So it’s Leap Year day 2016 and another rare opportunity to say Happy Birthday to one of my favourite composers with tributes by one of my favourite artists.
Yes, 55 years ago today Gioachino Antonio Rossini was born in one of my favourite places in Italy, the lovely little seaside town of Pesaro. Well okay 224 years ago if you go by regular years but who’s counting? The important thing is that we celebrate and I can’t think of anyone who visually captured the fun, whimsy and some of the darkness of Rossini better than my beloved Emanuele (Lele) Luzzati.
Though it has now been uncovered that Rossini did not compose the “Cat Duet” two of the three pieces that make up this amusing little Duetto buffo are from his 1816 hit Otello. The third is the”Katte-Cavatine” by the Danish composer C.E.F. Weyse; and the whole was mushed together possibly by Robert Lucas de Pearsall, though even that is now open to question. Whoever it was that may have contrived this little pastiche knew what cats singers could be!
Long before Daphne Du Maurier wrote her short story The Birds and Alfred Hitchcock set a flock of avian predators loose to ruin Tippi Hedren’s beehive Rossini composed music in 1817 to La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie). It is the tale of a young girl who is almost executed for a theft that she didn’t commit – I assume that title is a bit of a spoiler. It’s one of those operas that sits on the fence – it’s label opera semi-seria, not quite a comedy and not quite a tragedy. Though it was once popular it is not produced all that often anymore; however the overture is one of the best known of the Swan of Pesaro’s musical beginnings. Lele captures that semi-seria tone in his little fable of the hunters becoming the hunted. This could be better titled La gazza vendicatore (The Avenging Magpie).
On this day in 1940: Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African American to win an Academy Award for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind.