QUIZ: Which Muse Are You?

Famous paintings over the years are filled with lovely female models. They convey strength, beauty, and- in some cases- mystery. Who is this muse? Why is she portrayed in this light? I can’t give you a definitive answer to those questions, but I can at least offer this quiz to help you determine which portrait you best embody. Be sure to share your results in the comments!

1. If I were an animal, I’d probably be a…

A. Lion B. Squirrel C. Fish D. Domestic house cat

2. My favorite accessory is…

A. Gold chain B. Colored scarf C. Earrings D. Ribbon headband

3. In photos, I often look…

A. Angry B. Relaxed C. Shy D. Bored

4. I could see my muse living in…

A. Italy B. Poland C. The Netherlands D. New York City

5. A lot of my friends are…

A. Dead B. Animals C. Older than me D. Wealthy

RESULTS

If you picked mostly A’s…you’re Judith Slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi!

If you picked mostly B’s…you’re Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci!

If you picked mostly C’s…you’re Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer!

If you picked mostly D’s…you’re Countess d’Haussonville by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres!

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(Source: The Frick Collection App)

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Apologies, and Int’l Women’s Day Greetings

Hello folks. I’d like to apologize for the late blog entry this week, but what I’d planned to write sort of fell through. Hopefully next week I’ll come up with something even better- and sooner! Anyway, something I didn’t know this morning was that today is International Women’s Day! It’s a wonderful thing to see the accomplishments and rights of women are being recognized on a global scale. In truest Puccini’s Chronicles trend, we’re going to put our own twist on venerating the ladies, both real and fictional, who’ve elevated artistic endeavors throughout history. So sit back, my readers, and let me tell you a story…

As many legends tell us, Woman was created by the Divine to be the completion of Man.

Though supplanted for a long time, it was clear that she was at the controls of the male heart. You can see evidence of it with every muse.

Once opportunity arose for the ladies to come into their own, they did so in a BIG way.

It was time for their voices to be heard…

…and their stories to be told.

More recently, creative minds have realized that it’s just as important to cultivate the future of socially active women with excellent role models.

We still have a ways to go, but together, we can ensure that progress never stops being made!

Spotlight: “It was David Hyde Pierce in the Dressing Room with the Candlestick!”

If you ask me, the reason there aren’t many “mystery” shows on Broadway is because it’s hard to capture a whodunit story outside of dinner theatre settings. But they ARE out there. For anyone interested, here is a profile of some of the most well-known detective musicals.

Curtains (music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb, book by Rupert Holmes) Starred David Hyde Pierce in a Tony-winning performance and, apparently, the best role he’s ever played. Opened at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in March 2007 and ran for 511 performances.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (music and lyrics and book by Rupert Holmes) Wow, Rupert Holmes has really got a thing for mystery shows, hasn’t he?! Based on the unfinished final novel of Charles Dickens, it opened at the Imperial Theatre in December 1985 and ran for 608 performances.

Baker Street (music and lyrics by Marian Grudeff and Raymond Jessel, book by Jerome Coopersmith) Based on a Sherlock Holmes story. Opened at the Broadway Theatre in 1965 and ran for 311 performances. Here’s something that will BLOW YOUR MIND: Raymond Jessel is that older guy from last year’s America’s Got Talent season who sang the dirty song about a woman with- well- male genitalia.

Jekyll and Hyde (music and lyrics by Frank Wildhorn, Steve Cuden, and Leslie Bricusse, book by Leslie Bricusse) Not really a traditional detective show, but the identity of the murderer in this rock opera adaptation of the classic story remains a mystery to most of its characters. It opened at the Plymouth/Gerard Schoenfeld Theatre in April 1998 and ran for 1543 performances; the original Broadway production was filmed and features David the Hoff (!!) in the title roles.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (music and lyrics by Steve Lutvak and Rob Freedman, book by Rob Freedman) Again, YOU know who the killer is in this madcap Edwardian comedy, but no one else in the show does! This is the only one of the five on this list that I have seen- and I loved it. The best part about it was Jefferson Mays as all eight doomed members of the D’Ysquith family, a true tour-de-force! It opened at the Walter Kerr Theatre in November 2013, won last year’s Best Musical Tony Award, and is still going strong.

How many of these mystery musicals have you seen? Do you think the genre works in live performance?

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For Your Consideration: A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER Review

One of my birthday gifts this year was a ticket to see A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER on Broadway yesterday. I’ll admit it, when I first heard about GGLAM (as it’s abbreviated) I wasn’t too interested. Then I saw their Tony performance and was completely sold.

In a nutshell: British nobody Monty Navarro (Bryce Pinkham) finds out that he is a long-lost member of one of the wealthiest families around, the D’Ysquiths. Unfortunately, eight members of the family stand before him in the way of the fortune, so he decides to dispose of them all, one by one. Along the way, he gets caught up in a love triangle between his longtime crush Sibella (Lisa O’Hare), who is married, and his distant cousin (!!) Phoebe D’Ysquith (Lauren Worsham). In a trick reminiscent of LITTLE ME and SPAMALOT, one very gifted actor (Jefferson Mays) gets the tour-de-force task of playing every D’Ysquith, both the men and the women.

This is done to fabulous results in the Broadway production because Jefferson Mays is so skilled at it. He slips seamlessly from character to character and is totally committed to each one. A Tony nominee for his performance, he may very well have taken home the prize if this weren’t Neil Patrick Harris’s year. My favorite members of the eccentric D’Ysquith clan were the warmongering Lord Adalbert and charity-bringing spinster Lady Hyacinth. Both get terrific numbers- “I Don’t Understand the Poor” and “Lady Hyacinth Abroad,” respectively.

While this is clearly a star-making performance for Mays, the supporting cast was great, too. As murderous Monty, Bryce Pinkham is suave and earnest enough to make you like his character despite the terrible things he does. And as his two love interests, Lisa O’Hare and Lauren Worsham play off each other very nicely and wore gorgeous costumes. The three of them also stop the show (so to speak) with “I’ve Decided to Marry You,” which not coincidentally was the show’s Tony performance.

The one really negative point of the show, I must confess, was that some of the actors’ British accents were so warbled that they bordered on incomprehensible. This is especially bad in a show where the exposition is so important. Furthermore, I have to add- as amusing and fresh as this musical is, IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE. I cannot stress this enough. To properly appreciate GGLAM, you need to have a taste for dry humor, black comedy, period pieces, and Marriage of Figaro-style plots. If you don’t, you probably will not enjoy this show.

That said, I DO have a taste for those things, so for me, A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER was a sparkling afternoon at the theatre, infused with enough macabre and fun to keep me interested in what would happen next.

Back With a Vengeance, Congrats Scarlett Johansson, and Blog Announcements

Hey dilettantes, thespians, and artists alike!

Sorry it’s been a while since the last entry, but I was having trouble coming up with a decent way to close up Tudor England month here on Puccini’s Chronicles. And I think a nice way to take it full circle would be to bring it back to the story that started it: Phillipa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl. In contrast to the successful page-to-screen translation of A Man for All Seasons, highlighted in a previous post, TOBG wasn’t nearly as well-received by critics and audiences. We’re going to look at one particularly entertaining (and scathing!) review of the movie…and a couple of my own opinions…

The author of the film review was historian Alex von Tunzelmann. She first goes on to skewer the source material, which apparently changed the historical role of Mary Boleyn from that of a bed-hopping eldest sister to the innocent younger sister of Anne and George Boleyn. In the book, Mary’s motives and feelings are thoroughly explored to make this inaccuracy plausible, but for film, Gregory’s 600+ page yarn had to lose most of the detail that made it a great read. Ironically, she actually was a fan of the screenplay for her story. Von Tunzelmann (and other critics) note that while the casting of Anne (Natalie Portman), Mary (Scarlett Johansson), and Henry VIII (Eric Bana) was on point, the love triangle between the three was poorly staged and not terribly sincere.

One thing that Gregory’s novel got right was the number of Mary’s children by the king: two. In the movie, however, only one (the son) has existence. Also, my personal favorite parts of the book (the romance between Mary and her second husband William Stafford) were turned into a literal footnote of the film. But at least Stafford was portrayed by the then-unknown Les Mis star Eddie Redmayne.

By the way- congratulations to “Mary Boleyn” on the birth of her real-life daughter this week, who has a remarkably classic name: Rose Dorothy.

As for the announcements: One, the fictional Giacomo Puccini story that began this website will be suspended indefinitely until someone else submits a chapter for it. There’s only so much exposition I can create! If you like what you’ve seen so far, become an author for it. Please?

The second announcement is that of our theme for the month of September: COLOR. What do I mean by color? Well, anything- use of color in art, musical tone color, even color words in the titles of songs (think “Rhapsody in Blue” or “White Christmas”). This is going to be a very broad topic that investigates the different emotions evoked by notions of color.

From Page to Screen: A Man for All Seasons

When it comes to adapting literary works for the big screen, most of the time- in my experience, anyway- it’s a hit or miss venture. You either stay as true to the source as you can and risk alienating people unfamiliar with the original work- or you “Hollywoodize” it and upset those who ARE familiar with the book or play. With plays, there’s an added element to consider- do you cast the original stage actors in the roles or go for more well-known performers?

With the Robert Bolt masterpiece A Man for All Seasons, I think, one witnesses an example of a page-to-screen adaptation that found a balance of the above factors to great success. For those who’ve never read the play, a short plot summary: Sir Thomas More (a chief member of King Henry VIII’s court) is torn between his loyalty to the king and his loyalty to God when Henry demands that all of England recognize him as head of the church. The play portrays his interactions with people on both sides of the debate leading up to More’s tragic decision. The plum role of Sir Thomas More was originated onstage by Paul Scofield, and it was tackled in the 1966 film by…Paul Scofield.

The film was a smashing success, winning Best Picture AND Best Actor for Scofield. Because the swing character of the “Common Man” from the play only works in a stage setting, the screenplay was changed to excise this character and replace him with multiple actors. Playwright Robert Bolt adapted the screenplay himself, and famed actor/director Orson Welles appeared in the movie as Cardinal Wolsey. I think A Man for All Seasons, therefore, is an excellent case study on how thespians can collaborate with screen sirens to create a new medium for stories without sacrificing artistic integrity…or potential profitability.

Thomas More’s last words were, “I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

Excerpt from “Once and Never Queen,” a novelette

“I am not going to toy around with frivolous small talk,” he said, “but I will get right to the matters at hand. For one, Lord Cromwell is due to be executed at dawn on the last day of the month.”
My jaw dropped. “Why would you order such a thing?”
“It was he who forced me into this marriage with you. And now look at us- do we seem like a happy couple?”
There was only one right answer. “No, sir.”
“Exactly. We both knew we weren’t a match for one another, and yet he insisted on this alliance with Germany. His foolishness put the both of us in a terrible predicament, do you understand?”
“I understand, but how was Lord Cromwell to know that France and Spain would not join forces against us?”
He grew impatient with my questioning and his face flared almost as red as the hair of his beard. “He is my chief advisor! He should have some degree of insight!” Taking a breath, he calmed down. “But my queen, my dear, peaceful queen- I may have found a way for us to be set free from our bondage.”
I didn’t consider my marriage to be bondage. It wasn’t the most affectionate, but it certainly wasn’t all that bad. I felt resentment flicker in my heart. “What did you have in mind?”
“My men have procured these documents for me,” he said. “On them it is recorded that you were once betrothed to a duke named Francis. Is this true?”
“Yes, but we were never married.”
“That is immaterial. As long as you were engaged to someone else at the time of our wedding, neither were you and I married. As a bonus to us, what remnant we did have of a marriage was never consummated.”
“Of course it was,” I replied.
His eyes widened. “This is no time for jokes. Listen to me. All you need do is sign a submission paper and our marriage will be annulled. You will make one more public appearance as my queen on May Day- and then you will leave my halls. Provided you stay in England, however, I will do whatever I can to ensure that you have everything you need.”
He paused and looked me in the eye, daring me to object. And I almost did. Clearly, he and his men had thought this all out and my fate was sealed already. I knew what had happened to Katherine of Aragon when she fought her husband’s wish for an annulment. Separated from her daughter, she died abused and alone at the hands of the King. Even if I cooperated, I was taking a gamble- the King could easily go back on his word to take care of me.

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Puccini’s Chronicles AUGUST

Time to announce the theme for next month!

So far we’ve had Final Fantasy and Hollywood…next is a zone full of intrigue, usurping, sex, and a whole lot of beheading.

Yes, the PC theme for the month of August will be TUDOR ENGLAND! For the past seven years or so I’ve been reading The Other Boleyn Girl on and off, but now I am starting to get into this period of history again. I have also read the book Mary, Bloody Mary and am the author of a short novella about Anne of Cleves; I think there will artistically be a lot to explore in the coming weeks.

To kick off this chapter, a question for all of you- who is the most fascinating figure to live during the Tudor era? Is it Anne Boleyn? Katherine of Aragon? Thomas More? King Henry VIII himself? Let me know and be sure to include why you feel that way.

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