Saturday, November 29, 2008

Today's Date: Arts News & Notables

By Sharon McDaniel

Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women (1868), was born in Philadelphia on Nov. 29, 1832, and grew up in New England. An ardent abolitionist, she volunteered in the Civil War as a nurse and served for six weeks (1862-1863) at a Union hospital. (Photo: Nancy Porter Productions,; Louisa at age 20)

She also wrote Work (1872), an autobiographical novel exposing the exploitation of women workers and the harmful effects of the Industrial Era. Later in life, Alcott became an advocate of women's suffrage and was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Mass., in a school board election. Alcott died in Boston on March 6, 1888, at age 55.
(An opera of the same title and story was composed by American Mark Adamo. Little Women premiered in Houston in 1998 to critical acclaim. Dozens of productions followed, with a debut on both CD and PBS television in 2001.)

More Nov. 29 News & Notables

1919: Pearl Primus, celebrated dancer, choreographer, and writer, was born in Trinidad on this date in 1919. Primus is perhaps best-known for her dance, Strange Fruit, in which she portrays a woman who witnesses a lynching. (Photo by Barbara Morgan, in Speak to Me of Rivers, 1944)

1915: William "Billy" Strayhorn, pianist and composer, and famous for his work in Duke Ellington's band, was born in Dayton, Ohio, on this date in 1915. His skilled songwriting was demonstrated in such songs as Satin Doll and Take the 'A' Train.

1924: Giacomo Puccini, Italian composer, died in Brussels, Belgium, on Nov. 29, 1924. His last opera, Turandot, still unfinished at the time of his death, was premiered in 1926 by conductor Arturo Toscanini.

1898: C. S. Lewis, Irish author, was born Clive Staples Lewis in Belfast on Nov. 29, 1898. A prolific and renowned writer and novelist, Lewis was also a critic and scholar. He is best known for his fiction and nonfiction books on religion and is considered one of the most popular and influential 20th-century defenders of the Christian faith.
In his lifetime, The Screwtape Letters (1942) was the most popular. But from the 1950 story for children — The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — grew the seven-volume series of popular children's books, The Chronicles of Narnia. This retelling of the Christian story in fairy-tale form became a popular film beginning in 2005. Lewis died in Oxford, England, on Nov. 22, 1963.

1877: Thomas Edison demonstrated the hand-cranked phonograph, a device that recorded sound on grooved metal cylinders on Nov. 29, 1877. Edison shouted verses of Mary Had a Little Lamb into the machine, which played back his voice.

1814: The London Times becomes the first newspaper to be printed on a mechanical press on Nov. 29, 1814.

1643: Claudio Monteverdi, Italian composer, violinist, singer and Catholic priest, died in Venice. His early Baroque music-drama L'Orfeo (Orpheus, 1607) is one of the earliest works to be called an opera. Like his other operas — The Coronation of Poppea and The Return of UlyssesL'Orfeo is still staged and recorded today.

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