adapted for the screen in 1926.  The film was directed by Benito Perojo, a Spanish director and producer, who also personally adapted the work into the screenplay for the film.  The film is sadly amongst many from the 1920's that is lost.  The Internet Movie Database page can be found here.  His story, "Pequenecas" was made into a television series in Mexico in 1971.  The last adaption (so far) came in a Spanish television series entitled  Novela, which adapted famous Spanish works into television films; in 1976 they adapted that same story into a made to TV film.  Coloma died in his adopted city of Madrid in 1915 at the age of 64.  He is buried in Madrid's Sacramental de San Justa cemetery.

Poster for Boy lost film from 1926 Spain.

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Wikipedia (English language bio)

Biografia page (in Spanish, can be translated by Google)