June 2009


Dust jacket of Romola Nijinsky's biography

Dust jacket of Romola Nijinsky's biography

Interesting little item in this week’s New Yorker in which Joan Acocella shines a light on some purported contemporary footage of Vaslav Nijinsky dancing that has been circulating on YouTube over the past year.  Perhaps not surprisingly, Acocella reveals these short film clips to be the work of a French animator, Christian Comte.  Not exactly intended as an archival hoax, but is it art?  You decide.

Image credit: NYPL Digital Gallery ID #1103814

Carl Van Vechten slide of Avon Long as Sporting Life in Porgy & Bess

Carl Van Vechten slide of Avon Long as Sporting Life in Porgy & Bess

The Museum of Performance & Design recently announced a special exhibition at the San Francisco Opera on the history of Porgy and Bess during the run of its current production.

“The display, guest curated by Bill Doggett, features rare archival footage from the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trust.”

But hurry, there are only two performances left and all performances are sold out!

Image credit: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library Digital  Images ID Number 1078926


A wall of sheet music at Ellis Island

A wall of sheet music at Ellis Island

Ellis Island, the island in New York harbor where millions of immigrants arrived during the turn of the century, is not a place that one associates with the performing arts. Like most federal offices, Ellis Island had an impersonal feel to it as officials tried to process the many immigrants from numerous foreign countries, speaking numerous languages. From contemporary descriptions, it sounds like 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue at lunchtime.

Now converted to a museum, renamed the Ellis Island National Monument and run by the National Park Service, the island provides a fascinating look at how it ran and was able to process so many immigrants. The museum does well in providing a broader social history of immigration and acculturation.

I was initially surprised to see a wall of sheet music at the Ellis Island museum, knowing that the island had no music facility. But then I realized what was in the curators’ minds: What better way to visually express the multiculturalism of numerous immigrants than with contemporary sheet music? It attests to that product’s unique way of being able to grab people with bright colors, large lettering, and attractive (and sometimes humorous) illustrations.