Irish Songs and Secret, in Cartoon Form

This Sunday are the Oscars, and the nominees for animated feature film feature three pretty big American releases (How to Train your Dragon 2, The Boxtrolls, and Big Hero 6) and two more exotic releases, including the latest Studio Ghibli release.  Besides Japan, the other foreign country represented is, perhaps surprisingly, Ireland!

Song of the Sea was created by Paul Young and Tomm Moore, and it takes on the Irish myth of the selkie, seals who shed their seal skins to become women and take human husbands… or something like that…  The Oscars’ page on the film has some more footage, and it really is stunning!

The selkie is a pretty folk tale, but of course my favorite interpretation is John Allison’s!  Selkies figured into a 2012 Bad Machinery case, and I just love those meddling mystery-solving kids!  Click on the image below to read The Case of the Fire Inside from the beginning!

Bad Machinery: The Case of the Fire Inside, copyright John Allison

Bad Machinery: The Case of the Fire Inside, copyright John Allison

Tomm Moore is also the creator of the similarly-Irish-themed and similarly-gorgeously-animated 2009 feature film The Secret of Kells, this one about the classic monastic illustrated manuscript, The Book of Kells.

What is Opera, Alex?

We here at Bizarro Twins are huge Jeopardy fans, and always relish the rare opera or comic-themed categories, but opera has burst onto America’s favorite trivia show in a surprising way recently…

If you’ve been watching, the current Jeopardy champ is Elliot Yates from New York, and he’s introduced as an opera producer which is exciting enough on its own…  But in his second chat with host Alex Trebek he talked about a new opera he’s working on about Truman Capote!  Unfortunately, my Googling is not turning up much concrete information about this project, but as always, I’m excited to hear about new operas, no matter how far in the future they may be!

Capote is obviously known as a writer of prose, from short stories to novels to non-fiction, but he did write the book for one musical: 1954’s House of Flowers, about rival bordellos in Haiti…  cheery, I guess.  With music by Harold Arlen, the most enduring song is probably A Sleepin’ Bee, sung here by Diahann Carroll, a member of the original Broadway cast.

Funnily enough, this song was also sung by Barbra Streisand seven years later on her first appearance on American national television, on The Jack Paar Show in 1961:

Now, another interesting tidbit about this forthcoming Truman Capote opera is the fact that Capote’s distinctive voice will be portrayed by a countertenor.  On hearing this, Alex Trebek referenced the British singer Alfred Deller who helped revive the use of the countertenor voice in the mid 20th century.  So now I like Alex even more than before!  Here is Deller singing an Elizabethan love song by Thomas Campion, accompanied on lute as he was wont to be…

All around, not a bad day for opera on national television…

The Natives are on TV

Les Indes Galantes at Opera National De Bordeaux

Les Indes Galantes at Opera National De Bordeaux

In honor of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death, Opéra National de Bordeaux is putting on Rameau‘s 1735 opera Les Indes Galantes (which I’ve discussed before), and Medici TV has your front row, live streaming ticket today!

The opera is structured as four love stories in four “exotic” settings; last time I shared excerpts from the North American and Persian settings, so here’s one from the Peruvian story in a different production by Les Arts Florissants at the Paris Opera:

For a more modern, but still Bizarro Twins appropriate, depiction of Native Americans, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York is offering daily screenings of installments of the Stories from the Seventh Fire, a series of cartoons inspired by Anishinaabe folklore through Sunday.

The series by Canadian director Gregory Coyes can be purchased through Green Planet Films.

The animation is in parts inspired by the art of pioneering Anishinaabe Canadian artist Norval Morriseau, which is also on view at the NMAI.  Here’s an appraisal of some lovely Morriseau pieces on Antiques Roadshow, if that floats your boat like it does mine.

1968 painting by Norval Morisseau

1968 painting by Norval Morisseau

Tucker Up

In the centennial year of its namesake’s birth, the Richard Tucker Music Foundation‘s annual concert will be aired on PBS  tomorrow, Friday, at 9pm (check local listings).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-e7D2goVyE&w=350&h=300]

Named for the famous American tenor, the Foundation awards a rising American opera singer each year, and the accompanying concert features them and a host of famous singers too, guaranteed to be an especially luminous bunch for Tucker’s 100th birthyear…  This year’s awardee is the mezzo soprano Isabel Leonard.

Tucker La Gioconda publicity shot, 1945

Richard Tucker in La Gioconda at the Met, 1945

Tucker made his Met debut in La Gioconda in 1945, where this excerpt was apparently recorded:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5K1tnuxxvTo&w=350&h=300]

The initial impression, based on this New York Times review, was apparently somewhat mixed:

Special interest naturally centered in the company’s new tenor, Mr. Tucker, who had the misfortune to make his initial appearance in a formidable role too heavy for his essentially lyric type of voice. Nevertheless, he made a definitely favorable impression and was enthusiastically received by the large audience.

Arctic Vortex, Antarctic Puppetry

In honor of the Arctic Vortex hitting the US, here’s a musical theater depiction of a the failed 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, led by Shackleton.

69˚S, created by marionette collective Phantom Limb Co. with music by Erik Sanko, was performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music‘s Next Wave Festival in 2011, where it was recorded in full for BAM’s Hamm Archives, and subsequently put online by co-producers ArkType.  Click on the image below to see the whole thing.

Phantom Limb's 69˚S at BAM

Phantom Limb’s 69˚S at BAM

Phantom Limb’s “69˚S.”, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY from ArKtype on Vimeo.

69˚S was co-produced by Beth Morrison Projects, incubators of many new operas and creators of Prototype Opera Festival for new opera, which starts its second annual incarnation in New York this week.

If you’re more interested in the Shackleton side of things than the opera side of things, you could also watch the 3-part Chasing Shackleton documentary starting tonight on PBS.  It follows that failed 1914 Antarctic expedition, focusing on the improbable rescue mission led by Shackleton that ultimately saved every member of his crew.  Check your local listings.

OK! on PBS

1953 Oklahoma Poster

1953 mail order form for Oklahoma! revival (from the NYPL Digital Archives)

The last musical theater installment in PBS‘ Arts Fall Festival is Rodger & Hammerstein‘s 1943 musical, Oklahoma!, in a performance from the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain, originally from 1998, featuring singin’, dancin’ Wolverine (aka, Hugh Jackman).  9pm this Friday.

Al Hirschfeld Oklahoma! illustration

Al Hirschfeld caricature of 1969 Oklahoma! revival cast (from the NYPL Digital Archives)

Found this great Al Hirschfeld caricature of the 1969 revival cast on the NYPL Digital Archives, which reminds me that the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts has an exhibit on Hirschfeld’s theater illustrations up through January 4th.  Definitely worth checking out, he’s a fun one.

I’ll leave you with the one song I know how to play on the piano which happens to be from Oklahoma!  From the 1955 technicolor movie, with Gordon MacRae:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DLsZHVNOok&w=350&h=300]

Superheroes on PBS

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:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RysrFfUAQc&w=350&h=300]

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 InfantinoJerry Robinson, and even some archival footage of Jack Kirby.

PBS' Superheroes book

PBS’ Superheroes companion book

The documentary series has an accompanying book too, reviewed favorably for its inclusionary history over at DC Women Kicking Ass here.