Tag Archives: music

If This Were The 18th Century: Madonna’s Superbowl Half-Time Performance

I was planning on featuring this Madonna performance in an entirely different post, but it’s too tempting now that she performed “Vogue” at the Superbowl.  She’s stunningly perfect with her platinum pouf, darkened brows, and beauty patch near the eye (signifying passion).  Very Madame Pompadour.  And like Madonna at her best, she makes it all look naughty.

Curious about patches?  See To Patch or Not to Patch

A Family Affair: Mozart’s Sister

Eclipsed by her brother’s prodigious talents, constrained by the limitations placed on her sex, and fueled by her passion for music, Maria Anna Mozart’s forgotten story is positively brimming with conflict. 

Or is it?

As the eldest child, the woman her family affectionately called Nannerl was originally the family star, but she soon took a second seat to her  brother.  In the 18th century, women didn’t compose; they performed.  Likewise, they were restricted as to which instruments they were permitted to play, including the violin–what her father calls a “boy’s instrument.” 

Nannerl pursued her music, regardless.  At an early age, she became accomplished at the harpsichord and the fortepiano, but no matter her talents, social impediments prevented her from what might have been a distinguished talent.  Marriage was of the utmost importance to Nannerl’s future, and she was expected to fulfill her obligations like every other woman alive.  That pesky little problem aside, Nannerl’s relationship with music was a source of joy in her life.  Mozart looked up to his big sister, from childhood desiring to be like her, and they enjoyed a close relationship for many years.  Sources disagree as to whether this mutual adoration continued until Mozart’s death in 1791.

Talent-wise, evidence of her composing is mentioned in her letters to Mozart, but these informal compositions would not have been approved of for a public concert.  As her work has withered out of existence, we can no longer know the true scope of her talents, but the film allows us to imagine Nannerl being dragged across European courts, playing second piano as it were, and experiencing a full spectrum of emotions of which we shall only have to guess.  I personally think the lady looks like she’s got a bit of moxie beneath that mischevious smile.

A lush period piece, Mozart’s Sister is an imagined portrait of Nannerl, the question being “what if?”  The film is in French and currently has a limited U.S. release .  If you can’t wait for the dvd, there have been a number of books published, including Mozart’s Sister by Rita Chabonnier, Mozart’s Sister by Nancy Moser, and In Mozart’s Shadow by Caroline Meyer (YA). 

Watch the movie trailer

Watch the exclusive clip


Lady Georgianna, Girl Band Extraordinaire

Every once in a while I come across something that is too delightful not to share–and perhaps only for diehard 18th century fans! 

Lady Georgianna is a period tribute band made up of three members: a mezzo soprano, a harpsichordist, and a cellist.  Their mission is to give their audience a “Georgian experience” that one might get from, say, visiting Vauxhall or Ranelagh.  As they often perform in parks, dressed in costumes with period trumpery such as feathers and ribbons, it might just be the closest one can get to reliving the pleasure garden experience.  Although they are currently on tour, they do perform other themed shows such as Georgianna’s Ghostly Adventures and–so exciting if you are taking part in the Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Blog group discussion on Evelina– Ladies of Misrule with readings from Burney’s novel.

If you live in the UK, my dears, you are in luck!  They do have upcoming tour dates if you’ve a mind to venture back in time and spend an afternoon in Georgian style. I’ll be here, stateside, watching the videos.

Thursday’s Obsession – Lhasa

As I’ve been tarring my fingers with work overload lately, I’ve been terrible about blogging.  Apologies there, but I did want to share with you a short, if sweet obsession. 

I first heard Lhasa’s hauntingly luminous voice while watching Cold Souls, an odd little film about soul extraction where a tortured writer, played by Paul Giamatti, grapples with having a shriveled chickpea for a soul.  I couldn’t stop wanting to have her serenade me–while I washed dishes, wrote, trickled off to sleep. 

Although her musical offerings are not without brevity, her voice has je ne sais quoi, the power to linger on much longer than her life.  She died too early, at 37 from breast cancer, but I think I will be listening to Lhasa for a long time to come. 

Two of my favorite songs, Pa’llegara Tu Lado and La Maree Haute, can be found on the Cold Souls soundtrack as well as Lhasa’s 2003 release, The Living Road.  Her three other albums are worth checking out as well.


What did the 18th Century Listen to?

Classical Music, of course! But we’re not talking about music as it pertains to the Western instrumental style typical from the sixteenth century onwards. Think the Classical Period.

Situated between the Baroque and Romantic Periods, this new style spans from 1750 to 1820 and is a reflection of a resurging interest in Classicism, ie. antiquity and in particular, all things Grecian. Opera and vocal performances still reign supreme in the early part of the century, but more increasingly, music events give witness to concertos and symphonies as interludes between vocals and later, as seperate performances altogether.

What to listen for? The piano replaces the harpsichord, woodwinds become a self-contained section, and the orchestra grows in size and range. In contrast to the heavy ornate quality of the Baroque period, the music is lighter, varied, and clear.

But that’s enough with the wiki regurgitation. Let’s imagine ourselves in the music room . . .

18th Century Music Room, Chateau de Canisy in Normandy

I like those chairs.  They look like peppermint sticks my grandmother used to buy me for Christmas. 

Oh, and look.  A harp.  Based on the plethora of musical women in paintings around this period, if we were indeed in an 18th century music room, I’m guessing we could listen to this lady, probably playing horribly.  She doesn’t look too enthusiastic. 

Maybe her capacious skirts are weighing her down?  Methinks even my strong husband wouuld struggle to walk in all that fabric!

Countess of Eglinton, 1777, Sir Joshua Reynolds

And now, for your listening pleasure, provided you are in a theater like the one here . . .

Theatre Royal, Covent Garden

You could be listening to Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven (also of the latter period, Romantic), two Bachs, Schubert, Gluck (Marie Antoinette’s favorite), Salieri, and many others.  To explore a fuller list, see here. 

Ghosts of Versailles

Since I’m on a Marie Antoinette kick, I’ll go with it cause who doesn’t want to see the Ghosts of Versailles? Luckily some wonderful youtuber has seen fit to upload parts 1 through 19 of John Corigliano’s opera so you can experience this on your couch, probably in the dark with champagne and confections for the best experience. It premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1991 and I really want it to come my way to the MN Opera. I’ll just have to buy tickets to Wuthering Heights in the meantime. Here’s Part 1:

Marie Antoinette’s Affaire de Musique

by Franz Xaver Wagenschön (1726-1790)

Given Marie Antoinette’s Austrian heritage, it’s not suprising she adored music.  Under the direction of the famous composer, Gluck, she grew up listening to the works of Viennese masters in a court rich with the arts.  At an early age, she learned how to play the harpsichord and on one special day, in July of 1762, the precocious six year old Mozart performed for Empress Maria Theresa and her family, Marie Antoinette in attendance.

Her appreciation for emotionally resonating music only grew once she moved to Versailles. She attended operas and threw fabulous parties replete with music and dancing. As shown in this 1774 painting by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty, she played the harp before the French Court.

During her period at the Petit Trianon, she acted in plays and comic operas in her private theater. There’s a charming DVD/Documentary (La Petite Musique de Marie-Antoinette) where music by Grossec and Grety is played in this very room where Marie Antoinette once performed.

What most people might not realize is that she even composed her own music for her friends, in particular C’est Mon Ami (below) and Portrait Charmant.  

There’s an album I’d love to get my clutches on, Les Musiques de Marie-Antoinette, except it’s only offered on Amazon France.  But if you have the time and the inclination, it gives a list of music she enjoyed, which might be worth stringing together piecemeal. 

To have a Marie Antoinette experience at home, though, I’d probably go with Le Salon de Musique de Marie-Antoinette by Sandrine Chatron. You can also download C’est Mon Ami on Amazon.

And if you just can’t get enough, Chateau de Versailles on Itunes has some worthy music/videos to check out. Yes, for free. Contain yourself.