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Abbott, George  

Sylvia Stoner-Hawkins

(b Forestville, NY, Jan 25, 1887; d Miami Beach, FL, Jan 31, 1995). American stage director, producer, playwright, and actor. During a 92-year career in the theater Abbott influenced the development of musical comedy and helped launch many important careers. He made his Broadway acting debut in 1913 and continued to act during the 1920s. He also began working as both a playwright and director. After his first hit, The Fall Guy, Abbott began to write and stage fast-paced melodramas. In 1932 he co-produced a farce called 20th Century; it was in this genre that he defined a fast-paced theatrical style that became known as the Abbott Touch. He was the leading director of musical comedies. Abbott also wrote the books for On your Toes (1936), The Boys from Syracuse (1938), and Pal Joey (1940), the scores of which were composed by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. In ...

Article

Allen, Rex  

Douglas B. Green

(Elvie )

(b near Willcox, AZ, Dec 31, 1924; d Tucson, AZ, Dec 19, 1999). American singing cowboy, songwriter, actor, and radio and recording artist. Born on a remote ranch, Allen had a powerful voice of tremendous range, was a world-class yodeler, and a prolific songwriter. He had begun a performing career straight out of high school and, after a stint at WTTM in Trenton, NJ, was added to the National Barn Dance cast in 1945. A true westerner and a good horseman, he seemed a natural for the singing cowboy film genre, but it was a genre in decline, and his was the last singing series any studio launched. Allen’s first film for Republic was the fittingly titled Arizona Cowboy (1950), and his last of 19 movies was Phantom Stallion (1954).

Allen then turned to television, starring in Frontier Doctor (1958). He was able to keep up an active recording and touring career, supplemented by Disney Studios’ (and other studios’) frequent use of his avuncular and authoritative speaking voice as a narrator of documentaries, television features, and feature films such as ...

Article

Anderson, Laurie  

Hugh Davies and Susan McClary

(b Chicago, IL, June 5, 1947). American performance artist, composer, and instrument innovator. Although she played the violin from childhood, she received her formal training in the visual arts (Barnard College, BA 1969; Columbia University, MFA 1972). During the 1970s she became one of the most celebrated practitioners of performance art. Her work has incorporated graphics, lighting, sculpture, mime, slides, film, speech, music, and many electronic devices, some of her own design. By 1976 her performances were featured prominently in museums and concert venues across Europe and North America.

Anderson has achieved great visibility, in part because of her originality: coming to music from the visual arts, she was free to manipulate sounds as she liked. Her unexpected crossover into the popular domain brought her a degree of fame and influence usually unavailable to avant-garde artists.

Since the mid-1970s Anderson has developed several instruments for use in her performances and exhibitions. A typical programme for one of her live shows includes all or part of her large-scale music theatre work ...

Article

Anderson, Laurie  

Susan McClary

revised by Julie McGuire

(b Chicago, IL, 5 June 1947). American performance artist, composer, and musician.

Although Anderson played the violin from childhood, she received her formal training in art history and the visual arts (Barnard College, BA 1969; Columbia University, MFA 1972). Anderson has pioneered a type of multimedia performance art that bridges the gap between music and art: combining age-old storytelling techniques with futuristic, electronically produced images and sounds, telling tales and creating purely instrumental music. Since the 1970s Anderson has created a broad range of works: books, films, videos, photographs, mixed-media installations, large-scale performances, records, and an interactive CD-ROM. By 1976 her work was featured prominently in museums and concert venues across Europe and North America.

The first phase of Anderson’s career culminated in her magnum opus, United States I–IV, performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1983. Hailed by critics as a captivating portrait of American life in the late 20th century, the work was regarded as thematizing the contradictions and tensions of late-capitalist society. Lasting over seven hours and involving 11 other performers, ...

Article

Andreini, Giovanni [Giovan] Battista  

Colin Timms and Anne MacNeil

[Giambattista]

(b Florence, Feb 9, 1576; d Reggio nell’Emilia, June 7, 1654). Italian actor, dramatist and poet. He was the son of Isabella and Francesco Andreini, famous commedia dell’arte players, and was educated at the University of Bologna. In 1594, taking the stage name ‘Lelio’, he joined the Compagnia dei Gelosi, the comic troupe to which his parents belonged, and in 1601 he married the actress and singer Virginia Ramponi (‘La Florinda’). By the time the Gelosi disbanded in 1604 he had already formed his own company, the Compagnia dei Fedeli, which served the Medici and Gonzaga families, with brief interruptions, until it disbanded, playing throughout northern and central Italy. In 1613 Maria de’ Medici invited the Fedeli to Paris. Their visit, which lasted from September 1613 to July 1614, was so successful that they performed there again from January 1621 to March 1622, probably December 1622 to March 1623...

Article

Andreini [née Canali], Isabella  

Anne MacNeil

(b Padua, 1562; d Lyons, June 10, 1604). Italian actor, dramatist and poet, mother of G.B. Andreini. After her marriage in the late 1570s to Francesco Andreini, they joined the renowned Compagnia dei Gelosi, assuming the roles of prima donna innamorata and Lelio innamorato. They were favoured performers at the courts of Tuscany, Ferrara, Mantua and France. Isabella led the Gelosi from the 1580s until her death (when it disbanded), negotiating patronage and accepting payments on its behalf. In 1589 she performed alongside her rival Vittoria Piisimi at the wedding celebrations in Florence for Ferdinando de' Medici and Christine of Lorraine; Pavoni described the enthusiasm of the audience for Isabella's performance of the comedy La pazzia d'Isabella, during which she sang canzonette alla francese. Her talents as an author were also widely praised and she was accepted into the Accademia degli Intenti of Pavia in 1601. Of her nearly 500 lyric poems (two books of which were published in Milan in ...

Article

Andreini [née Ramponi], Virginia  

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

Angelou, Maya  

Josephine Wright

(b St. Louis, MO, Apr 4, 1928). American poet, novelist, playwright, actor, and educator. Angelou was educated at Stamps, AR, and the Labor School in San Francisco. Her early career focused on dance and drama. In 1959 she moved to New York, where she joined the Harlem Writers Guild. Exploring various kinds of oppression (economic, racial, and sexual), she has published more than ten books of poetry, six autobiographies, of which I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) is the best known, numerous plays, and librettos for musicals, as well as scripts for film and television. The reading of her commissioned poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the inauguration of President William Jefferson Clinton (20 January 1993) brought her national recognition. Other texts by this celebrated African American poet have been set to music by Bolcom, Danielpour, Garner, Deon Nielson Price, and Judith Weir. Among her honors are two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize, three Grammy Awards (...

Article

Marc Anthony  

Frances R. Aparicio

[Muñiz, Marco Antonio]

(b New York City, Sept 16, 1968). American singer, songwriter, and actor of Puerto Rican ancestry. Named after the famous Mexican singer Marco Antonio Muñiz (b 1933), Marc Anthony has become one of the most famous and important Latino singer-songwriters in the United States. Because of the excellence of his voice and his commitment to his Latino and Caribbean roots, he has become the biggest selling salsa artist of all time, with over 10 million albums sold worldwide. After singing house and freestyle music in English in his early career, Marc Anthony revitalized salsa music with a series of early 1990s musical hits that paved the way for the 1999 Latin pop explosion. He has successfully crossed linguistic borders, singing both in English and Spanish within the same album and thus contesting the label of “crossover.” His stage performances and the hybrid musical arrangements that have cast traditional Puerto Rican songs like “Preciosa” and “Lamento borincano” as salsa songs embody his Nuyorican identity in the public space, thus exemplifying the transnational nature of salsa music. Some of his best-known songs in English include “I Need to Know” and “You Sang to Me.”...

Article

Antoniu, Kristaq  

Mikaela Minga

[Antoniu, Christache]

(b Bucharest, Romania, Dec 25, 1907; d Tirana, Albania, March 17, 1979). Tenor, actor, and stage director. He studied at the Mimodramatic High School of Bucharest and then in Rome, with M. Polverosi. In Romania, he had a successful career as an actor and singer. He was in the movie industry in the 1920s and early 30s, playing in more than 15 films, including Ciocoii (1931), Iancu Jianu, (1928), and Maiorul Mura (1927). In the meantime, he worked in the Alhambra theater as a singer and stage director of operettas. In the mid 1930s, Antoniu moved to Albania and pursued a singing career. He made only one cinematic appearance in 1943, for the short film documentary Takimi në liqen (‘Meeting at the Lake’). He was a dramatic tenor, with a baritone quality in his voice. This led him to explore a large range of operatic characters from both the Western opera repertory and the Albanian one. He performed and recorded Albanian traditional or folk songs, handled with an operatic vocal posture and arranged with western harmonies. His son, Gjergj Antoniu was a prominent Albanian cellist....

Article

Arderíus (y Bardán), Francisco  

Roland J. Vázquez

(de)

(b Portugal, 1836; d Madrid, May 21, 1886). Spanish impresario, actor and singer. He first became popular in comic roles at theTeatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid. In 1866 he formed his own company, the Bufos Madrileños, modelled on Offenbach’s Bouffes-Parisiens. It was an instant success. By 1870 he had begun a second company in Barcelona. In addition to operettas by Offenbach and Lecocq, Arderíus staged new works by Spanish composers, including F. A. Barbieri and P. J. E. Arrieta.The dance routines and brief costumes of the female chorus were indispensable to the appeal of the Bufos, and were among the features that incited critics to condemn the genre as frivolous and a hindrance to the development of serious opera in Spanish. By the beginning of 1873 the company’s popularity had ended, and Arderíus had become director at the Teatro de la Zarzuela. Thereafter he championed the cause of national opera, attempting, without success, to launch a Spanish opera series in ...

Article

Astaire [Austerlitz], Fred(erick)  

Todd Decker

(b Omaha, NE, May 10, 1899; d Beverly Hills, CA, June 22, 1987). American dancer, singer, choreographer, and actor. He began performing at the age of seven with his sister Adele. As a duo they worked in vaudeville from 1906 to 1916 and moved to Broadway in 1917. Starring roles in The Bunch and Judy (1922) and For Goodness Sake (1923) led to Lady, be good! (1924), which marked their arrival as top Broadway stars. During the 1920s several of the Astaires’ successful shows appeared in the West End in London, where the pair enjoyed a cult-like following. After The Band Wagon (1931) Adele retired from the stage to marry an English aristocrat. Astaire appeared in Gay Divorce in New York (1932) and London (1933), before signing a contract with RKO, the smallest major film studio in Hollywood....

Article

Aṭrash, Farīd al-  

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

Autry, Gene  

Holly George-Warren

[Orvon Grover]

(b Tioga, TX, Sept 29, 1907; d Los Angeles, CA, Oct 2, 1998). American country-music and popular singer, songwriter, and actor. He began his career singing on the radio station KVOO in Tulsa, while working as a relief telegraph operator for the Frisco Railroad. In October 1929 he went to New York to make his first recordings, which were much in the style of Jimmie Rodgers, for RCA Victor and several small independent labels; these were released under the name Gene Autry and led to a contract with the American Record Corporation, which was later taken over by the Columbia Broadcasting System; Autry’s recordings would then be issued by the Columbia Recording Co. In 1931 Autry had his first hit with “Silver Haired Daddy of Mine.” He moved to Chicago in 1932 to star on radio station WLS. There his singing-cowboy persona was developed on the National Barn Dance...

Article

Axton, Hoyt  

Linda J. Daniel

(Wayne)

(b Duncan, OK, March 25, 1938; d nr Victor, MT, Oct 26, 1999). American singer-songwriter and actor. He took lessons in classical piano as a child and began playing guitar in his teens. His mother, Mae Boren Axton, co-wrote “Heartbreak Hotel,” which was a hit for Elvis Presley in 1956. Axton attended Oklahoma State University, where he excelled in football before leaving to serve in the navy. His music career began in the early 1960s, when he began performing as a singer-songwriter in the folk clubs of southern California. “Greenback Dollar,” a song he co-wrote with Ken Ramsey, became a hit for the Kingston Trio. In 1962 Axton signed with Horizon Records, which released his first album The Balladeer (Horizon, 1962), recorded live at the Troubadour in Hollywood, followed by Thunder’n Lightnin’ and Saturday’s Child (both Horizon, 1963). From 1964 to 1971 he was associated with several labels, including Vee-Jay, Surrey, Exodus, Columbia, and Capitol. His albums with A&M—...

Article

Barnabee, Henry Clay  

Gerald Bordman

(b Portsmouth, NH, Nov 14, 1833; d Jamaica Plains, MA, Dec 16, 1917). American actor and singer. He began performing in amateur theatricals and concerts while working as a clerk in a dry-goods store. He became professional in 1865 but did not gain widespread recognition until he was recruited by the Boston Ideal Opera Company in 1879 (he was one of its original members). When the group was later reorganized as the Bostonians Barnabee was elected one of its officers; he remained with the company for the rest of its existence and the rest of his career. His most celebrated role was the Sheriff of Nottingham, which he created in the operetta Robin Hood by De Koven and H.B. Smith (1891), and which he sang more than 2000 times. His other notable roles included Sir Joseph Porter in Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore, Izzet Pasha in Franz von Suppé’s ...

Article

Benny, Jack  

Todd Decker

[Kubelsky, Benjamin ]

(b Chicago, IL, Feb 14, 1894; d Beverly Hills, CA, Dec 26, 1974). American Entertainer, actor, and violinist. The son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Lithuania, he began playing violin at age six and was considered a local prodigy. By age 17 he was playing in vaudeville pit orchestras and soon moved onto the stage. Benny paired up with a pianist—initially Cora Salisbury, then Lyman Wood—in his signature musical act of this time, “From Grand Opera to Ragtime.” After brief service in the US Navy during World War I, Benny returned to vaudeville as a single in an act emphasizing comedy over music. He married Mary Livingstone (Sadye Marks) in 1927. She was an integral part of Benny’s act for most of his career. Although a movie contract with MGM in 1929 led nowhere, Benny found his true medium on radio. His first radio appearance came on ...

Article

Beolco, Angelo  

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

Betterton, Thomas  

Curtis Price

revised by Margaret Laurie

(b London, 1635; d London, April 28, 1710). English actor, manager and opera director. Generally regarded as the greatest English actor before Garrick, he played a key role in the invention of Semi-opera. In 1668 he became co-manager of the Duke's Company, which was already featuring plays with musical interludes, many of them set by Matthew Locke. In 1671 the troupe moved into the new Dorset Garden Theatre, specially equipped with the machines necessary for opera. Betterton visited Paris to study stagecraft and may have seen the famed comédies-ballets of Lully and Molière. He then produced a series of musical extravaganzas, or semi-operas: adaptations of Shakespeare's Macbeth (1673, music by Locke) and The Tempest (1674, music by Locke, Humfrey and others), Thomas Shadwell's Psyche (1675, music by Locke) and Charles Davenant's Circe (1677, music by John Banister (i)). In addition to coordinating the production and devising the scenery, Betterton often acted the protagonists, roles that never required singing....

Article

Bikel, Theodore  

Craig A. Lockard

(b Vienna, Austria, May 2, 1924; d Los Angeles, July 21, 2015). American and Israeli actor and singer. Born into a Jewish family, he spent his youth in Austria. Following the Nazi occupation the Bikel family escaped to Palestine, where he made his stage debut in 1943. Moving to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he began his acting career in 1948 in A Streetcar Named Desire. In 1954 he immigrated to the United States and, in 1961, became a naturalized American. He made his concert debut at Carnegie Recital Hall, New York, in 1956 with a program of folk songs. In 1959 he was cast as Georg von Trapp in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music. During his long career Bikel appeared in numerous films, plays, and musicals, from the lead in Zorba to over 2000 performances as the penniless milkman Tevye in ...