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Words or Music, Part 4: Macbeth and Manon

I have spent a lifetime reading books and perhaps half a lifetime going to the opera. Each is a very real pleasure — neither can be done without — yet both offer different kinds of satisfaction. Words? Music? Which is more important? Fortunately, I am not in the position of having to choose. Books can sometimes lead to opera; opera can sometimes find its way back into books. Since the library specializes in both these worlds of artistic expression, it might be intriguing to look briefly at some of the places they intersect.

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The Ticketless Traveler: Paris in the Springtime

Paris in the Spring just sounds fantastic doesn’t it? It could be argued that adding "Springtime" to anything can make it sound lovely, just ask The Producers... though Paris alone is a good selling point. We can begin planning our trip of a lifetime by researching affordable travel deals in the most recent issues of Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, full electronic access is available onsite at any 

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The Pompadour's Book: A Mystery Manuscript Owned by Madame de Pompadour

It's a small volume, neatly but unostentatiously bound in mottled calf. The gilt ornamentation is discreet, except for an impressive coat of arms on both boards. That becomes even more impressive when we identify it as the blazon of one of the standout personalities of 18th-century France, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, marquise de Pompadour — elevated from her haute-bourgeois background and a boring union with a certain M. Lenormand d'Étioles (nephew of her mother's lover) to become the official maîtresse-en-titre to 

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The Jefferson Market Library Free Classroom: Spring 2012

Jefferson Market Library, in an effort to offer substantive courses that teach the subjects you want to learn, is thrilled to offer its Spring Semester! Each course offers multiple sessions so students can build their knowledge as the course advances, class by class, guided by an experienced professor! And it's all free! Take a look:

Remember (just like in college) — for all courses requiring pre-registration — students are expected to attend all sessions to achieve the maximum 

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"Say What?" Look at What the Library Has in Your Language

In the "melting pot" of New York City, people from all over the world come to visit The New York Public Library. Luckily, New Yorkers can get information in languages from all around the world. Check out these databases, available from home.

Here’s how to access NYPL’s databases: 1. Go to 2. Click on ‘Find Books, DVDs, & More’ 3. Click on ‘Articles and Databases’ 4. Databases are listed in alphabetical order. If you are not accessing the 

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Movable books in the Spencer Collection

Books with movable flaps, pop-up pages, and other "interactive" features are known to librarians as "Toy and movable books" and more than a thousand examples can be found in the Library's catalog. Most are modern children's books, but the genre has a surprisingly long history, pre-dating even the dawn of printing, and most early examples were 

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Happy Birthday, Gérard de Nerval!

Gérard de Nerval was born May 22nd, 1808. A perennial literary figure of the vernal and the surreal, the temporal and the infinite, the accessible and the gnostic, he has fascinated poets, writers and artists for generations. 

Nerval’s real name was Gérard Labrunie. Famous for walking his pet lobster (named Thibault) about Paris, Nerval's eccentric 

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Lacan @ the Library!

Many don’t know it, but New York Public Library has a substantial collection of books by influential French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, as well as his multitudinous acolytes. 

Lacan gave yearly seminars in Paris from 1953 to 1981, and was a major presence among French intellectuals for the remainder of the twentieth century. Lacan greatly influenced the 

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The Eighteenth-Century Oriental Tale and Candide

Habit of a Turkish standardbearer, in 1749 (NYPL Digital Gallery)In sending Candide off to Constantinople to reunite with Cunégonde, Voltaire invokes the contemporary vogue for oriental tales, stories set in the near and far Easts as well as North Africa that first achieved popularity at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

In 1701, the French Orientalist Antoine Galland published his translation of Sinbad the Sailor, a text he had encountered during his travels in Syria. Sinbad’s favorable reception then led to the publication of a group of texts 

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Candide, or Optimism, Dude: The Challenges of Translating Voltaire's Candide

In 2002, I revised Henry Morley's translation of Candide. What, you might ask, does it mean to revise a translation? Does one go back to the original French, or do you work solely from the translation? What, in fact, gets revised? As the editor of Barnes and Noble's Candide explained when he approached me, this would be a project of tightening up some of the translation work itself and updating the language that Morley had chosen for his nineteenth-century translation. And 

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Diamonds are a Diva's Best Friend

In the third installment (see 1, 2) of the series on "Glitter and Be Gay" from Leonard Bernstein's Candide, we turn to a different perspective: Jody Mullen, a self-proclaimed "coloratura geek" who teaches voice in Manhattan and is interested in the history of coloratura as a form.

Barbara Cook as Cunegonde in the original 1957 production"Glitter and Be Gay," Cunegonde's 

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Cunegonde and Coloratura: Harolyn Blackwell on Musical Technique

Harolyn BlackwellCunegonde's aria "Glitter and Be Gay" from Leonard Bernstein's operetta Candide is a performance of a performance, a show-stopping coloratura solo in which the character describes how she has been "forced to bend my soul to a sordid role" of being the caged slave of the Grand Inquisitor and Don Issachar. The character switches back and forth between her disgust at her situation and her temptation at the jewelry, furs, and 

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'You have not known misfortunes such as mine!': Storytelling and Trauma in Candide

Jessica AlpertCandide is a story composed of other stories, as the hero spends much of his world travels listening to others. Few stories are as long and involved as the old woman's in chapters 11 and 12, and she even spurs other characters to tell their stories of misfortune and tragedy at the end of her tale: "I advise you to divert yourself, and prevail upon each passenger to tell his story."


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Pangloss Regained

Dr. Pangloss Surveys the World (NYPL General Research Division)Thanks to Candide, the term "pangloss" has come to mean "overly optimistic fool." The Greek roots in the name, "pan-" and "gloss-" can be read as "all tongue" – an apt characterization of the tutor's speaking-without-thinking style. But I have another sense of the word in mind when I say that Candide was published in the hangover years of a nearly century-long panglossomania binge.

In the 17th century, 

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Terry Southern and Voltaire: The Lost Art of Blasting Smugness

Enter Candy Christian: Candide's Sexpot Alter-Ego 

"The story I have in mind is in the tradition of Candide, with a contemporary setting, the protagonist an attractive American girl, Candy, an only child of a father of whose love she was never quite sure, a sensitive progressive-school humanist who comes from Wisconsin to New York's lower-east side to be an art student, social worker, etc. and to find (unlike her father) 'beauty in mean places.' — Terry Southern, in a 1956 letter to notorious French publisher of 'erotic' novels Maurice Girodias, about his proposed ... Read More ›

Wilbur, the Translator

In Chapter 18 of Candide, our hero and his valet Cacambo arrive in the utopian kingdom of El Dorado, where the streets glitter with precious stones. The people of El Dorado speak Cacambo's mother tongue, a Peruvian dialect indecipherable to Candide, and Cacambo becomes the sole communicator and interpreter. Candide relies on his valet to communicate with the natives of this strange and beguiling country.

The travelers are invited to dine at the King's palace. The dinner proceeds merrily, led by their affable royal 

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Candide on Broadway: An Interview with Maureen Brennan

Maureen Brennan as Cunegonde, 1974 (click to go to online gallery)Maureen Brennan was nominated for a Tony Award and won a Theatre World Award for her professional debut as Cunegonde in the 1974 revival of Leonard Bernstein's Candide (IBDB), directed by Harold Prince. She has since appeared on Broadway as Madeleine Manners in Going Up, Tina in Knickerbocker Holiday, Goldie Gates in Little Johnny Jones, and Stardust. I 

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Forced to bend my soul to a sordid role: women and violence in Candide

Mahlon Blaine illustration for 'Candide', 1930 (click for larger view)Our interactive reading of Candide continues with chapters 7-12. Here's a roundup of recent discussions...

"The diligence with which these gentlemen strip people!" American illustrator Mahlon Blaine chose the old woman's story as one of the full-page drawings for his 1930 edition of Candide. The exotic nude woman

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Candide in New York (or the Problem of Evil)

In 2003 I began work on an edition of Candide for Broadview Press that was published in 2009. For the cover image, I suggested a photograph of the twin towers in flames. I also had an idea for an image to balance it on the back cover: the famous snap from Abu Ghraib of a hooded man standing on a box, arms outstretched and apparently in mortal fear of electrocution. If you find that poor taste, or cannot conceive of why I would choose those images, please read on.

Though it is a comedy, Candide is also about what 

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Noting Candide at 250

Frontispiece of the 2006 Project Gutenberg copy of 'Candide,' taken from 1918 Modern Library editionType "Candide Gutenberg" into Google and you will swiftly find your way to a delightful English translation of Voltaire's wonderful work. It would cost you a whole $1.50 to get the same text on paper, in the remarkably inexpensive Dover Thrift Editions series. Spend $500 on a new iPad and you can get the Gutenberg version practically for free! Why bother going anywhere else?

Well, first, compare 

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