The Sound of Music Echoes On…

Today is the 50th anniversary of the American release of The Sound of Music movie musical so stop everything you’re doing and go climb some mountains!

The movie is of course based on the 1959 musical which was the last collaboration of the famous Rodgers and Hammerstein musical dream team, since Oscar Hammerstein II died nine months after the Broadway premiere, of cancer.

An interesting Youtube find was this footage from actors on the set during the making of the movie:

Of course, the Oscars recently commemorated the anniversary of their 1966 Best Picture Winner with a medley performed by Lady Gaga that was an internet sensation.  Proof that the movie and the musical have still got it, all these years later!

Happy Birthday Miyazaki!

Today is Hayao Miyazaki‘s 74th birthday!  He is most famous as co-founder of the Studio Ghibli animation studio (official website, in Japanese) and as writer and director of many of its most beloved films.

Miyazaki began working in animation in 1963, a career that came to an end 50 years later in 2013 with the release of The Wind Rises, which he said would be his last movie.  His retirement has launched a new wave of accolades, including an Academy Honorary Award at last year’s Governor Awards (see his acceptance here).

Five years earlier in 2009 Miyazaki was honored at an event by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and here he speaks on the tension between hand-drawn and computer-aided animation:

(There are more clips from this conversation, and this bit about his villains is especially interesting for someone known for his morally ambiguous “bad” guys.)

As for what Miyazaki will do in retirement, he has started work on a serialized samurai manga set in Japan’s Warring States period, (EDIT: updated Warring States link from ancient Chinese namesake to correct Japanese version) so a return to manga like his environmental epic Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, serialized between 1982 and 1994.  I’m actually on the last volume of this myself, so expect further thoughts on it soon…

Some of his collaborators have said it’s likely Miyazaki will come out of retirement (he’s done so before), but in the meantime, Studio Ghibli is still releasing movies, including The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (already released in Japan in 2013), directed by the other Studio Ghibli co-founder, Isao Takahata, with a markedly different animation style:

The Cartoon Picture Plane

Two newly opened New York gallery exhibits have varying connections to comic and cartoon art…

Saul Steinberg's 1974 Rainbow Reflected at SculptureCenter

Saul Steinberg’s 1974 Rainbow Reflected at SculptureCenter

SculptureCenter‘s first exhibit in their newly expanded gallery takes as its point of departure space as depicted in comics and cartoons, specifically citing the 1988 live-action/animation hybrid movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit alongside New Yorker illustrator Saul Steinberg as influences.  From the exhibit website:

Incorporating a sense of wonder and humor, concepts surrounding animation and cartooning are expanded into an exhibition that enacts a similar sort of hysteria around flatness and depth in relation to technologies, real and illusory spaces—physical, virtual, internal, and external.

The emphasis on Steinberg probably has to do with the fact that 2014 is the centennial of his birth, in honor of which The Saul Steinberg Foundation has been promoting centennial exhibits & events at galleries and museums around the world.

Takashi Murakami's 2011 An Homage to Monopink 1960 B, from Sims Reed Gallery, London

Takashi Murakami’s 2011 An Homage to Monopink 1960 B, from Sims Reed Gallery, London

The other comic-related exhibit I was thinking of has a more tenuous link…

52-year-old Japanese artist Takashi Murakami made his name with the Superflat art movement he founded, inspired by the visuals of Japanese anime and manga.  He’s best known for this style, using the super-cute Japanese pop culture aesthetic of kawaii and engaging with the otaku culture of anime and manga fandom.

That being said, he’s also mined more classic Japanese art history and cultural traditions.  His current show at the Gagosian Gallery consists of art made in response to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and the subsequent tsunami and Fukushima nuclear crisis.  After studying earlier responses to natural disaster in Japanese art, he has created an immersive installation combining traditional art historical forms, Buddhist and Shinto religious iconography, and contemporary pop culture imagery in response to that national tragedy.

I’m assuming the art here won’t be as relentlessly sunny and poppy as his other work, but it’ll be interesting to see how he applies his Superflat aesthetic to a more tragic subject…

Do you know of any other comic, cartoon, or comic/cartoon-inspired exhibits going on in New York?  Or anywhere else?  Let me know!

Will Eisner Week 2014

Will Eisner Week 2014

Will Eisner was born March 6th, 1917, so the Will Eisner Week of Eisner- and comics-themed events is scheduled around that week each year.  Click here for a full list of events, the world over.

New York starts the week off with a New York Comics & Picture-Story Symposium special event with DC Comics writer and editor Paul Levitz on Eisner’s contribution to the rise of the American graphic novel.

If you want to learn to cartoon like the great Eisner himself, you can always learn from his instructional books on comics and cartooning:

eisner13

Happy Bicentennial Birthday Wagner!

Today is the 200th birthday of everyone’s favorite German marathon opera composer, Richard Wagner.  I know I’m kind of ready to move on after all the Wagner-festivities of the past season…  To celebrate his first centennial, in 1913, German film pioneer Carl Froelich directed this silent autobiographical movie:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_9PzkzsQxc&w=350&h=300]

Interestingly, to avoid royalty fees for using Wagner’s music, they instead commissioned Italian-born, German-based composer Giuseppe Becce to create the original, Wagnerian-ish score.  As if that wasn’t enough, Becce even played the title role!  Such an auspicious omen for an aspiring composer, literally stepping into the role of a great predecessor, but doesn’t seem to have rubbed off too much onto Becce.

Diva to Casta Diva

When she’s not watching non-stop Catholic mass on TV, my grandmother sometimes watches the news from Spain, which is how I learned that today is Catalan soprano Montserrat Caballé‘s 80th birthday!  To celebrate, here is probably her single most famous performance, in Bellini‘s Norma at the 1974 Orange Opera Festival.

Additionally, here’s an interview with her in 1970, where she discusses the role of Norma four years before that legendary performance (Part 2 here).

Happy Death Day to Gluck

Gluck anniversary stamp

Thanks to Operabase‘s nifty anniversary tracker for alerting me to the fact that today is the 225th anniversary of Christoph Willibald Gluck‘s death!  Gluck is hugely important for his operatic reforms, doing away with the formulas and excesses of Baroque opera, and returning to a clearer focus on the human drama.  His first reform opera, Orfeo ed Euridice actually had its own important anniversary this year; 250 years since its premiere!

Orpheus and Eurydice by Frederic LeightonImage by Frederic Leighton

Orfeo ed Euridice, streaming performance from Opera Today

I’m disappointed that this wasn’t a bigger deal…  O&E was followed by two more reform operas, also created with partner-in-crime librettist Calzabigi, who wrote a manifesto of their reform ideas.  These two next operas aren’t as popular as the first, but lucky for us, Opera Today has streaming performances of all three, so let’s all enjoy the complete trifecta in Gluck’s honor!

Alceste, streaming performance from Opera Today

Paride ed Elena, streaming performance from Opera Today