On this day in classical music: Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La Bohème” received its world premiere at the Teatro Regio in Turin, Italy in 1896. The 28-year old Arturo Toscanini conducted the premiere. Featuring a libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, “La Bohème” was based on Henri Murger’s “Scènes de la vie de bohème.” The opera focuses on four artists trying to eke out a living in 1830’s Paris: the poet Rodolfo, the painter Marcello, the musician Schaunard and the philosopher Colline. The opera’s romantic narrative involves Rodolfo and the seamstress Mimi. “La Bohème” has since become one of the most popular operas in the repertoire. Listen to Anna Netrebko perform the lovely aria “Quando m’en vo” from “La Bohème.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDvE8uKWznc
On this day in the musical theatre: “Stop the World — I Want to Get Off,” a musical by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, closed after 555 performances in 1964. Featuring a circus backdrop, the story focuses on Littlechap, a young man who decides to marry after he gets his girlfriend pregnant. With family responsibilities, he quickly grows dissatisfied and begins a period of philandering. Before the final curtain, Littlechap realizes that the love of his wife had been more than enough to satisfy him. “Stop the World” introduced the hits “Gonna Build a Mountain,” “Once In a Lifetime” and “What Kind of Fool Am I?” Listen to Newley perform “What Kind of Fool Am I?” on the television variety show “Hollywood Palace.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Z09CSDQN9M
Musical musings: Seldom has so much anticipation been built up over so little a show as “Stop the World — I Want to Get Off.” From what I’d read and been told, this English revue was going to be the last word in style and wit. What I saw was a overly precious little affair with a couple of good songs and a couple of good sketches, a few timid jokes, and an overdose of pantomime in imitation of Marcel Marceau. Newley wanders through numbers which are, I suppose, gentle remonstrances over the shortcomings of mankind. – John Chapman in the New York Daily News
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