history

The Thomashefskys: Music and Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater

Full Episode

The Thomashefskys brings to life the words and music of the American Yiddish theater. The story’s lead characters-Bessie and Boris Thomashefky-also happen to be the grandparents of San Francisco Symphony music director Michael Tilson Thomas. Bessie and Boris emigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe in the 1880s, and while still in their teens, […]

About the Opera

The Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov starring Rene Pape as Boris and conducted by Valery Gergiev, will air on Thirteen’s Great Performances Sunday, February 13 at 12 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings). Stephen Wadsworth directs the company’s first new production of the opera since 1974.

Renée Fleming & Dmitri Hvorostovsky: A Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg

About the Program

America’s favorite soprano, Renee Fleming, and Russia’s greatest living baritone, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, travel to St. Petersburg–the “Venice of the North”–where they perform great opera scenes in the magnificent palaces of the Czars in the former capital of Imperial Russia.

Historian Tyler Stovall on WWII, Post-War, and Bebop

Tyler Stovall describes Arthur Briggs’ role during World War II in the Montmartre jazz scene, the role of jazz during and after the war, and the origins of Bebop. Tyler Stovall: Arthur Briggs was somebody- he had come to Paris in the mid-‘20s with the first wave of African-American musicians. He had married a Frenchwoman, […]

Background and Introduction

BACKGROUND In Shakespeare’s day there was neither television nor radio, neither dictionaries nor history books as we know them, not even newspapers or magazines.  Formal schooling took place in Latin and covered classical texts from ancient Greece and Rome.  University schooling generally prepared students for a career in the church or the court.  Less than […]

Sidney’s Arcadia

Sir Philip Sidney Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586) was a courtier, soldier, and poet, who, with the likes of Sir Walter Raleigh and Thomas Wyatt, were the English examples of the Renaissance man.  Also like Raleigh and Wyatt, he ran afoul of the reigning monarch, and was dispatched to the Netherlands to fight rather than sail […]

Holinshed Chronicles

Raphael Holinshed (died c. 1580) is one of the mysterious souls from the English Renaissance who left a lasting mark but almost no other trace of himself.  He published in 1577 the Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, a massive compilation of history and myth that served among other purposes to furnish Shakespeare with whatever […]

Geoffrey of Monmouth

Geoffrey of Monmouth Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100—c. 1155), an English bishop and scholar, wrote what he called a translation of an ancient history of English kings which told largely legendary stories of English kings from the original Brutus, held to be a descendant of the Greek founder of Rome, Aeneas, through the seventh century […]

Summary

Shakespeare borrowed plots and ideas from other material for the bulk of his writing.  His two long poems tell old tales, and only four of the commonly recognized 38 plays have no known single-organizing precedent (Love’s Labor Lost, Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Winter’s Tale, Tempest).  Such a practice was commonplace in the English Renaissance, whose […]

Background on King Lear

Shakespeare’s Sources As was his general habit, Shakespeare borrowed his two plots from previous sources. Holinshed reported in his Chronicles (1577) a story that dates back as far as Geoffrey of Monmouth (1136) in which a supposedly real King Leir who ruled England around 800 BC divides his kingdom between two of his daughters, disowning […]