Archive for October 26th, 2010

by Sam Juliano

    Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny developed both the subject matter and the musical style of the opera comique in the middle years of the eighteenth century.  The composer is known to have been greatly influenced by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona, an ‘opera seria’ that exerted enormous influence on the direction of music during this period of rapid expansion, in which the genre was transformed from a marked reliance on popular melodies to a time of exceeding musical creativity.  The Italians introduced the French to the idea that libretti be designed to serve and enhance the music, reforming the role of the composer, who had a subservient role in the earlier comedie en vaudevilles.  Monsigny’s earlier works, composed circa 1759 to 1761, were basically comic intrigues revolving around disguises, deceptions, misunderstandings and reconciliations.

     In 1762, Monsigny departed significantly from this overtly comedic style to a one that incorporated elements of humanism and moral enlightenment.  Indeed, the virtues of the common folk, and more importantly personal freedom and equality were themes then embraced by the philosophers of this period.  The musical content of Monsigny’s works – unsurprisingly – became more complex as a result, and a number of vocal ensembles were added.  It can’t be denied that the composer’s style is repetitive, but his skills as a melodist, the comic spirit evident in his earlier work and the immediacy of dramatic expression his his later works made his a formidable figure in French opera from any period. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Japan 1953 115m) DVD3 (Hong Kong only)

Aka. Nihon no Higeki/Tragedy of Japan

This black crucible

p  Takashi Koide, Tyotaru Kowata  d/w  Keisuke Kinoshita  ph  Hiroyuki Kosada  m  Chuji Konishita  art  Kimihiko Nakamura 

Yuko Mochizuki (Haruko Inoue), Keiko Awaji (Wakamaru, a geisha), Yoko Katsuragi (Haruko’s daughter), Masami Taura (Haruko’s son), Sanae Takasugi (Mrs Akazawa), Keiji Sada (Tatsuya), Ken Uehara (Masayuki Akazawa),

Don’t you neglect your mother” one character is told by Kinoshita’s protagonist, and the line is well chosen, representing its very being, its soul, its warning.  As a warning there are very few films of such potency, and yet it would be easy to say that the eponymous tragedy is that of its protagonist, Haruko Inoue.  In actual fact, that’s merely the cover story.  The real tragedy here is the plight of Japanese war widows in general.  It is quite deliberate that the film begins with a quickly edited montage of the newspapers and actual footage of the Japanese war trials, accompanied by the urgent drumbeat of the Kodo drummers.  Haruko is merely one of these widows, just one among thousands, fighting for their very existence for whatever they still hold dear.

            It is eight years after the war’s end, we are told.  Numerous crimes are repeated, day after day.  In this environment a widow is left to care for her two children by herself.  Both son and daughter do well at school, with the former having pretensions to joining the medical profession and the daughter doing well in English classes.  The mother saves continually to send them to college, working every hour God sends to pay for it.  Her children, however, not only take this for granted, but despise her for having just a bit of fun at a local sake drinking house with her few friends.  They only want to get away and forget she ever existed, but expect her to pay for this and accept it.  (more…)

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