American opera singer Rosa Ponselle was born on January 22, 1897 in Meriden, Connecticut, and died on May 25, 1981 in Baltimore, Maryland. January 2022 will mark her 125th birthday.
Rosa Ponselle (actually Rosa Melba Ponzillo) appeared from 1915 with her older sister Carmela as the Ponzillo Sisters in New York cinemas and cabarets. The impresario William Thorner recognized her talent and brought her into contact with the Metropolitan Opera, where she was promoted by Enrico Caruso. In 1918 she made her stage debut alongside Caruso as Leonore in “La forza del destino” by Giuseppe Verdi. The performance made Ponselle famous overnight. From 1918 to 1937 she was part of the Met ensemble for 19 seasons in a row.
After the end of her active career, she took on a managerial position at the newly founded Baltimore Civic Opera. There she also gave singing lessons. One of her students was Plácido Domingo.
The Catalan opera singer Josep Maria Carreras i Coll (Spanish form: José Carreras) was born on December 5, 1946 in Barcelona. He will celebrate his 75th birthday in December 2021.
In 1963 Carreras broke off his chemistry studies and began to study singing at the Conservatori Superior de Música in Barcelona. In 1970 he made his debut at the Gran Teatre del Liceu there in Verdi’s „Nabucco“.
In May 2009 Carreras announced his retirement from the opera stage, but continued to give concerts and celebrated a triumphant comeback on the opera stage in Bilbao in 2014 with the world premiere of Christian Kolonovits’ opera “El Juez”. José Carreras, one of the outstanding tenors of the second half of the 20th century, celebrated his departure from the Vienna State Opera at a gala in September 2021.
At the height of his career, Carreras fell ill with leukemia in 1987. Despite a bad prognosis, he was able to resume his singing career after a bone marrow transplant, which was hardly widespread at the time. Out of gratitude for the medical help, he founded the José Carreras Leukemia Foundation in 1988, for which he has raised over 200 million euros with benefit galas over the past twenty years.
The American baritone Lawrence Mervil Tibbett was born on November 16, 1896 in Bakersfield / California. He died on July 15, 1960 in New York as a result of a car accident. November 2021 will mark his 125th birthday.
Tibbett studied singing in Los Angeles and began his career as a concert singer. In 1921 he failed at an audition at the Metropolitan
The video shows Lawrence Tibbett as Escamillo in Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen”, in which he is also depicted on the stamp. The excerpt comes from Richard Boleslawski’s 1935 film “Metropilitan” with Virginia Bruce as Carmen. “Metropilitan” was the first film produced by the newly formed 20th Century Fox Film Studios after the merger of Twentieth Century Pictures and Fox Film Corporation.
The French poet, writer and chansonnier Georges Brassens was born in Sète on October 22, 1921. He died on October 29, 1981 in Saint-Gély-du-Fesc near Montpellier. October 2021 will mark the 100th anniversary of his birthday and the 40th anniversary of his death.
George Brassens began writing chansons at the age of 14. In 1942 he published his first poems. The well-known chanteuse Patachou was the first to perform Brassen’s chansons at the beginning of the 1950s and who enabled him to make his first public appearances in her Parisian cabaret.
To date, more than 30 million CDs and LPs of his chansons have been sold. In 1967 he was awarded the Grand Prix de Poésie by the Académie française.
The video shows Georges Brassens with his chanson “La complainte des filles de joie”
(The lament of the maidens ) from 1961.
The title song is still one of his most famous songs to this day. The song was a statement against the Vietnam War at the time, but for many it has become a kind of ultimate peace hymn and an ode to idealism.
“Imagine that there was nothing more worth waging war for …”
UN New York 21.9.2021
More anniversaries …
Mikis Theodorakis was born on July 29, 1925 on the island of Chios. He studied music in Athens and Paris, among others with Olivier Messiaen. During the Second World War he was politically active in the resistance movement and was imprisoned several times. In the 1950s he mainly composed chamber music, ballet music, some symphonic works and his first film scores. He became known worldwide in 1964 for his film music for “Zorba the Greek”.
Mikis Theodorakis was a member of the Greek Parliament from 1964 to 1967 and was arrested again after the 1967 military coup. In 1970 he managed to escape into exile in Paris, from where he went on numerous concert tours. After his return to Greece in 1974 he worked primarily as a composer and conductor. His extensive compositional oeuvre includes more than 1000 works, including symphonies, cantatas, church music, oratorios, operas, film music and numerous songs.
For his services to music he received the Sibelius Prize (1963), the Gold Medal for Film Music (London 1970) and the Socrates Prize (Stockholm 1974). For his commitment to peace and international understanding, Mikes Theodorakis was awarded the IMC UNESCO Music Prize in 2005.
The video shows Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates in the famous dance scene from the film “Zorba the Greek” by Michael Cacoyannis with “Sirtaki” composed by Mikis Theodoraki.
Charlie Watts was born in Bloomsbury on June 2, 1941. At the age of ten he discovered his passion for American jazz and built his first drum from an old banjo. He played in various youth bands and became a member of the Rolling Stones in January 1963. Because of his dry, direct drum style, he was considered the rhythmic basis of the band and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Rolling Stones in 1989. Since the 1980s he has also been on tour with his own big band and a smaller jazz formation.
In 2016, the Rolling Stone magazine listed Charlie Watts as twelfth of the 100 best drummers of all time.
The video shows Charlie Watts at a live concert by the Rolling Stones.
The German composer Engelbert Humperdinck was born on September 1, 1854 in Siegburg. He died on September 27, 1921 in Neustrelitz. September 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of his death.
The video shows the final scene of the opera “Hansel and Gretel” with Daniela Sindram (Hansel), Ileana Tonca (Gretel) and the children’s choir of the opera school of the Vienna State Opera. The recording is from a live broadcast by the 3Sat TV channel in 2016.
The Czech conductor and composer Jeroným Rafael Kubelík was born on June 29, 1914 at the Bohemian Castle of Horskyfeld in Býchory. He died on August 11, 1996 in Kastanienbaum in the Swiss canton of Lucerne. August 2021 will mark the 25th anniversary of his death.
As the son of the violinist Jan Kubelík, Rafael Kubelik’s musical talent was encouraged at an early age. He studied violin, conducting and composition at the Prague Conservatory and first appeared as a conductor in 1934. From 1936 to 1939 he conducted the concerts of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in Prague.
Czech Republic 27.5.1998
Kubelík was primarily regarded as a specialist in the works of Czech composers and set standards with his interpretations of the works of Dvořák and Janáček. He also stood up for the work of Gustav Mahler and began in the 1960s as the first with a complete recording of Mahler’s symphonies. In 1984 he retired from conducting, but conducted Bedřich Smetana’s symphonic poem “My Fatherland” again at the opening concert of the Prague Spring in 1990 at the request of the Czech President Václav Havel.
As a composer, Rafael Kubelik is assigned to neo-romanticism. He created a mass, stabat mater, 3 Requiem settings, 5 operas, 3 symphonies and a few other orchestral works. In addition, violin and cello concerts, chamber music and a number of songs.
The video shows Rafael Kubelik and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra with Smetana’s “My Fatherland” (Ma vlast), recorded on May 3rd and 4th, 1984 in the Herkulessaal of the Munich Residence.