Stolen from The Grunt of Monte Cristo.
It’s the 201st birthday of Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. Despite humble beginnings, Verdi grew up to be the most famous and best-loved opera composer in Italy, a country known for its insatiable appetite for opera. Many of his operas continue to be staples of the repertoire more than a century after his death, and many of the melodies he composed are among the most familiar in the Western world.
Because there’s nothing like a good flash mob, here are few of Verdi’s greatest hits performed flash mob style. First, the “Anvil Chorus” from Il Trovatore, performed at a shopping mall in Tel Aviv:
Next, members of the Opera Company of Philadelphia perform “Brindisi” (“Drinking Song”) from La Traviata for a crowd at Reading Terminal Market:
Here is “Va, Pensiero” from Nabucco, performed at a shopping mall in Cologne, Germany:
And here, members of the Zurich Symphony Orchestra play the Grand March from Aida:
From The Duffel Blog.
DAMASCUS, Syria — A local Syrian man is poring over English textbooks day after day to perfect his pronunciation of the phrase “no ISIS here” in preparation for his upcoming work as a translator for U.S. military forces, sources confirmed.
Abdul Barazi, 47, a native Arabic speaker who speaks very little English beyond “hello” or “mister,” is excited that once coalition forces begin conducting ground combat operations in the region, he’ll be there to listen to locals describe in Arabic both intelligence on ISIS militants and a wide variety of local problems, which will then be translated to U.S. troops as “he say America number one.”
“I am hope that one day President George Bush come and liberate Syria with United State of Freedom troops,” said Barazi in perfect Arabic, which was then translated for Duffel Blog reporters by a graduate of Defense Language Institute who wasn’t quite sure what that last word was. “ISIS no good here. ISIS bad bad man. Ali Baba.”
In addition to the phrase “no ISIS here” which will help U.S. forces easily not identify any militants, Barazi has reportedly been studying other key phrases he believes will be useful. These include “ISIS in next village,” “These men just farmers,” and “he not really say anything important,” which Barazi intends to use when a village elder speaks on important topics for any length of time over two minutes.
Barazi is not alone in his quest to learn English. Many others in Syria are working on their language skills so they can get an interpreter job paid for by the U.S. government, including businessmen, recently released criminals, and ISIS militants. Meanwhile, local schoolchildren are learning how to say “pencil” and “chocolate,” as well as “one dollar” in an effort to help boost the local Syrian economy.
At press time, Barazi was practicing with a friend who role-played by describing himself having a bad hip, cataracts, and a mean case of syphilis, which was translated as “need medicine.”
Duffel Blog investigative journalist Lee Ho Fuk contributed to this report.
In music, as in politics and religion, I tend to be an uptight traditionalist, which is why I don’t care for most modern concert music. But I love the music of Eric Whitacre, whose beautiful compositions for voice, choir, orchestra, and various instrumental ensembles prove that “modern” does not have to mean discordant, vulgar, transgressive, profane, disturbing, or ugly. Whitacre composed “October,” a short piece for concert band, in 2000. He said, “Something about the crisp autumn air and the subtle changes in light always make me a little sentimental, and as I started to sketch I felt the same quiet beauty in the writing. The simple, pastoral melodies and the subsequent harmonies are inspired by the great English Romantics, as I felt this style was also perfectly suited to capture the natural and pastoral soul of the season.”
Here it is, performed by the Emory Wind Ensemble:
As always happens with beautiful music, “October” has been transcribed for many instruments and combinations of instruments, from solo piano to full orchestra and everything in between. I especially like this version for string quintet and percussion, with all the parts played by two musicians:
Eleven years after its composition, Whitacre reworked “October” into a choral piece, “Alleluia.” There are many lovely performances of it available, but my favorite is this one, sung by a gentleman whose virtuosity and vocal range are nothing short of astonishing:
(If you’d like to know more about Eric Whitacre, check out his website here.)