The Beverly Sills Phenomenon (II)

The first section of this article showed how Beverly Sills was by far the most famous American opera singer of her generation in America.  She was, however, completely unsuccessful in imposing herself on the international operatic public. I recall an Italian friend asking me in 1984 about a record made by some strange American soprano who sang all kinds of weird cadenzas and ornaments. I knew he meant Sills’ Bellini and Donizetti arias record, which was a commonplace among AmericanRead more

The Beverly Sills Phenomenon (I)

If you grew up loving opera in the United States in the 1970s, your American diva of the period was – without question – soprano Beverly Sills. You read her “self portrait” Bubbles, you collected her recordings, you watched her on television, and you heard her sing live. She performed extensively in the American hinterlands, so you didn’t have to live in New York to see her onstage. Sills was a late 1970s phenomenon, and the most phenomenal thing aboutRead more

A Charlie Brown Epiphany

Perhaps the best commentary on Christmas as it is observed in the United States is a television special made over 50 years ago: A Charlie Brown Christmas. In this 22-minute animated miracle, the congenitally depressed titular hero puzzles over the meaning of the holiday. Nearly all the answers he receives further depress him, be it Lucy’s greed-crazed psychiatrist’s attempts at pathologizing him, or his sister Sally’s letter to Santa in which she offers Santa the option of simply sending herRead more

Murder of the Orient Express

I’ve written several blogfolio posts about Agatha Christie’s works. From that, please infer that I am a fan of Mrs. Christie’s. I can lay claim to having read all her mystery novels and most of her plays and short stories. I’ve even read two of her Mary Westmacott novels. (I can’t help but interject that I feel that one of those, Absent in the Spring is Mrs. Christie’s literary masterpiece.) I admire Mrs. Christie’s work enormously and am extremely gratefulRead more

A Recipe for Canned Corn Corn Chowder

Corn chowder is a wonderful thing. Although some of us would be ashamed to admit it, canned corn is a wonderful thing too. Although a steaming bowl of chowder is most welcome in the winter, winter is precisely when corn is out of season. Whence the following recipe for canned corn corn chowder (which isn’t at all the same thing as canned corn chowder.) Although wordhandler.com isn’t a cooking site, culinary prose is well within our capabilities. The reader isRead more

A Tale of Two Ripleys

Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel The Talented Mr. Ripley is the twisted tale of a paranoid sociopath who commits two murders, assumes one of his victim’s identities…and then gets away with it. Not only does Tom Ripley end the book in triumph: from his entrance at the very start of the novel, we’ve been rooting for him. The Talented Mr. Ripley is one of those tales in which an antihero carries the reader’s sympathy. Despite the fact that Ripley is aRead more

The Shirley Verrett Conundrum

(as Lady Macbeth at La Scala, 1975) One of the more important – and, ultimately, most puzzling — operatic careers of the second half of the 20th century was that of mezzo-soprano Shirley Verrett (1931 – 2010.) Yes: I wrote mezzo-soprano. I harbor not the slightest doubt that Verrett was a mezzo, and that she’d have done well to have remembered it. She may have harbored ambitions in the soprano repertory, and she did find ways to sing several sopranoRead more