Emmanuel Chabrier / Avenue Q
On this day in classical music: French composer Emmanuel Chabrier died at age 53 in Paris in 1894. Although Chabrier pursued a career in law — he worked briefly in the French Ministry of the Interior — his interest in music led him to become a composer. He became a prominent member of the Parisian arts scene in the mid-19th century, and counted Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Gabriel Faure, Ernest Chausson and Vincent d’Indy among his friends. Chabrier’s musical output, while not particularly large, contains a significant number of works for solo piano, several songs and a dozen operas. Today, he’s best remembered for his sparkling “Espana,” a rhapsody for orchestra that was inspired by a trip to Spain. Listen to the Orchestra of the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic perform “Espana.” Marcin Nalecz-Niesiołowski conducts the Polish orchestra. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFF8l–PhHQ
On this day in the musical theatre: The Tony Award-winning musical “Avenue Q” ended its Broadway run in 2009. Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty collaborated on “Avenue Q,” a coming-of-age story about a group of New Yorkers who share their concerns about entering adulthood. The musical’s cast features a mix of actors and puppets but the people who manipulated and voiced these puppets appeared in full view of the audience. “Avenue Q” opened in the same season as “Wicked,” a mainstream show many expected to walk away with most of the Tony Awards that season. But “Avenue Q” proved to be the little musical that could, winning Tonys for best book, score and musical. Another unusual twist happened when “Avenue Q” closed after a six-year run. It moved to off-Broadway’s New World Stages where it continues playing today. Watch the original Broadway cast perform “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MSCwOuYajI
Musical musings: This show … addresses Americans who were weaned on the small screen, and specifically on the educational antics of friendly anthropomorphic teachers like Big Bird and Cookie Monster. Mr. Lopez and Mr. Marx know that the songs you hear as a child are unlikely to leave your head entirely, and that whether you like it or not, such tunes and rhymes are likely to keep popping up as frames of reference for situations that on the surface could hardly seem less appropriate. That’s the delicious central conceit that infuses every element of “Avenue Q,” from its bright but gritty “Sesame” streetscape of a set to its archly educational animated segments, which parse words and phrases like “commitment” and “one-night stand” on video screens on either side of the stage. But it is in its songs and performances that “Avenue Q” plays most piquantly on the contrasts between the world according to children’s television and the reality of adult life. The nature of the twinkly songs, unfailingly tuneful and disgustingly irresistible, can be deduced from their titles: “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” “Schadenfreude,” “The Internet Is for Porn” and “You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You’re Makin’ Love).” – Ben Brantley in his New York Times review
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