Two Iconic Couples of Song and Dance -- John Frey

Thursdays, September 22, 29, October 6, 13 -- 1:00 pm - 4:00pm

Odd Fellows Hall, SLO

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In the midst of the Great Depression Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were swinging their way with a snappy new American approach to movie musical comedy, while Jeannette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy were bringing to the screen a European tradition of musical romance called operetta. Astaire and Rogers danced to tunes by American composers Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin while MacDonald and Eddy sang traditional operettas by European composers Sigmund Romberg, Rudolf Friml, Victor Herbert and Noel Coward.

Astaire and Rogers came to movies from vaudeville and Broadway as did MacDonald, while Eddy came from the opera and concert stage. Both musical teams were immensely popular and tapped into the different kinds of romance. Astaire and Rogers were dance partners in a total of 10 films from 1933-42 whereas MacDonald and Eddy made 8 films together from 1935-42. In the depression of the 1930s, cinema goers wanted to escape from their grim grind, imagining that these characters spent every moment living in the lap of opulence. Top Hat

Top Hat is a 1935 musical comedy film in which an American dancer who comes to London to star in a show. He meets and attempts to impress a model to win her affection. She is employed by an Italian fashion designer to wear his glamorous gowns, where they could be seen by the upper classes. After a conflict caused by mistaken identity, the couple are reconciled and dance off into the sunset to the tune of the “Piccolino.” Top Hat was the most successful picture of Astaire and Rogers' partnership and remains their best-known work. Irving Berlin’s "Cheek to Cheek" beaome an American song classic. Swing Time Swing Time is a 1936 musical comedy film featuring songs by Jerome Kern. Lucky Garnett is a gambler and dancer set to marry Margaret. Her father calls off the wedding when Lucky shows up late. He meets Penny, a dance instructor, and falls in love with her. Margaret calls off the wedding so that Penny and Lucky happily end up together. Swing Time is Astaire and Rogers' best dance musical with four dance routines that are regarded as masterpieces. "Never Gonna Dance" is often singled out as one of the best achievements in filmed dance. The song "The Way You Look Tonight" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and went on to become Astaire's most successful hit record. Rose Marie Rose Marie is a 1936 musical film set in the Canadian wilderness. The film became MacDonald and Eddy's best-known film. Their duet of "Indian Love Call" was a major hit and remained their signature song. Marie de Flor is a Canadian opera soprano who learns that her brother Jack, has escaped from prison and killed a Mountie. Sergeant Bruce, of the Mounties is assigned to arrest Jack. Marie falls in with Sergeant Bruce and realizes that she will not reach Jack without his help. Marie finds Jack and persuades him to reform but Bruce arrests him out of a sense of duty. Marie returns to the opera and collapses onstage. She retires to a mountain lodge and sings "Indian Love Call” to herself. Sergeant Bruce join her and falling in love they sing together. Maytime Maytime is a story of two love affairs. The first is the subplot concerning the elderly Miss Morrison (a former opera soprano, Marcia Mornay) and the young lovers Barbara, who hopes to start a career in opera, and Kip, who hopes to marry her and raise a family. Miss Morrison relates her story in a flashback which constitutes the major plot. She too, was an aspiring opera singer, who dutifully marries her teacher, Nicolai, whom she does not love. She meets a young singer, Paul Alison, whom she does love, but is trapped in a conflict between love for Paul and gratitude to Nicolai. Marcia is trapped in a fatal triangle with Paul and the insanely jealous Nicolai. Seven years later Marcia and Paul co-star in an opera portraying two lovers Nicolai becomes jealous over the emotion in Paul and Marcia's onstage love scenes. Later she asks Nicolai for her freedom, which he promises to give. Nicolai rushes to Paul’s apartment and shoots him just as Marcia arrives. Paul dies in her arms, telling her that memories of their delightful May Day together. At the conclusion of her story, Miss Morrison helps Barbara realize that she and Kip belong together. As she watches the young lovers embrace, Miss Morrison quietly dies. Her spirit is united with her own sweetheart in death. The course uses DVDs of complete musical productions and a 20-page syllabus including biographies. production sources, commentary, analysis and synopses.

John Frey taught chemistry and engaged in chemical research for 45 years at several universities and is now retired. He serves on the Board of Directors of OperaSLO, the Lifelong Learners of the Central Coast and the SLO Master Chorale and is a member of the Rotary Club. He teaches courses on opera and musical theater for LLCC and OperaSLO. He has had over seven decades of singing experience with various choral groups and has performed in the chorus of OperaSLO.

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