Monday, February 28, 2011
1. A snowboarding leopard
2. A figure skating bunny
3. A polar bear (I guess he doesn't get to compete in a sport.)
The unusual decision to have three mascots was announced by the Sochi organizing committee. Viewers could vote from among nine candidates by phone calls and text messages. More than 1 million votes were cast, according to the program.
Read the full article here.
This unit around we will visit one of our favorite little Russian Geniuses, Sergei Prokofiev (OK fine he was technically Ukranian, but most music historians still consider him to largely be an important Russian composer), and talk about his most famous opera, “The Love of Three Oranges”. This work of art is charming as it is witty in making fun of the government officials without being outright scandalous.
Although the opera pokes fun at that powers that be in Russian it is important to make the distinction that this Opera was written originally in America for a Chicago audience. In 1918 Prokofiev was allowed to travel to the USA in hopes that he would spread the word about the success of Russian art in America. Needless to say this trip went swimmingly. After presenting a recital including the famous Piano Concerto No. 1, performed by the composer himself, Prokofiev caught the eye of Cleofonte Campanini(principal conductor and general manager of the Chicago Opera). He awarded Prokofiev a commission to compose a new opera for the company and thus the work in progress Prokofiev had in his repertoire was completed, “The Love of Three Oranges”. Although this opera does have a Russian libretto, it would have been quite inappropriate to present a Bolshevik themed opera in the Russian language to an American audience, thus the libretto was translated and premiered in French.
The plot of this opera by nature makes little sense at is more importantly meant to entertain through the use of satire. Just FYI, it is based on an old Italian Fairy Tale. Well here goes...
The King of Clubs and his adviser Pantalone are worried about the health of the Prince, a hypochondriac whose symptoms have been brought on by an indulgence in tragic poetry. Apparently his ailment can only be cured with laughter, so Pantalone summons the jester Truffaldino to arrange a grand entertainment, together with the (secretly inimical) prime minister, Leandro.
The magician Tchelio, who supports the King, and the witch Fata Morgana, who supports Leandro and Clarice (niece of the King, lover of Leandro), play cards to see who will be successful. Tchelio loses three times in succession to Fata Morgana, who brandishes the King of Spades, alias of Leandro.
Leandro and Clarice plot to kill the Prince so that Clarice can succeed to the throne. The supporters of Tragedy are delighted at this turn of events. The servant Smeraldina reveals that she is also in the service of Fata Morgana, who will support Leandro.
All efforts to make the Prince laugh fail, despite the urgings of the supporters of Comedy, until Fata Morgana is knocked over by Truffaldino and falls down, revealing her underclothes — the Prince laughs, as do all the others except for Leandro and Clarice. Fata Morgana curses him: henceforth, he will be obsessed by a "love for three oranges." At once, the Prince and Truffaldino march off to seek them. Yeah really...
Tchelio tells the Prince and Truffaldino where the three oranges are, but warns them that they must have water available when the oranges are opened. He also gives Truffaldino a magic ribbon with which to seduce the giant (female) Cook (a bass voice!) who guards the oranges in the palace of the witch Creonte.
They are blown to the palace with the aid of winds created by the demon Farfarello, who has been summoned by Tchelio. Using the ribbon to distract the Cook, they grab the oranges and carry them off into the surrounding desert.
While the Prince sleeps, Truffaldino opens two of the oranges. Fairy princesses emerge but quickly die of thirst. The Ridicules (Cranks) give the Prince water to save the third princess, Ninette. The Prince and Ninette fall in love. A body of soldiers conveniently turns up and the Prince orders them to bury the two dead princesses. He leaves to seek clothing for Ninette so he can take her home to marry her, but, while he is gone, Fata Morgana transforms Ninette into a giant rat and substitutes Smeraldina in disguise.
Everyone returns to the King's palace, where the Prince is now forced to prepare to marry Smeraldina. Tchelio and Fata Morgana meet, each accusing the other of cheating, but the Ridicules intervene and spirit the witch away, leaving the field clear for Tchelio. He restores Ninette to her natural form. The plotters are sentenced to die but Fata Morgana helps them escape, through a trapdoor and the opera ends with everyone praising the Prince and his bride
I warned you...
Anyways Below is a recording of one of my personal all time favorite compositions, the “March” from “The Love of Three Oranges”!
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Russia has no laws protecting animals or limiting the amount of pets in a household when there should be. If you have so many pets, it's hard to give enough and equal attention to every single one of them. It's also hard to make sure that they're all healthy enough and that they're getting enough to eat. You shouldn't keep 130 cats in a small room. Cats need to roam and have enough room to do so. You also shouldn't feed cats like chickens! It's just sad.
Some useful "ck" expressions:
Он скуден умом (He's poor in brains)
Он не глупый, но он скудоумный (he's not stupid, but he's limited)
скупой начальник (stingy boss)
скупой на слова (quiet, or stingy with words)
скупой на похвалу (begrudging praise)
Скупой платит дважды (a miser pays twice)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ib4YPtTatF4 (This one has cool Russian rap behind it.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvRnf8_-Duo (Almost a documentary on the sport in Russia)
Monday, February 21, 2011
Mstislav Rostropovich, who passed away almost four years ago, was considered to be one of the greatest cellists of all time. He gained popularity during World War II and the subsequent Cold War period of Russia.
In fact, he first won an international Music Award at the age of twenty, which was followed by a Stalin Prize at the age of twenty-three. The latter was, at the time, considered to be the highest distinction in the Soviet Union.
Despite this, Rostropovich found himself harassed by the Soviet regime for promoting democratic values, freedom of speech, and "art without borders." At the age of twenty-one, his instructor at the Moscow Conservatory was dismissed because he was labelled as a "formalist composer;" Rostropovich subsequently dropped out in protest, as well. Much later, in 1970, he sheltered Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, an outspoken Soviet author, and found himself officially disgraced in the Union. As a result, he was even restricted from performing abroad, and was sent on a tour to small towns in Siberia.
By 1974, Rostropovich had decided to leave the Soviet Union in favor of settling in the United States (this was actually the same year that Solzhenitsyn was exiled from the USSR, as well). His Soviet citizenship was revoked in 1978 because of his opposition to the country's restriction of cultural freedom, and he did not return to Russia until 1990.
After moving to the United States, Rostropovich served as the musical director and conductor of the U.S. National Symphony Orchestra from 1977 to 1994. He also founded the Rostropovich Music Festival, and performed quite often at the Aldeburgh Festival in the Unuited Kingdom. The cellist even gained international fame during the fall of the Berlin Wall, due to his impromptu performance in front of the structure.
Finally, Rostropovich and his wife formed a valuable art collection that included over four hundred pieces. In order to preserve the collection, and to bring it to Russia, a billionaire named Alisher Usmanov purchased all of the works for a price "substantially higher" than ₤20 million.
Random Fact: He was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery on April 29, 2007. His friend, Boris Yeltsin, was buried in the same cemetery on April 25, 2007.
(Smooth Criminal Cover - Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic)
Also, here are the same two cellists performing a piece by another Soviet composer, Dmitri Shostakovich:
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Last year, I wrote a research paper on different myths and legends in Russian folklore. Among many manifestations of a goddess or feminine spirit is the rusalka. This word is generally translated to "mermaid" now-a-days, but in years past, it was a much more general term for a mystical and powerful female spirit-being. Rusalki were often associated with water (such as a water nymph, or the aforementioned mermaid), and each rusalka was the restless spirit of a dead woman (perhaps drowned in water) that would maliciously guard a river or stream. They were thought to climb trees where they would sing songs to lure unsuspecting bachelors to their doom.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
So, trawling EnglishRussia for a blog post for this unit, I came across a few pictures of what appears to be an anti-drunk driving PSA. Somehow, despite the fact that a fake corpse jammed through a billboard is about as unsubtle as it gets, the sheer low-budget, guerrilla-like feel of the whole ad makes it seem more subtle than flashy American PSAs on the same subject. The text accompanying the rear of the unfortunate dummy is difficult to see; it says "ЗДЕСЬ МОГЛИ БЫТЬ ВАШЕ ТЕЛО" -- "YOUR BODY COULD BE HERE." It doesn't even contain an admonishment not to drink and drive, so as far as viewers know it's just advising them to avoid launching themselves at billboards, or something. Then they drive past it, glance back, and see the front half of the dummy, still clutching a steering wheel...and, bizarrely, wearing a jaunty Santa hat.
Valentine’s Day promotes “amorousness rather than love,” said Grigory Bolotnov, a spokesman for the governor of Belgorod, southwest of Moscow. “It’s designed to swell the emotions, and you know what kind of teenage liaisons happen then,” he said.
Government-funded institutions were instructed to refrain from promoting Valentine’s Day in any way, though private businesses and individuals are free to do as they please, Bolotnov said.
Popular western celebrations such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween are no longer “en vogue,” as they were after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Bolotnov said. A poll in 2008 by Moscow-based research group Levada Center found that 41 percent of Russians considered Valentine’s Day a holiday and celebrated it as such, while the same percentage said just the opposite.
Monday, February 7, 2011
First of all, let me say that this is the kind of song that gets stuck in your head and stays there. Proceed with caution. The music video is very entertaining, mostly because it’s a bunch of Russians trying to act tough. From what I’ve heard, these guys are to Russia as the backstreet boys are to the US.
Things to notice:
1. Eating habits. Mom cooks dinner and lays it all out on the table for the guests family-style.
2. The guests bring gifts, usually flowers, chocolate, etc.
3. Very little smiling (though I think this is supposed to be some kind of mafia/love triangle thing, which might explain it a bit. Still, Russian’s don’t smile. )
4. Men are strong and dominant
5. Squished apartments/crowded cities
6. Lyrics: not too happy with the government/society in general
Another catchy Russian song, just for fun. These guys remind me of the A*Teens:
Dialogue with Patrick: http://www.box.net/shared/fkzy22ftph
Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Ekaterina Gordeeva Answers Questions
(If you're really that interested, you can follow this first part to the other parts.
And because you really should watch her skate...
(Just for fun)
Dialogue with Keri Dillet
Here are many drinking traditions in Russia:
- When you have alcohol, it must be drunk until it is gone.
- One should not put a glass with alcohol back on the table.
- Traditionally alcohol is poured out to all the people present, though they are not required to drink.
- One should not make a long interruption between first and second shots.
- The latecomer must drink a full glass (so-called "penal")
- Outgoing guest must drink last glass, so-called "На посошок". Literally it is translated "On a small staff", really means "For lucky way".
- As a rule, every portion of spirit is accompanied by a touch of glasses and a toast. Funeral and commemoration are exceptions; there the touch of glasses is forbidden.
- It is not allowed to pour out by hand holding a bottle from below.
- It is not allowed to fill a glass being held in the air.
- It is considered bad luck to make a toast with an empty glass.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
This unit I will once more somewhat deviate from my composer themed blog posts and plunge into Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake to talk about it's prima ballerina, Anna Sobeshchanskaya.
First off it is important to mention that although Tchaikovsky's beloved (albeit ill-recieved during its time) ballet was written and meant for Madame Sobeshchanskaya, she was originally booted from its cast. Apparently Madame caused quite a scandal by accepting a jewelry from a government official before choosing to marry a fellow dancer and selling her gifts for cash. She was subsequently replaced as the “Swan Queen” by Pelageya Karpakova for its premier on March 4, 1877. (Side note: the man she lost her job over was allowed to retain his role as Prince Siegfried... how is that fair?!)
So you might be asking yourself, why is Sobeshchanskaya so important if she wasn't even at the premier?
By the fourth performance of “Swan Lake”, Sobeshchanskaya was allowed to return to the stage: however, the prima ballerina was very unsatisfied with the presented with the choreography. One of the critics had the following to say about the original choreographer, Julius Reisinger's, work.
"Mr. Reisinger’s dances are weak in the extreme.... Incoherent waving of the legs that continued through the course of four hours - is this not torture? The corps de ballet stamp up and down in the same place, waving their arms like a windmill’s vanes - and the soloists jump about the stage in gymnastic steps. The designs were borrowed from other productions or made cheaply. Conceived by three different men, who did not work together, the result was a shabby and incoherent look.”
In order to salvage the ballet, Sobeshchanskaya went to St. Petersburg to seek the help of the illustrious choreographer Marius Petipa. She requested that he create a new third act pas de deux for her, which he did to the music of Ludwig Minkus. Tchaikovsky was obviously furious when he found out her plan to insert another composer's music in his score and after much debate he agreed to write additional music, basing it "bar for bar, note for note" on the Minkus music so that Petipa’s choreography could be retained. So thrilled was Sobeshchanskaya with Tchaikovsky’s composition that she requested an additional variation, which he composed for her. Indeed, this is the version that is played in modern productions.
Original Dialogue with Josh
Dialogue 4 on pg 184 with Josh
Saturday, February 5, 2011
The meaning of the current flag is:
white- nobility, frankness, generosity;
sky-blue - loyalty, honesty, irreproachability, chastity, faultlessness, wisdom;
scarlet- courage, magnanimity, love, self-sacrifice.
In the 19th century, the flag meant:
white- liberty, independence;
sky-blue - God Mother;
The colors themselves represent:
http://www.russian-flag.org/rippled-russian-flag-720.jpg (picture of flag)