03/11/2012 archive

Two Short Films

by Herman Cain and Stephen Colbert.

Rant of the Week: Stephen Colbert

Iranian Irony Threat

As war tensions escalate between the U.S. and Iran, Stephen fears a covert hipster plot.

Mountain Dew

It’ll tickle yore innards.

On This Day In History March 11

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 11 is the 70th day of the year (71st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 295 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1851, The first performance of Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi takes place in Venice.

Rigoletto is an opera in three acts  with the Italian libretto written by Francesco Maria Piave based on the play Le roi s’amuse by Victor Hugo. It is considered by many to be the first of the operatic masterpieces of Verdi’s middle-to-late career.

Composition history

Verdi was commissioned to write a new opera by the La Fenice opera house in Venice in 1850, at a time when he was already a well-known composer with a degree of freedom in choosing the works he would prefer to set to music. He then asked Piave (with whom he had already created Ernani, I due Foscari, Macbeth, Il Corsaro and Stiffelio) to examine the play Kean by Alexandre Dumas, père, but he felt he needed a more energetic subject to work on.

Verdi soon stumbled upon Victor Hugo’s Le roi s’amuse. He later explained that “It contains extremely powerful positions … The subject is great, immense, and has a character that is one of the most important creations of the theatre of all countries and all Ages”. It was a highly controversial subject and Hugo himself had already had trouble with censorship in France, which had banned productions of his play after its first performance nearly twenty years earlier (and would continue to ban it for another thirty years). As Austria at that time directly controlled much of Northern Italy, it came before the Austrian Board of Censors. Hugo’s play depicted a king (Francis I of France) as an immoral and cynical womanizer, something that was not accepted in Europe during the Restoration period.

From the beginning, Verdi was aware of the risks, as was Piave. In a letter which Verdi wrote to Piave: “Use four legs, run through the town and find me an influential person who can obtain the permission for making Le Roi s’amuse.” Correspondence between a prudent Piave and an already committed Verdi followed, and the two remained at risk and underestimated the power and the intentions of Austrians. Even the friendly Guglielmo Brenna, secretary of La Fenice, who had promised them that they would not have problems with the censors, was wrong.

At the beginning of the summer of 1850, rumors started to spread that Austrian censorship was going to forbid the production. They considered the Hugo work to verge on lèse majesté, and would never permit such a scandalous work to be performed in Venice. In August, Verdi and Piave prudently retired to Busseto, Verdi’s hometown, to continue the composition and prepare a defensive scheme. They wrote to the theatre, assuring them that the censor’s doubts about the morality of the work were not justified but since very little time was left, very little could be done. The work was secretly called by the composers The Malediction (or The Curse), and this unofficial title was used by Austrian censor De Gorzkowski (who evidently had known of it from spies) to enforce, if needed, the violent letter by which he definitively denied consent to its production.

In order not to waste all their work, Piave tried to revise the libretto and was even able to pull from it another opera Il Duca di Vendome, in which the sovereign was substituted with a duke and both the hunchback and the curse disappeared. Verdi was completely against this proposed solution and preferred instead to have direct negotiations with censors, arguing over each and every point of the work.

At this point Brenna, La Fenice’s secretary, showed the Austrians some letters and articles depicting the bad character but the great value of the artist, helping to mediate the dispute. In the end the parties were able to agree that the action of the opera had to be moved from the royal court of France to a duchy of France or Italy, as well as a renaming of the characters. In the Italian version the Duke reigns over Mantova and belongs to the Gonzaga family: the Gonzaga had long been extinct by the mid-19th Century, and the Dukedom of Mantova did not exist anymore, so nobody could be offended. The scene in which the sovereign retires in Gilda’s bedroom would be deleted and the visit of the Duke to the Taverna (inn) was not intentional anymore, but provoked by a trick. The hunchback (originally Triboulet) became Rigoletto (from French rigolo = funny). The name of the work too was changed.

For the première, Verdi had Felice Varesi as Rigoletto, the young tenor Raffaele Mirate as the Duke, and Teresina Brambilla as Gilda (though Verdi would have preferred Teresa De Giuli Borsi). Teresina Brambilla was a well-known soprano coming from a family of singers and musicians; one of her nieces, Teresa Brambilla, was the wife of Amilcare Ponchielli.

The opening was a complete triumph, especially the scena drammatica, and the Duke’s cynical aria, “La donna è mobile”, was sung in the streets the next morning.

Remembering Japan

A Peaceful Journey To The Other Side

Japan Finds Story of Hope in Undertaker Who Offered Calm Amid Disaster

KAMAISHI, Japan – Amid the grief of finding her mother’s body at a makeshift morgue in this tsunami-ravaged city last March, Fumie Arai took comfort in a small but surprising discovery. Unlike the rest of the muddied body, her mother’s face had been carefully wiped clean.

Mrs. Arai did not know at the time, but the act was the work of a retired undertaker well-versed in the ancient Buddhist rituals of preparing the dead for cremation and burial. The undertaker, Atsushi Chiba, a father of five who cared for almost 1,000 bodies in Kamaishi, has now become an unlikely hero in a community trying to heal its wounds a year after the massive earthquake and tsunami that ravaged much of Japan’s northeastern coast a year ago Sunday.

“I dreaded finding my mother’s body, lying alone on the cold ground among strangers,” Mrs. Arai, 36, said. “When I saw her peaceful, clean face, I knew someone had taken care of her until I arrived. That saved me.”

An small act of kindness in the midst of chaos. Blessed Be

The Wheel Turns

Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

The Sunday Talking Heads:

Up with Chris Hayes: Sunday’s guests Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal), contributing writer at Newsweek; Jeremy Ben-Ami (@jeremybenami), founder & president of J Street; Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, president of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees and co-founder of Grassroots International Protection for the Palestinian People and Palestinian National Initiative, joining us from Ramallah, Palestine; Leila Hilal, Middle East analyst at the New America Foundation; Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder & president of The Israel Project; and Zev Chafets, founding managing editor at The Jerusalem Report and contributor at New York Times Magazine.

The Melissa Harris-Perry Show: No guests have been announced for Sunday’s program


This Week with George Stephanopolis: This week’s guests Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). will debate jobs and the economy.

The roundtable with senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper, former Obama economic adviser and ABC News consultant Austan Goolsbee, Republican strategist Mary Matalin, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, and Nicolle Wallace, Republican strategist and senior adviser to the McCain-Palin 2008 campaign

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, Robert Gibbs, senior adviser to Obama’s reelection campaign and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) are guests. Also, CBS News Political Director John Dickerson and CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Norah O’Donnell examine the state of the presidential race and what to look for over the next week in politics

The Chris Matthews Show: This week’s guests Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post Columnist; Bob Woodward, The Washington Post Associate Editor; Major Garrett, National Journal Congressional Correspondent; and Becky Quick, CNBC Co-Anchor, Squawk Box.

Meet the Press with David Gregory: Guests are GOP candidate Rick Santorum; Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association,  Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD) and Chairman of the Republican Governors association as well as Mitt Romney supporter, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA).

Roundtable guests are MSNBC’s Al Sharpton,  Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Washington Post‘s EJ Dionne, and the Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan

State of the Union with Candy Crowley: Sunday’s guests are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), the Washington Post‘s Dan Balz, The Wall Street Journal‘s Stephen Moore, and Former Office of Management and Budget Director Alice Rivlin. Also tewo former presidential candidates Dick Gephardt and Steve Forbes offer their assessment of the 2012 presidential field.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

 Japan remembers earthquake, tsunami with silence, rallies

 Year after 16,000 killed, country grapples with the human, economic and political toll

 msnbc.com news services

With a minute of silence, prayers and anti-nuclear rallies, Japan marked on Sunday the first anniversary of an earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and set off a radiation crisis that shattered public trust in atomic power and the nation’s leaders.

A year after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake unleashed a wall of water that hit Japan’s northeast coast, killing nearly 16,000 and leaving nearly 3,300 unaccounted for, the country is still grappling with the human, economic and political costs.

Sunday’s Headlines:

Thousands of Chinese trafficking victims rescued by police

Sri Lanka: A child is summarily executed

Zuma’s next visit provokes political storm in Harare

Syria crisis: Annan to renew talks with Assad

Garzón’s quest for justice crosses a red line in Spain