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Article

Tim Carter and Anne MacNeil

[‘La Florinda’ ]

(b Milan, Jan 1, 1583; d Bologna, 1629–30). Italian actor, singer and poet, first wife of G.B. Andreini. When they married in 1601, Virginia and her husband formed the Compagnia del Fedeli, in which she assumed the role of prima donna innamorata. Her stage name derived from her performance in Giovanni Battista’s tragedy La Florinda (1603, Florence). In spring 1608 she replaced Caterina Martinelli as the protagonist of Monteverdi’s Arianna and took part in his Ballo delle ingrate during the wedding celebrations for Prince Francesco Gonzaga and Margherita of Savoy; according to Antonio Costantini (1608), she learnt the part for Arianna in six days. She also sang the title role in G.C. Monteverdi’s opera Il rapimento di Proserpina during the festivities for the birth of the Infanta Margherita Gonzaga in 1611. Contemporary accounts suggest that her performance in Arianna was exceptionally powerful, and her talents as a singer were recalled with praise by Bonini in his ...

Article

Saadalla Agha Al-Kalaa

(b al-Qrayya, Syria, Oct 18, 1915; d Beirut, Dec 26, 1974). Syrian singer, composer, ‘ūd player and film actor and producer. In 1924 political circumstances forced his family to move to Egypt. His mother, the noted singer ‘Aliyya al-Munther, taught him singing in the Syrian style. He studied the ‘ūd (lute) at the Cairo Institute for Arab Music. His professional work began as an ‘ūd player and singer at the national radio station and in Badī ‘a Maṣabnī's variety show saloon.

In 1941, through his sister Asmahān , he entered the cinema industry, and for the rest of his life was involved in films as a composer, singer actor, and producer. His singing of Syrian mawwāl (popular songs), tangos and rumbas achieved great popularity, and his work laid the foundations for Arab variety show films, cinematic operetta, orchestral musical overtures and comic and sad songs. His 31 films are mostly autobiographical and provide valuable insight into the role of the musician in society....

Article

Nancy Dersofi

(Ruzante]

(b Padua c1496; d Padua, March 17, 1542). Italian playwright, actor, singer and poet. His plays are remarkable for their innovative use of popular Paduan genres combined with pastoral eclogue and learned comedy in imitation of antiquity. In the plays 52 songs, mentioned or sung, divide scenes or carry the action, as in L’Anconitana, where a Paduan servant named Ruzante holds a song contest with his Venetian master. Speaking the dialect of the Paduan countryside, Ruzante appears in most of Beolco’s plays. The playwright-actor performed Ruzante’s role and adopted his character’s name. Modern critics have identified the author with his character, whose polemics against the rustics’ historical antagonists, whether Venetian merchants, Paduan noblemen or proponents of a Tuscanizing academic culture, inform Ruzante’s theatre. Not least, Ruzante satirizes the country figure he impersonates.

Ruzante was also renowned for his singing voice. In addition to the songs in the plays, nine extant canzoni are attributed to him. Settings by Willaert of ...

Article

Bertil H. van Boer

(b Stockholm, Aug 10, 1757; d Vaxhälla, March 17, 1810). Swedish actor, singer and librettist . He made his début as an actor as Count Almaviva in Beaumarchais’ play Le barbier de Séville in 1785 at the New Swedish Theatre, where he became well known for his comic roles and original opera librettos, mostly written for Carl Stenborg’s comic opera. In 1790 he became an administrator at the Royal Dramatic Theatre, a position he held until after Gustavus III’s assassination in 1792. In 1794 he turned to publishing in the provincial town of Linköping. During his career he supplied the texts for more than 65 one-act comedies with music, including the Singspiels Födelsedagen (‘The Birthday’, 1790), Fricorpsen eller Dalkarlarne (‘The Free Corps or Men from Dalacarlia’, 1788) and Marknaden (‘The Market Place’, 1792), all with music by Kraus. His tenor voice was considered expressive but fairly weak; his main talent as an actor lay in his satirical portrayals of figures such as Abbé Vogler in the first of the operas named above....

Article

Barbara Chmara-Żackiewicz

(b Glinno, nr Poznań, April 9, 1757; d Warsaw, July 23, 1829). Polish impresario, librettist, actor and singer. He was a central figure in the history of the Polish theatre. He studied in Kraków (1770–73), where he attended many theatrical and concert performances organized by Sierakowski, prompting him to change the direction of his career away from the army and towards the theatre. He probably completed his studies at the Piarist school in Warsaw. For a few months during 1778 he studied acting with L. Montbrun, a Warsaw theatrical impresario. Soon afterwards he made his début as an actor in N.T. Barthé’s comedy Zmyślona niewierność (‘Imaginary Infidelity’), and on 11 July 1778 as a singer and librettist in the première of Maciej Kamieński’s opera Poverty made Happy. In 1783 he became the director of the National Theatre in Warsaw, remaining in this position (with some breaks) until ...

Article

Jonas Westover

[Salvatore Phillip]

(b Detroit, MI, Feb 16, 1935; d South Lake Tahoe, CA, Jan 5, 1998). American singer, composer, producer, actor, and politician. Bono began his career as a composer; one of his first songs, “Things You Do To Me,” was recorded by Sam Cooke in 1957–8. He eventually made contact with Phil Spector, with whom he worked closely for several years. One of his first successes came in 1963, when his song “Needles and Pins” (co-written with Jack Nitzsche) was recorded by Jackie DeShannon and reached number one on the charts in Canada. The height of his musical career came in the 1960s and 1970s as part of the duo Sonny and Cher. He wrote, produced, and performed on many of their hits, including “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On.” Success with Cher, to whom he was married from 1964 to 1975, led to many appearances on television, including ...

Article

Lise Waxer

[Colón Román jr, William Anthony; ‘El malo’]

(b South Bronx, New York, April 28, 1950). American bandleader, composer, arranger, trombonist, popular singer, producer and actor. Dubbed ‘El malo’ (the ‘bad boy’) of salsa, he began playing the trumpet in 1963 with the teenage band the Dandees. Switching to trombone, he made his professional début at 17 with the album El malo (Fania, 1967). Both as a bandleader and a member of the Fania All-Stars, he quickly moved to the fore of the burgeoning New York salsa scene, cementing the raw, trombone-heavy ‘New York sound’ inspired by earlier artists such as Eddie Palmieri and Mon Rivera. Between 1967 and 1973 he made a series of important recordings with vocalist Hector Lavoe, which included the albums Asalto Navideño I and II (Fania, 1972 and 1973) with cuatro virtuoso Yomo Toro, where traditional Puerto Rican Christmas aguinaldos were fused with salsa. During his second period (...

Article

J. Ryan Bodiford

(b New York, NY, July 30, 1971). American singer, composer, actor, and activist of Puerto Rican descent. Known to his fans as the King of Merengue, he has achieved international recognition for his self-styled brand of urban merengue fusion, which incorporates influences from Latin American genres like samba, salsa, and bomba, while also employing slick pop production techniques and hip-hop aesthetics. Romantic lyrical sentiments and attention to fashion further characterize his professional approach.

Crespo was raised primarily in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. His career began when he was 17 when he joined the Willie Berríos Orchestra in San Juan; however, his major breakthrough came in 1995 when he joined the established Puerto Rican merengue group, Manía. Helping to infuse Manía’s sound with more of a hip-hop edge, Crespo wrote two of the group’s biggest hits, “Linda eh” and “Ojitos bellos.” After three years gaining recognition with the group, he went solo in ...

Article

[Giovan, Gian, Gianleonardo]

(b Naples, c1530; d Naples, Jan 1602). Italian harpist, singer, composer and actor. He was generally known as ‘dell’Arpa’ because of his outstanding playing of the double harp. His improvisatory skills were praised by several Neapolitan writers, among them Giovan Battista del Tufo (Ritratto … della nobilissima città di Napoli, 1588) and Giulio Cesare Cortese (Viaggio di Parnaso, c 1610), Scipione Cerreto (Della prattica musica vocale, et strumentale, 1601) and Giambattista Basile (Le muse napoletane, 1635). In the dedication to his Tempio Armonico (RISM 15996), Giovenale Ancina revealed that Arpa sang laude to harp accompaniment, probably in the oratories of Naples and Rome. A favourite entertainer in aristocratic circles, he attracted the patronage of Giovanna d’Aragona (see Luigi Dentice, Duo Dialoghi della musica, 1552) and her children. As musician-actor he played the role of servant in comedies staged in Neapolitan palaces of the Prince of Salerno (...

Article

Neal Zaslaw

(b Lyons, late 17th century; d Paris, c1752). French singer, theorist, composer and actor. He was the head of a theatrical troupe that played in Lille between 1715 and 1722, at Brussels in 1716 and in Antwerp in 1717. The title-page of his Nouveau système calls him ‘formerly of the Royal Academies of Music of Lyons, Rouen, Marseilles, Lille, Brussels and Antwerp, and maître de musique of the cathedrals of St Omer and Tournai’. In 1730 he was married in Paris to Marie-Marguerite Lecouvreur, younger sister of the playwright. The dedication of Denis’ Nouvelle méthode to the ladies of St Cyr suggests that he may have been involved in the musico-theatrical training offered at that school. In the 1740s and early 1750s, and perhaps earlier, Denis ran a music school in Paris; the school continued after his death under his son-in-law Jouve.

Denis’ treatises enjoyed considerable longevity, one of them remaining in publishers’ catalogues until ...

Article

(b Bayon, Lorraine, c1740; d nr Beauvais, c1810). French composer, singer and actor. According to Fétis he studied music at the archiepiscopal school of Nancy. By 1762 he was a singer and composer in Lyons, where his pastoral La bergère des Alpes was performed in the following year. By 1764 he was a pensionnaire of the Lyons opera. He was on the staff of a small music school in Lyons (1765) and was also a musician at the cathedral. He sang comic parts in Mâcon and by 1770 had become a comédien in Strasbourg. That year he was co-winner of the Parisian Concert Spirituel annual prize for ‘musique latine’. He then moved to Paris and was an actor at the Théâtre Italien from about 1774 to 1778. During these years he also sang in and wrote sacred works for the Concert Spirituel, and in quick succession composed several stage works, including ...

Article

Roger Fiske

revised by Irena Cholij

(b Southampton, bap. March 4, 1745; d London, July 25, 1814). English composer, dramatist, poet, novelist, actor, singer and entertainer. Dibdin was the 12th child of a parish clerk and a sorely tried mother who produced at least 14 children. His own claim to have been educated at Winchester College is not supported by the school records, though he did have lessons from James Kent and Peter Fussell, successive cathedral organists there. As a composer he was self-taught; he himself thought that he had learnt to compose by scoring Corelli’s concertos from the separate parts and from reading Rameau’s Traité de l’harmonie in English, but he must have learnt mainly from his practical experience in the theatre. By the age of 15 he was singing occasionally in such Covent Garden operas as required a chorus, supplementing his income by working for the music publisher John Johnson. The variety of his talents was already astonishing. He was only 18 when he published, more or less in full score, ...

Article

Holly George-Warren

[Smith, Lucille Wood; Smith (Fox), Frances Octavia]

(b Uvalde, TX, Oct 31, 1912; d Apple Valley, CA, Feb 7, 2001). American Western-music and popular singer-songwriter and actor. As Frances Fox, the name used in her first marriage, she began singing jazz, blues, and pop tunes on radio stations in Memphis in 1929. In May 1935 she took the stage name Dale Evans as staff vocalist at WHAS in Louisville, Kentucky. She moved to WFFA in Dallas, and by 1940 she was singing with the Anson Weeks Orchestra in Chicago, where she joined the CBS affiliate station WBBM. In 1941 Evans signed with 20th-Century Fox, playing bit parts in Hollywood musicals. She became a vocalist on several national radio shows, including “The Chase and Sanborn Hour” (1941), “The Jack Carson Show” (1944), and “The Camel Caravan” (1945). In 1943 she signed with Republic and, the following year, co-starred with roy Rogers, whom she married in ...

Article

(b Los Herreras, Nuevo León, México Dec 16, 1921; d Monterrey, Nuevo León, México, Sept 1, 2003). Mexican actor, singer, songwriter, and film director. Eulalio “Piporro” González Ramírez is best known for developing an idiosyncratic style of parodying Northern Mexican, or norteño, identity, lifestyle, and language through music and comedic acting for radio, stage, and film. His career spanned 60 years. He began as a newspaper reporter and radio personality in Monterrey and in US-Mexico border towns when he landed a role on the radio comedy, Ahí viene Martín Corona (Here Comes Martín Corona) produced in México City and starring the popular singer and actor Pedro Infante. At age 28, he played Infante’s elderly sidekick in 19th-century northern México where his bumbling character, “Piporro,” helped solve conflicts and dustups in local ranch life. The show’s success led to the 1951 film of the same name starring González and Infante. González enjoyed countless roles as “Piporro” in classic ...

Article

Leon Berger

(b London, Dec 9, 1847; d Folkestone, March 1, 1912). English actor, singer, composer and writer, father of George Grossmith. He was a courtroom reporter and comic recitalist, like his father of the same name, before becoming a drawing-room entertainer: he was sometimes called ‘G.G. II’, to distinguish him from his father, or ‘G.G.’. He began a 12-year association with the Gilbert and Sullivan Savoy operas when he made his stage début in the title role of The Sorcerer in 1877. Of slight stature, with excellent diction, dapper footwork and a light comic touch, he created what became known as the patter parts or the ‘Grossmith roles’. In 1889 he resumed his lucrative Humorous and Musical Recitals, touring in England and America.

According to contemporary accounts he was not much of a singer, but his own songs display a wider tessitura than the Gilbert and Sullivan repertory suggests. He was the author of and often a performer in eight operettas, nearly 100 musical sketches and some 400 songs and piano pieces. This prolific song output was mostly in a patter style, with an infectious melody and a syllabic setting for fast delivery: a third of them were published and survive, but his manuscripts along with his performing librettos from the Savoy operas were destroyed in World War II. His songs are couched in quotidian detail: London streets and their surly cab drivers and bus conductors, seedy lodging houses, obstreperous babies, and fashionable dances as in ...

Article

Tamar Barzel

(b Brooklyn, NY, June 9, 1952). American vocalist, composer, librettist, free-improviser, and performance artist. She studied theater and dance at the High School of Performing Arts, took classical voice and theory lessons at the Manhattan School of Music, and served an apprenticeship with jazz artists in New York and Europe. At the age of 18 she joined the San Francisco Actors Workshop, where, influenced by Antonin Artaud and Jerzy Grotowski, she pursued an interest in sound-as-theater. She has created site-specific works—including The Passions of Natasha, Nokiko, Nina, Nicole and Norma, which explored the erotic lives of five women—and personal homages such as her virtual duet, For Jerry. Her autobiographical suite, O Little Town of East New York, reveals many of her key creative concerns, including a fascination with the nuances of cultural and personal difference. Hirsch’s narratives unfold in kaleidoscopic flashes, leaping among sonically embodied characters, glossolalia, and quotations—real and ersatz—from myriad musical sources. She performs with live instrumentalists and over pre-recorded accompaniments, using multiple microphones programmed with contrasting effects, real-time electronic processing, and video projection. ...

Article

Jonas Westover

[Elizabeth Holzman ]

(b Cincinnati, OH, May 23, 1904; d Stamford, CT, June 18, 1971). American actress, singer, composer, and lyricist. Holman completed her college education before moving to New York where she began her theatrical career in 1924. Encouraged by the critic Channing Pollock, she appeared in revues, including the Garrick Gaieties (1925) and Merry-Go-Round (1927). Her most successful performance came in 1929 with The Little Show, where she introduced the song “Moanin’ Low” (by Ralph Rainger). This blues number became her signature tune, although she had another hit in Three’s a Crowd (1930) with “Body and Soul” (Heyman, Sour/Green). She appeared in other revues during the 1930s, including Revenge with Music (1934), and starred in Cole Porter’s You Never Know (1938). Holman produced her own one-woman show, Blues, Ballads, and Sin-Songs, in 1954. She took this opportunity to showcase her own compositions, including “Good Morning Blues” and “House of the Rising Sun.” Her music was deeply rooted in African American idioms, a connection she celebrated through her support of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. Holman’s performances are preserved on 25 sides recorded for Brunswick from ...

Article

Gillian M. Rodger

(Jane )

(b Columbus, OH, March 16, 1889; d Beverly Hills, CA, Feb 26, 1956). American actress, singer, songwriter, and entertainer. Her stage career began when she was just a child and was promoted tirelessly by her mother, Jennie Cockrell Bierbower, a woman whose own theatrical aspirations had been thwarted. Janis’s first roles on the stage were with the Ohio Valentine Stock Company in 1897. Her career in vaudeville lasted into the 1920s, and the format of her act varied little. She opened with a song and then moved through imitations of popular stars of the period; her imitations varied from year to year and included a wide range of celebrities including Weber and Fields, Lillian Russell, Pat Rooney, Anna Held, Ethel Barrymore, Alla Nazimova, Fanny Brice, and George M. Cohan. By the 1920s she had begun to move into musical comedy and revue.

Janis was a tireless supporter of the troops during World War I and traveled to France and England to entertain them. She found equal popularity with English and French audiences. After her mother’s death in ...

Article

Sandra Jean Graham

(b Jacksonville, FL, Aug 11, 1873; d New York, NY, Nov 11, 1954). American composer, lyricist, vocalist, actor, theatrical director, and educator, brother of james weldon Johnson . He was born to James Johnson, a freeman from Virginia, and Helen Louise [née Dillett] Johnson, born free in Nassau, the Bahamas. His mother, a trained singer and educator, began teaching Johnson piano when he was four. From 1890 to 1896 Johnson studied music at the New England Conservatory. He then performed in John W. Isham’s Oriental America, which whetted his appetite for theater. After returning to Jacksonville (spring 1897), he taught music privately and was supervisor of music for Jacksonville public schools (1896–9). He was also choirmaster and organist at a large Baptist church and taught music at the Baptist Academy. Johnson’s earliest compositions, with his brother as lyricist, date from this time.

In summer 1899 the Johnson brothers went to New York hoping to get their operetta ...

Article

Irmlind Capelle and John Warrack

(b Berlin, Oct 23, 1801; d Berlin, Jan 21, 1851). German composer, actor and singer. From the mid-1830s he composed comic operas with spoken dialogue, adapting the opéra comique genre which had been very popular in Germany as well as France in the early 19th century. His operas were particularly successful in German theatres, less so in French- and English-speaking countries. While this distinction still holds good, Lortzing remains a frequently performed operatic composer on the German stage.

Irmlind Capelle

The composer’s father, Johann Gottlieb Lortzing (b Berlin, 12 May 1776; d Leipzig, 2 Dec 1841), was a leather merchant. His mother, Charlotte Sophie, née Seidel (b Berlin, 6 April 1780; d Vienna, 8 Dec 1846), was descended from a French émigré family. Albert’s parents took a great interest in the theatre and performed with the amateur dramatic company Urania, from which many professional actors had graduated. (Lortzing composed a festive piece in ...