“La Navarraise” opera scene and costume lithographs

Four lithographs featuring one scene and three plates of costume designs for the opera “La Navarraise” by Heugel & Cie, Editeurs (Huegel music publishing company) printed circa 1894 in Paris..”La Navarraise,” translated from the French as “The Girl from Navarre” is an 1894 opera by Jules Massenet. Set in the Navarre region of Spain, “La Navarraise” is a “verismo” opera, a style that was popularized in the 1890s which focused on telling stories with greater realism. Based on the short story “La cigarette” by Jules Clartie, “La Navarraise” tells the story of a Navarre woman named Anita who is in love with a soldier named Arquil. Both encounter many thwarts to their passionate love, with drama and death ensuing..”La Navarraise” was immediately compared to another beloved verismo opera of the time, “Cavalleria rusticana” by Pietro Masacagni: “[B]oth works were startling in their brevity and in their intense drama; both received their Parisian premieres at the Opera-Comique; and both featured the soprano Emma Calve in the lead role. Henri Gauthier-Villars even went so far as to observe wryly in L’echo de Paris that Massenet might as well have given La Navarraise the title ‘Cavalleria espagnola'” (Bentley, p.30.) Unfortunately the opera couldn’t shake its reputation of being a “Cavalleria” copycat – for this reason “La Navarraise” has not endured alongside its other verismo contemporaries and is rarely performed today.

“Cavalleria rusticana” opera costume paintings

Six pen and watercolor paintings on paper of character and chorus member costume designs for the opera “Cavalleria rusticana…””Cavalleria rusticana,” translated from the Italian to “rustic chivalry,” is an 1890 opera by Pietro Mascagni. The catalyst of the “verismo” opera trend, “Cavalleria rusticana” was hailed for its music, passionate and realistic plot, and the punch it packed as a short opera, clocking in around 75 minutes (compared to a typical opera’s 2.5-3 hour runtime). “Cavalleria” tells the story of married Sicilian villagers Santuzza and Turiddu. Turridu has married Santuzza out of spite for being rejected by his former lover Lola, now married to Alfio. However, Turiddu begins an affair with Lola behind Santuzza’s back, and in typical verismo fashion, passion and death ensue. Based on the story and play by Giovanni Verga, “Cavalleria” was an instant and massive success, and became Mascagni’s most popular work, despite being his first. The composer himself was quoted as saying, “It is a pity I wrote Cavalleria first…for I was crowned before I became king” (ClassicFM.) “Cavalleria rusticana” is still performed today, traditionally in a double bill with the opera “Pagliacci” by Ruggero Leoncavallo, known as “Cav/Pag.” It is perhaps best known for its “Intermezzo” music.

“Aida” opera costume paintings

Seven pen and watercolor paintings on paper of character and chorus member costume designs for the opera “Aida,” made circa early 1870s. Featured are Radames in Act I, Scene 1 and Act II, Scene 4; Ax-bearers from Act II, Scene 4; Officers of the chorus, Act I, Scene 1 and Act II, Scene 4; Amneris in Act II, Scene 4; and The King, Act II, Scene 4 and Act I, Scene 1. Notably absent are the roles of Aida, Amonasro, and Ramfis. Each painting has the name of the role written in pen on the lower left corner and the act and scene numbers on the bottom right corner. The main roles have the voice range written next to the role name. All text is written in French.

“Aida” is a four-act opera by Giuseppe Verde that premiered in 1871. Set in the Old Kingdom of Egypt and sung in Italian, it tells the story of an enslaved Ethiopian princess, the titular Aida, who is brought to the Egyptian court. Unbeknownst to the court, the Egyptian military commander Radames is in love with Aida, who also returns his love. Throughout the opera the couple struggles to assert their love, while also honoring their respective countries and dealing with the war that ensues between Egypt and Ethiopia. “Aida” was immensely popular when it premiered and is still considered one of the most beloved operas today.

“Aida” has a performance history of brown and blackface, with white singers often performing characters of another race. This occurred as recently as early 2020, though there has been more effort in the opera world to cast racially appropriate singers in these roles, particularly that of Aida.

Single “Aida” opera costume painting

Single pen and watercolor painting on paper of a costume design from the opera “Aida,” made circa early 1870s. The character is unlabeled, but based on other costume designs of the era, it may be the character Radames. There are two practice sketches of a figure’s head in the upper right hand corner, as well as the artist’s signature in the bottom right hand corner. The painting is likely French in origin.

Jean-Jacques de Boissieu etching print of a country scene

“Etching print of a country scene, created in 1773 by Jean-Jacques de Boissieu. The scene features countryside residents and their pets dancing, socializing, and sitting in the foreground, at the bottom of a hill. Near the top of the hill are musicians under a tent, and at the top of the hill is a church. The artist’s initials and date appear in the bottom left corner…Jean-Jacques de Boissieu was a French etcher, draughtsman, and engraver who lived from 1736 – 1810. Boissieu was quite famous during his lifetime, enjoying success in and beyond his native France. Boissieu shirked the artistic trends of his time, instead favoring the art style of the Dutch masters of the 17th century, particularly Rembrandt van Rijn. He favored this style so much that Boisseau became known as the ‘French Rembrandt.’ Boissieu’s main subject for his art was country living, concentrating on both landscapes, country scenes, and individuals.”

Lithographic portrait of Luigi Cherubini by Charles Bour

Luigi Cherubini was an Italian-French composer who lived from 1760-1842, and was a prominent musical figure in France, particularly Paris during the French Revolution. Cherubini’s work mostly consisted of sacred music, but he eventually turned to composing operas in both Italian and French. Cherubini was a contemporary of Beethoven and was overshadowed by the famed composer, though Beethoven studied and admired him. Cherubini’s work is still performed today…Hand-colored lithographic portrait of Luigi Cherubini by Charles Bour after the painting by Felix Emmanuel Henri Philippoteaux, created circa 1840s. In the print, Cherubini sits at a piano with a quill in hand, with scores on the floor and table beside him, presumably at work composing music. French abbreviated text at the bottom of the print reads “F. Philippoteaux pinx.t – Imp. J. Rigo et Cie. – Ch. Bour lith.” and the title “Cherubini.” The lithographic was printed by Jules Alfred Vinvent Rigo.

Animation still photographs from the “Tom and Jerry” short “Johann Mouse”

“Tom and Jerry” is an American cartoon series created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera in 1940 for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The classic series features a cat named Tom and a mouse named Jerry who perpetually play at a literal game of cat and mouse, with Tom generally being thwarted by Jerry.

The “Tom and Jerry” short “Johann Mouse” premiered on March 21, 1953 and features the duo in mid 19th century Vienna, living in the home of the composer Johann Strauss (which the title plays off of). The plot revolves around Tom attempting to catch Jerry by learning the piano like his master, which Jerry loves to dance to. The short culminates in a performance by the duo at the court of Emperor Franz Joseph I.

Four black and white animation still photographs from the “Tom and Jerry” short “Johann Mouse,” February 24, 1953. Each photograph features a scene from the short, with a typewritten description on the verso and an official approval stamp from the Advertising Code Administration of Hollywood.

Photograph of Arthur Mitchell by Martha Swope, C0478, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Photograph of Arthur Mitchell by Martha Swope

Photograph of Arthur Mitchell dancing in costume with a dance partner by photographer Martha Swope, circa early 1960s. The black and white photograph shows Mitchell dancing a pas de deux with a presumably woman dance partner in a studio. The photograph is signed by Mitchell, and also features Swope’s name in the bottom right hand corner. Stamped on the verso is “New York City Ballet” as well as “collection of Terence Murphy[.]” Also written on the verso is “5-24-72 Town Hall[.]”

Arthur Mitchell was a pioneering ballet dancer. Born in 1934, he was the first African American principal dancer in the New York City Ballet (NYCB). Mitchell was also the first internationally famous Black ballet dancer. Born in Harlem, New York, Mitchell spent a difficult childhood working to support his family, when he was eventually accepted into the School of American Ballet in the 1950s – an astounding achievement, particularly considering the blatant racism and prejudice that prevented ballet dancers of color from joining the upper echelons of the art form. At the NYCB, Mitchell was a favored dancer of George Balanchine, who choreographed the pas de deux in “Agon” specifically for him and another white ballet dancer. Mitchell spent thirteen years at the NYCB, performing in all ballets of the company’s repertoire.

Perhaps Mitchell’s greatest legacy, however, is the founding of Dance Theatre of Harlem. According to the company’s website, “Mitchell’s impulse to start Dance Theatre of Harlem is said to have been spurred by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. Working in Brazil on a commission from the American government to assist in the founding of the National Ballet of Brazil, Mitchell decided to return to the US to try to make a difference in his community by teaching ballet classes in his native Harlem. At the height of the civil rights movement, in a graceful moment of artistic resistance, he created a haven for dancers of all colors who craved training, performance experience and an opportunity to excel in the classical ballet world.” Dance Theatre of Harlem endures to this day as a respected and ground breaking dance company. Mitchell passed away in 2018.

Photograph of four dancers by Maurice Goldberg

Black and white photograph of four dancers by Maurice Goldberg, circa 1910s. The image features a unique round-lens image with four presumably women dancers mid-dance, facing the camera with their arms raised and heads tilted back. The dancers are outside and costumed in clothes reminiscent of classical Grecian garb. There is a raised stamp in the bottom right corner that reads “Maurice Goldberg New York[.]” There is a possibility that these dancers could be the Isadora Duncan Dancers, but there is no way to verify this. The back of the photograph has stamps from Culver Pictures, Inc. and some illegible inscriptions on it…Born in 1881, Maurice Goldberg was a prominent American entertainment photographer in the early 20th century, with a talent and renown for dance photography. Goldberg was a particular proponent of photographing dancers mid-choreography, as well as photographing plein-air dancing, both of which are featured in this photograph. A Russian immigrant, Goldberg’s studio in New York City attracted Russian immigrant entertainers and artists of the day, which gained him notoriety. Eventually Goldberg would serve as “The Theatre” magazine’s staff photographer, and his work was featured in other publications. He was also a favorite photographer of George Gershwin. Goldberg passed away in 1949.

White Studio of New York City photograph of an unknown woman

White Studio of New York City silver gelatin print photograph of an unknown woman from the late 1910s or early 1920s. The photograph features a white woman in elegant garb from the chest up. Because the White Studio was famed for its photography of entertainers of the day, it is safe to assume this woman worked in the entertainment industry, likely Broadway, at the time. On the back of the photograph is a stamp from the White Studio…The White Studio was a popular photography studio in New York City during the early part of the 20th century. The studio, founded by Luther White in the 1890s, was renowned for its entertainment photography, both of productions and individuals.

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