Tag Archives: New York City

Jarmila Novotná: Singer, Actress, Icon, Ambassador

“Glamorous yet sensitive, Novotná believed and proved that any kind of
music, any kind of art, can bring people together for the common good:
to resist tyranny, to celebrate freedom, to heal and to nurture.”
—Joyce DiDonato, Grammy Award winning mezzo-soprano

A legendary beauty, hailed as one of the greatest si9780813176116nging actors of her time, Jarmila Novotná (1907–1994) was an internationally known opera soprano from the former Czechoslovakia. She began her opera career as a teenage soprano and debuted at the National Theater in 1925. After leaving her homeland, she began performing all across Europe and the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

Best known for her performances in Der Rosenkavalier, The Marriage of Figaro, and La Traviata, including over 200 performances at the Met, Novotná was an accomplished singer. Jarmila Novotná: My Life in Song offers Novotná’s perception of these great achievements, as well as with her ventures into modeling, theater, film, television, and radio. She continually defied the “sex siren” role that everyone from Franz Lehár to Louis B. Mayer wanted her to play. From the beginning of her career, she ignored the fascination that adoring men had for her uncommon beauty, choosing to embody her artistry in a variety of forms, including notable films like The Bartered Bride (1932), Frasquita (1934), and The Search (1948), which won her critical acclaim for her performance as a mother in search of her young son. She also used her fame to dame her a national heroine among the Czech people, serving as a cultural ambassador.

Editor William V. Madison brings Novotná‘s own English-language version of Jarmila Novotná: My Life in Song to readers for the first time. Throughout the memoir, Novotná shares stories of those she worked, her experience in the “unending party” that is Hollywood. She attended parties hosted by Mayer, co-founder of MGM Studios, who repeatedly offered her a movie contract. Novotná also offers profiles on the notable artistic figures who surrounded her, including singer Bing Crosby, Montgomery Clift,  composer Cole Porter, and conductor Arturo Toscanini, as well as dignitaries like Dwight Eisenhower and Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia.

Lavishly illustrated with photos from her personal collection, her memoir not only recounts her remarkable life and career, but also shares stories of her interactions with other artistic luminaires whom she worked with in a variety of settings. She also witnessed and recorded her thoughts on the birth of an independent Czechoslovakia, the country’s takeover by the Nazis, and its fall to the Soviets. With a foreword by late opera critic Brian Kellow, the autobiography sheds light on the fascinating life of one of the greatest opera singers of the twentieth century.

An event celebrating the exclusive English-language release of her best-selling memoir will be held at 7 pm Wednesday, October 10 at the Bohemian National Hall in New York City. William V. Madison will speak at the celebration, which will also feature Novotná’s granddaughter, violinist Tatiana Daubek, and the ensemble House of Time. An exhibition of archival images and memorabilia, courtesy of George Daubek, will be on display in the Hall’s Dvořák Room. Hosted by The Dvořák American Heritage Association, the event is free and open to the public, with limited seating.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

Gems of the Backlist: HARLEM by Morgan Smith and Marvin Smith

Here at the University Press of Kentucky, we’re in the middle of a program to digitize all of the books that we’ve published since our founding in 1943. It’s a lot of work going through over 1300 books, but it’s been a process full of fun surprises and astounding discoveries. Best of all, every now and then, there’s a book that we just can’t put down—a book so good we just can’t resist sharing it with you again:

HarlemImagine my delight when I picked up Harlem: The Vision of Morgan and Marvin Smith. Born and raised in Nicholasville, Kentucky, twins Morgan and Marvin Smith knew that they would not become sharecroppers like their parents. They yearned for the opportunity to pursue art, and that passion led them to New York City at the very height of the Great Depression. Despite the dire economic times, the pair found work with the WPA and soon opened their own portrait studio in Harlem.

Rejecting the focus on misery and hopelessness common to photographers of the time, the Smiths documented important “firsts” for the city’s African American community (the first black policeman, the first black woman juror), the significant social movements of their day (anti-lynching protests, rent strikes, and early civil rights rallies), as well as the everyday life of Harlem, from churchgoers dressed for Easter to children playing in the street. The Smiths’ photography and art studio was next to the famed Apollo Theatre, and it became a required stop for anyone making a pilgrimage to the community.

This beautiful book features nearly 150 photographs drawn from the collection of the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Smith family archives, and they depict amazing American scenes: Maya Angelou early in her career as a Primus dancer, W.E.B. DuBois recording a speech in their sound studio, Joe Louis at his training camp, Jackie Robinson teaching his young son to hold a baseball bat, Nat King Cole dancing at his wedding, Billie Holiday singing for friends, Josephine Baker distributing candy to children, and many other prominent figures at significant and ordinary moments of their lives. Here’s a little peek into the pages of Harlem:

 

 

 

Remembering Sidney Lumet

Director of such classic American films as Serpico (1973), 12 Angry Men (1957), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), and The Verdict (1982), Sidney Lumet passed away Saturday morning in his beloved town of New York City at age 86. Since 1957, Sidney Lumet, the most prolific American director of his generation, has deepened audiences’ awareness of social, ethical, and feminist issues through his distinguished films.

Sidney Lumet: Film and Literary Vision studies over thirty of Lumet’s most significant films and surveys other films and the television productions to reveal their enduring artistic and humanistic importance. In this second edition Frank Cunningham expands his analysis of Lumet’s earlier films and examines his later work, from A Stranger Among Us (1992) to Gloria (1999).

“A pioneering study. . . . Not only a necessary and welcome first step toward according Lumet the scholarly attention he deserves, but also a fine place to begin the appreciation of our generation’s most prolific major film-maker.”– Film Quarterly

Also Available:

Street Smart: The New York of Lumet, Allen, Scorsese, and Lee

New York has appeared in more movies than Michael Caine, and as a result of overfamiliarity, the City poses a problem for critics and casual moviegoers alike. Audiences mistake the New York image of skyscrapers and glitter for the real thing, but in fact the City is a network of small villages, each with its unique personality. Street Smart offers a novel approach to understanding the cultural influences of New York’s neighborhoods on the work of four quintessentially New York filmmakers: Sidney Lumet, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, and Spike Lee. Richard A. Blake examines their home villages—from Flatbush and Fort Green in Brooklyn to the Lower East Side of Manhattan—to enrich our critical understanding of the films of four of America’s most accomplished contemporary filmmakers.

“Part cultural study and part film analysis, Blake turns to four of the city’s most revered auteurs to offer readers a lesson in true New York.”– MovieMaker

 

Read the full New York Times obituary below, or here.

Continue reading