Tag Archives: Classical Music

Long time no see, D.C.

Related Post: Plans for SPX 2013.

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As you already may know, I was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in the Potomac/Rockville/Bethesda area of Maryland. I haven’t had a chance to go back since 2011, so SPX (Small Press Expo) was a perfect excuse. :)

I had a little bit of extra time on Friday to visit the National Gallery of Art — and I am SO GLAD that I did. Ever since watching Nodame Cantabile, I discovered a great interest in Igor Stravinsky’s life and music, especially his ballets like The Rite of Spring and Petrushka. My interest became even greater with the film Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (starring my beloved Mads Mikkelsen). So I was very excited to get a chance to see the exhibit “Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929: When Art Danced with Music.” I really learned a lot from this exhibit — about how the Ballets Russes commissioned so many amazing artists including Picasso, Matisse, Cocteau, de Chirico, etc. — and enjoyed seeing the original costumes and amazing costume designs. I was also excited to see Alexander Calder’s magnificent, ginormous mobile again — a childhood favorite.

Below are some photographs I took and images from the exhibit to give you a taste of my experience!

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Outside my friend Tina’s apartment complex.

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The Washington Monument, under construction.

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The National Gallery of Art, East Building.

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Design for the front cloth from Petrushka (Copenhagen revival), 1925, by Alexandre Benois.
Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

Diaghilev 2

Costume design for Vaslav Nijinsky from The Afternoon of a Faun, 1912, by Léon Bakst.
Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

Diaghilev 3

Costumes from The Rite of Spring, 1913, by Nicholas Roerich.
Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

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Costumes from Le Bal, 1929, by Giorgio de Chirico.
Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

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Alexander Calder sculpture right outside the gallery.

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Copyright 2013 by G. E. Gallas


Note on “The Nutcracker”

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the following images or video!!

One of my favorite operas is Jacques Offenbach‘s The Tales of Hoffmann (Les contes d’Hoffmann). This opera is a fantastical retelling of the life of the German Romantic author E. T. A. Hoffmann,  casting Hoffmann as the protagonist of his own stories.

Placido Domingo performing the “Chanson de Kleinzach” aria.

Désirée Rancatore performing “Les oiseaux dans la charmille.”

Through The Tales of Hoffmann, I developed an interest in Hoffmann and his stories, quickly leading me to Sigmund Freud’s The Uncanny. In Freud’s essay, he uses many of the same Hoffmann stories as Offenbach, but in this case to prove a psychological point (not that Offenbach’s opera isn’t deeply psychological). If I remember correctly, Freud even mentions Offenbach’s opera.

Portrait of E. T. A. Hoffmann

I’m sure you are all wondering, “What does all this have to do with The Nutcracker?” Well, little do most people know, E. T. A. Hoffmann wrote in 1816 one of the earliest versions of The Nutcracker story, entitled The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Nussknacker und Mausekönig).

Alexandre Dumas was also a fan of Hoffmann, employing allusions to Hoffmann’s stories in The Count of Monte Cristo. Dumas even went as far as creating a revision to Hoffmann’s Nutcracker in 1844 called History of The Nutcracker (Histoire d’un casse-noisette), or The Tale of the Nutcracker.

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Towards the end of the 19th Century, Hoffmann’s Nutcracker was adapted to ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, perhaps the most famous incarnation of the tale. I write this post because my dad purchased tickets to the San Francisco Ballet to see The Nutcracker at the end of the month. Perhaps later I’ll add my thoughts on the production to this post.

Tchaikovsky’s music is always wonderful, if not a little too overplayed for the holidays. A lot of people tend to associate The March from The Nutcracker or The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy not with Tchaikovsky, but with the thousands of Christmas commercials that use these pieces. This also happens with The Chinese Tea Dance from The Nutcracker with Disney’s Fantasia and The Sleeping Beauty Waltz with Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

I believe the most creative and exciting production of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker is Mark Morris’s The Hard Nut. The Hard Nut is set in 1950s America with a very retro feel inspired by the comic artist Charles Burns — a strange but brilliant compliment to the classical music. I hope to one day be able to attend a live performance.

Advertisement for The Hard Nut.

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Copyright 2012 by G. E. Gallas


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