I almost forgot about this myself, but PBS aired Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, a 3 part documentary on the history of American comic book Superheroes, this week and now all episodes are online for a limited time only!
Here’s a panel on the documentary from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con if you wanna pre-game post-emptively:
I saw the first installment of the series and enjoyed it, especially to see interviews with some of the original creators in the field who have since passed, like Joe Simon, Carmine Infantino, Jerry Robinson, and even some archival footage of Jack Kirby.
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:
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.
Alice Marble had a pretty eventful retirement, later claiming that she had worked as a spy for the US government during WWII. When I was taking my first class on making comics, with cartoonist Tom Motley, I actually wound up using her as my subject! Not the greatest, but if you’re curious about Marble or my art “skills”, the story is up in full on my woefully neglected DeviantArt account:
Short notice since I thought this was airing later, but tonight, in a new installment of PBS’ Independent Lens series of documentaries, is the nationwide TV premiere of Kristy Guevara-Flanagan‘s Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines. The movie looks at how depictions of female characters in popular media, especially superheroes, reflected changing attitudes towards women and women’s issues throughout American history, starting with the grandmommy of them all, Wonder Woman!
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).
Michael Feinstein is an American chanteur in the swooning tradition, which I’m not always a huge fan of, but I am interested in his preservationist inclinations… A prior episode in his series showed his sweet audio archiving and transferring set-up at home, so as a library science student I was intrigued. (Link below to a video on his collection of old sheet music.)
His American Songbook series on PBS returns for a third season, with episodes devoted to the early 20th century history of popular song through show tunes, dance, and radio in America.
PBS has a real hard-on for Broadway, I feel like I’ve gotten good crash courses in American musicals history just from them. This should be another good addition to that televised lesson plan, and they have a few other relevant transmissions throughout this month, so I’ll keep you posted on those too…
Finally, Pergolesi‘s version, sung by German soprano Simone Kermes. With all these settings of a single text laying around, it was really genius of Naive Records to create a pastiche, uniting arias by different composers to showcase the range of interpretations. But it’s also interesting to hear different takes on the same aria, no? Here’s a review of Naive‘s recording, and a behind-the-scenes video too:
This performance is coming from the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Italy, which mounted the first production of Matilde di Shabran in 175 years back in 1996 and produced the accompanying short documentary. Italian with French subtitles, but still plenty of 90s datedness to enjoy even if you can’t understand.
Jorge Cham of PhD Comics occasionally takes a break from comics about graduate student life to create animated versions of academic talks or theses (or even make a live -action movie based on his comics!), and his latest such venture is all about Open Access in the scientific publishing community, an interesting subject to me as a library science student…