From Penny Dreadful to Samson and Delilah to the Fifty Greatest Arias of All Time…

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Samson, from the poster for a production of Camille Saint-Saëns opera Samson and Delilah. (https://vaopera.org/experience-2/samson-and-delilah/)

Watching Penny Dreaful on Netflix tonight, I heard a beautiful mezzo-soprano aria and discovered it was called “Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix” and was from Act 2 of an opera, Samson and a Delilah (Op. 47) by composer Camille Saint-Saëns.

Photos above: Dorian Gray, left, from the series Penny Dreadful and his opulent ballroom, right, where “boundaries” hold no sway…

I was so moved by the decadence of the scene, and the haunting lilt and fall of the aria, I had to learn more about these beautiful things in operas called “arias”…

Here are the Top 50 based on a list I found online.


Turandot, Act 3: “Nessun dorma” (live at Arena di Verona) by Luciano Pavarotti, Orchestra del Teatro Arena di Verona and Armando Gatto

Rinaldo, HWV 7, Act 2: “Lascia ch’io pianga” by Elin Manahan-Thomas, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Harry Christopers

Gianni Schicchi: “O mio babbino caro” by Pilar Lorengar, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and Giuseppe Patanè

La Bohème, Puccini, Act 1: “Che gelida manina” by Mario Del Monaco, Opera Orchestra and Franco Ghione

Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), Mozart, K. 620, Act 2: “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” (Queen of the Night’s Aria) by Luciana Serra, Staatskapelle Dresden and Sir Colin Davis

Madama Butterfly, Puccini, Act 2: Un bel dì vedremo by Sylvia Sass, London Symphony Orchestra and Lamberto Gardelli

Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), K. 492, Act 1: “Non più andrai” by Wladimiro Ganzarolli, BBC Symphony Orchestra and Sir Colin Davis

Turandot, Act 1: “Signore, ascolta” by Montserrat Caballé, London Philharmonic Orchestra and Zubin Mehta

Tosca, Act 3: “E lucevan le stelle” by Franco Corelli, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and Lorin Maazel

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The Complete Horror Timeline–Part 2 of 3: Into the 20th Century (1900 – 1969)

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Image from the film, Häxan, a 1922 Swedish-Danish documentary-style silent horror film written and directed by Benjamin Christensen.

The Complete Horror Timeline

Part 2 of 3: Into the 20th Century (1900 – 1969)

Go to Part 1: Pre-20th Century * Go to Part 3: 1970 – 1999

Complete Bibliography


1902
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is published. As an exploration of the darker side of the soul it deserves mention, and is also considered the first twentieth century novel. Francis Ford Coppola moved the premise into Vietnam to see what would happen in 1979, whereas Nicholas Roeg’s telemovie (1994) was set in the original’s time period.

1902
‘The Monkey’s Paw’ is W. W. Jacobs’ contribution to the genre, and a significant one it is — probably the most famous short horror story, certainly of those written this century.

1904
The first collection from M. R. James, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, is published, heralding one of the most respected of this century’s horror authors, particularly in his speciality of the quiet but creepy ghost story.

1907
The Listener is published, a book of short stories by Algernon Blackwood containing his best-regarded work, ‘The Willows’. Blackwood was only one of a number of successful authors belonging to the Order of the Golden Dawn, an occult society created in 1888 by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, and whose most infamous member was Aleister Crowley. Other notable members were William Butler Yeats, Arthur Machen (debuting with ‘The Great God Pan’ in 1894), Lord Dunsany and the incredibly popular (in his time) Sax Rohmer who gave the world Dr Fu Manchu. This group represented not only most of the weird fiction originating in the UK at the time (one report lists Bram Stoker as a member), but is the last flourishing of English horror literature till James Herbert and Clive Barker [1984].

1908
Among the first experiments with film there were a number of gruesome and fantastic scenes, but the first real horror movie was probably William N. Selig’s 16 minute version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde [1885].

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The Complete Horror Timeline–Part 1 of 3: Pre-20th Century (1235 – 1899)

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Black Manor by unknown (Pinterest).

The Complete Horror Timeline

Part 1: Pre-20th Century

Go to Part 2: 1900 – 1969 * Go to Part 3: 1970 – 1999

Complete Bibliography

1235
An order comes out of the Vatican, authorising the commencement of an Inquisition to re-establish the orthodoxy of the faith. The charge of heresy soon becomes entangled with the charge of witchcraft, and in this form took until the seventeenth century to die away. [Article]

1307 – 1321
La Comedia, or The Divine Comedy as it came to be known, of Dante Alighieri is written in Italy. This semi-autobiographical poem sets forth one of the most influential descriptions of Hell in the literature, though Dante’s vast and intricate plan has, in the public eye, been superseded by Milton’s vision [1667]. Even less well-known are the two sections after Inferno that complete the poem, Purgatorio and Paradiso. [Article]

Nothing ere I was made was made to be
Save things eterne, and I eterne abide;
Lay down all hope, you that go in by me.

— trans. Dorothy L. Sayers

1456
Vladislav Basarab of Transylvania gains the crown of Wallacia for the first time (until 1462, and again briefly in 1468). From his father he earned the nickname ‘Dracula’, son of the Dragon, but he earned for himself the name Vlad the Impaler, for his favourite method of execution. Despite a large amount of slander by his political opponents, many of the tales of his cruelty were true (he is said to have killed over 40,000 people in his reign). He was also a staunch defender of Christendom from the Turkish threat. [1897]. [Article]

1470 – 1516
The Dutch artist Hieronymous Bosch in this period produced paintings of religious theme and nightmarish impact — the best known is The Garden of Earthly Delights. They came to the attention of the Inquisition after his death, but powerful patrons protected the collection. [Article]

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Frankenstein: The Immortal Life of a Novel

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Artist: Patrick Jones

I was amazed, recently, on coming across a list of editions of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus. I thought I would share the list with you, as we wonder, together, at the longevity of this work of art—it’s relevance then, in 1818, when it was first published, anonymously with a Preface by the famous poet, Percy B. Shelley; and now.

There are countless editions of Mary Shelley’s novel, many ephemeral and even undated, so any catalogue is necessarily incomplete. Following, is a list containing most of the major editions, reprints, and translations through 2000.

Texts published after the first and second editions are based on the 1831 (heavily revised) edition unless otherwise noted. Audio and video recordings are excluded, as are adaptations. For any single year, texts are arranged alphabetically by place of publication, with those in English preceding translations into foreign languages.

1818 & 1831–What’s the Big Deal?

Click here to see a Prezi presentation with highlights of the differences between the 1818 and 1831 texts of Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus:

https://prezi.com/m/39i_3bl2aez0/differences-between-1818-1831-versions-of-frankenstein/

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Artist: DamienWorm @deviantart.com

There are almost 300 entries just going through the year 1999. The list is in progress and will continue as records are gathered and posted.

Click below to read the list and see some interesting artwork inspired by the novel over the years!

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Crisis of Creativity: “Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Muse & the Albatross”, an Essay by Jenny Fabian

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“The Mad Poet” by Michael Whelan, 1992.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Muse & the Albatross

Jenny Fabian, 2011

In 1800, when William Wordsworth rejected Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem ‘Christabel’ from the second edition of Lyrical Ballads, it precipitated a crisis of creativity for Coleridge. It would be another sixteen years before ‘Christabel’ was finally published in Sibylline Leaves, aptly-named, for Coleridge’s poetry is curiously prescient, particularly in his representation of women as portents of his own fear of failure.

This essay will examine how Coleridge’s imagination is driven by this fear of failure, the extent to which the women in his poetry are polarised, and the power they hold over speech, both to inspire and suppress. In ‘The Eolian Harp’ and ‘Kubla Khan’ I will examine the conflict between the earthly and the transcendental and the emergence of the Abyssinian maid as muse, with the idea that Coleridge sacrifices himself to her power. I will show how the fear of failure becomes represented as an inability to speak in ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, and how polarisation of women appears in the form of ‘Heaven’s Mother’ and ‘Life-in-Death’. Rituals of crime and punishment in ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ illustrate the implicit symbolic violence of Coleridge’s imagination that exists beyond the threshold of consciousness.

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Facsimilie title page from the 1816 edition.

The motif of thresholds is further explored in ‘Christabel’, which I will link with the Gothic symbolism that Coleridge employs to demonstrate the effects of evil on innocence; here Geraldine is the ultimate seducer in Coleridge’s pantheon of female representations, a lamia-like figure with hypnotic powers. Finally, in ‘Dejection: An Ode’, I will argue how, by acknowledging his loss of the transforming power of the imagination, this loss becomes transformed into a presence that enables Coleridge to explore his creative failure.

J.B. Beer, who describes Coleridge as a ‘visionary’, writes: ‘at times, he hoped to discover the ideal woman, who should be his inspiration; and at times the “Ideal woman” became, like Solomon’s Beloved, or the celestial bride of Jacob Boehme, the image of a psychological state – the recovery of Wisdom and the lost Shechinah’. (1) (Beer 1959, 270)

If Coleridge’s women represent a sense of divine knowledge, such as the sibyls of antiquity or the Abyssinian maid, they also represent the polar extreme of evil intention, like the intimidating Life-in-Death and the hypnotic Geraldine. Conflict between active and passive is intrinsic to the dynamics of Coleridge’s poetry and represents the competing desires for freedom and engulfment. Camille Paglia argues that ‘Coleridge’s protagonists are always sexually dual…The poet is feminine because passive to his own vision’. (Paglia 1991, 328-9) For the poet to abandon himself to his muse involves a form of active submission, and beneath the passive surface there is deep mental activity; consequently, the movement in Coleridge’s poetry oscillates between the doing and being done to, and it is hard to be sure who is ultimately in control.

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A beautiful antique cloth-bound edition of a selection of Coleridge’s work, ed. by Andrew Lang. The illustrations in this edition were astounding. 

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Byron, the Shelleys, Polidori & the Genesis of Gothic Horror…

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Villa Diodati, Switzerland, During a Storm.

On This Day in 1816: John Polidori Finds a Book

Fabio Camilletti

The ‘On This Day’ series continues with a post by Fabio Camilletti* on Fantasmagoriana, celebrating exactly 200 years since the Shelleys, Byron and Polidori held their now infamous ghost story competition during a rainy summer by Lake Geneva.

On the 12th of June 1816, John Polidori ‘rode to town’, and ‘subscribed to a circulating library’; five days later, on June the 17th, he records in his journal that ‘the ghost-stories are begun by all but me’. Who knows when they started reading: on the evening of the 12th, Polidori slept in a hotel, and so he did on the 13th, when he ‘walked home in thunder and lightning’, lost his way, and the police drove him back to the inn; it may have been on the 14th (‘Shelley and I had a conversation about principles, – whether man was to be thought merely an instrument’: a nice appendix to a ghost story-telling night), or on the following days – the Shelleys, at any rate, were always around. The question, however, is in the end irrelevant – the ‘night at Villa Diodati’, as we imagine it, may well not have taken place at all. But the book was there, this is for sure: and, most plausibly, it came from the ‘circulating library in town’, to which Polidori had subscribed on the 12th. In the previous days, he had been reading Tasso and Lucian: from that day on, ghosts, fate, and the principles of life became an increasing concern for the company, until the moment when – as per the entry of 18, at ‘Twelve o’clock’– they ‘really began to talk ghostly’.

Fantasmagoriana_title_pageFantasmagoriana had been published in Paris by the Alsatian bookseller Frédéric Schoell (or, more correctly, Friedrich Schöll), a philologist and historian who had entered the editorial business during the Revolution – first in Basel, and later in the French capital – and would later attend the Congress of Vienna as a member of the king of Prussia’s entourage. Schoell’s bookshop was located in the Rue des Fossés-Montmartre (nowadays a part of the Rue d’Aboukir, in the second arrondissment), namely a few metres away from the medieval ruins of the convent and church of the Capucines, which had been ravaged during the Terror and would later be dismantled in the course of Haussmann’s renovation of Paris. In 1798, part of the convent had been hired by the Belgian manager Étienne-Gaspard Robert, better known under the name of Robertson, who had exploited the properties of that quintessentially gothic setting for his show: a mixture of lights, images, and sounds which he sold under the name of Fantasmagorie. In the heart of old Paris, not far away from Place de la Révolution where the king and Robespierre had been guillotined, the book and the show echoed, therefore, each other, both promising an experience of terror behind which, in a sense, sounded as the afterimage of another, and more historical, Terror.

Robertsons-phantasmagoria

Robertson’s Phantasmagoria.

Phantasmagoria was not Robertson’s invention. In the 1770s, an ex-Hussar and freemason named Georg Schröpfer had held necromancy séances in his coffee-house in Leipzig, and his ability in summoning ghosts via a hidden magic lantern had awarded him the nickname of Genspenstermacher (‘Ghost-maker’): Schröpfer’s experiments played with the ambiguity between ‘real’ supernatural and artifice, and so did the shows performed in Paris, since 1792, by an otherwise unknown Philipstahl or Philidor, being the first ones to be advertised under the name fantasmagorie, and which exploited the audiences’ interest in occult subject by selling themselves as a way of debunking credulity towards superstition. The same ambiguity was preserved – and indeed brought to the extreme – by Robertson’s shows, a veritable multi-sensorial experience that aimed at catching the beholders’ imagination completely: audiences were welcomed in the dark vaults of the convent of the Capucines, where meticulous care was paid to generating a ‘Gothic’ atmosphere; among skulls and spectral sounds, lamplights and smoke, Robertson held a speech in which he mixed necromancy and occult sciences, electricity and Galvanism; then full dark ensued, while the lantern began projecting its horrors, including skeletons, ghosts, the ancient gods, but also the shadow of Voltaire or the guillotined head of Danton. Ancient superstition mixed with contemporary history: at some point, the show was forcibly closed by the police when rumour was spread that Robertson could bring King Louis XVI back to life.

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Dawn, A Love Poem by Sanguine Woods, 2017

Dawn

It’s more than the flower–
although every pale petal is important
if this incantation is to breathe;
stand; lift up its leg; and
dance. It’s even more
than all the honeyed light
spilling in folds from
the spoon of the Sun—
(stamen; anther;
filament; ovule)
all moist and chanting to
the goddess of devotion;
a few drips for the
roots, too,
for hope.

These are delicate words.

New, like the blue of your eye,
just before it closes in sleep;
when the last look we share
fades till morning, and
I’m still awake pondering
aquamarine, turquoise,
robin’s-egg.

It’s more about the way
the flower leans,
east, at dawn’s edge;
no need for time spent
considering options;
only bend, receive,
partake.

It’s more about the way
sunshine triggers
transformation
from warm white light,
into something sweet,
and beckoning love
alight.

Existence itself murmurs:

“This is not about a beginning;
or an ending. This
is desire, resting,
at last,
on the soft, daily bounty.

“This is the morning, noon, and night
of it all—
two things, merging;
trembling; moments full,

now, as you take to heart
this newness—this
pink-petalled blurring between
love as tether
and love
as wing.”

– Sanguine Woods

(C) 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Shelly’s Heart—A Poem by Sanguine Woods

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Only when the magic
Leaves us,
Wide-eyed and withered,
Shells of nothing new,
Down-blown and resting
In a cornfield,
Do we comprehend
Harvest. Only when
The clay is drying,
Like the charcoal husk
Of Shelley’s heart
Wrapped in paper
In a desk drawer. Closer,
She croons, whose
Lips can
Conjure moons.
Repurposed, soon—
Like Wagner’s sticks,
All angles and twine,
And turning a Foucault line
In crisp autumn wind,
Telling stories from a
Branch, watching all those
Dropping things,
Lamenting red or
Golding—
Blood-orange,
Umber,
Like a scolding—
Coursing veins speak thinner words,
Thread-bare as summer’s coat—
Spider web, quivering
Where sleeves were, once,
A spectral face,
A nettled bit of widow’s
Lace, moans like a haunting.

(c)2017 by Sanguine Woods. All rights reserved.

(Art: Pinterest)