A Brief History of the La Scala Opera House

Known in Italian as Teatro alla Scala, the opera house in Milan -- an industrial city in Northern Italy often compared to Chicago -- is the Mecca of the art form for performers and opera lovers the world over. Aspiring singers who want to "make it" in the world of opera dream of performing on the stage of La Scala, much the same way musicians yearn to play at New York's Carnegie Hall.

The opera house opened in 1778, and its first production was an opera by renowned Baroque composer Antonio Salieri. La Scala was built to replace the Teatro Regio Ducal, which had burned to the ground several years earlier. The name of the theater is derived from the church of Santa Maria della Scala, which formerly stood on this site. After considerable wrangling over interior design elements, the building was configured with slightly more than 3,000 seats into 600-plus "pit stalls" on the main floor, six tiered balconies of private boxes on the side and rear walls, and two galleries above that. The leasing of these private boxes to wealthy individuals provided the bulk of the funds necessary to pay for construction. The galleries above the boxes, known as loggione, were standing-room-only affairs that provided inexpensive entry to the theater. Then as now, these gallery occupants could be merciless in expressing their displeasure if a singer or a production failed to meet their exacting standards. As recently as 2006, tenor Roberto Alagna was booed off the stage by the loggionistas during a performance of Verdi's Aida; his understudy was forced to replace him in the middle of the scene without being given a chance to change into costume.

Electric lights came to La Scala in 1883, and the auditorium underwent significant renovation in 1907. This remodeling reduced the number of seats to its present count of 2,800. Bombing by Allied planes during WWII caused considerable damage to the structure, but the edifice was rebuilt after the war and reopened with a memorial concert conducted by legendary maestro Arturo Toscanini. Another major renovation took place from January 2002 to November 2004, during which time opera productions were staged at another theater elsewhere in Milan. The backstage area was increased significantly to provide more storage space for sets, and an electronic libretto system was installed into the backs of every seat in the house, thereby giving members of the audience instantaneous translations of whatever was being sung onstage. By removing the heavy carpeting throughout the auditorium, experts discovered that La Scala's sound improved considerably.

Given the importance of opera in Italy and the high profile of its patrons, it is hardly surprising that a number of notable operas have had their premieres at La Scala. These include the first performances of many of Giuseppe Verdi's compositions, including Nabucco [1824], I Lombardi [1843], and Otello [1887]. This latter work, which many consider to be Verdi's finest, is often chosen to open each season, which typically begins on December 7. This date was selected because it is the feast day of Milan's patron saint, Saint Ambrose. Other famous operas that were first performed on the stage at La Scala include Il pirata and Norma by Vincenzo Bellini, Lucrezia Borgia and Maria Stuarda by Gaetano Donizetti, and Madama Butterfly and Turandot by Giacomo Puccini.

Music directors at La Scala have included Franco Faccio [1871-1889] (Verdi's favorite conductor), Claudio Abbado [1968-1986], and Riccardo Muti [1986-2005]. Muti was succeeded by Daniel Barenboim [2007-2014], who in turn was replaced by the current officeholder, Riccardo Chailly, in time for the 2015 season. Maestro Chailly's contract runs through 2022. A museum attached to the opera house is filled with paintings and statues that depict important moments in La Scala opera history, plus costumes and drafts of musical scores from many of the productions that have graced its stage down through the years.

A Brief History of New York's Metropolitan Opera

The largest classical musical organization in North America, and perhaps the most recognizable "brand" throughout the music world, the Metropolitan Opera Association of New York (The Met) is considered one of the top venues for opera on the planet. The company was founded in 1883 by some of the most prominent families of "new money" in New York City. These early patrons included such iconic names as Astor, Vanderbilt, and (J.P.) Morgan. Their wealth built the association's first opera house on 39th Street at Broadway, which gave its premiere performance on October 22, 1883. The production was Faust by Charles Gounod and starred Swedish soprano Christina Nilsson. Under the management of Charles Abbey, the company elected to sing everything in Italian for the first season, even operas composed originally in French and German. After suffering severe fiscal distress from the first season's cost overruns, for several years thereafter Abbey engaged a troupe of relatively inexpensive German singers to perform The Met's repertoire, although this time in German no matter the language of the original libretto.

Approaching the end of the 19th century, the Metropolitan Opera was already enjoying a reputation for showcasing the best opera singers of Europe. Continental stars such as Nellie Melba, Lilli Lehmann and Emma Calvé sang alongside the De Reszke brothers (Jean and Edouard), Mario Ancona, and Pol Plançon. Enrico Caruso made his house debut in 1903. By the time he died in 1921, he had sung more performances at the Met than at all other opera houses combined. This era also saw the rise of important American opera singers, and each wanted his or her voice heard on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. Early stars included Emma Eaves and Lillian Nordica, followed a bit later by Geraldine Farrar and Rosa Ponselle.

The Met enjoyed a lengthy string of impresarios as general managers, each putting his unique stamp on the repertoire the opera company produced and the singers who performed it. The years 1908-1935 saw the Metropolitan Opera run by Giulio Gatti-Casazza, a larger-than-life administrator whose skills at organization and ability to attract the top singers helped create what became known as the Met's "Silver Age." This era saw the rise of such luminaries as Laurence Tibbett, Beniamino Gigli, Lauritz Melchior, Maria Jeritza, and many more. Gatti-Casazza convinced both Gustav Mahler and Arturo Toscanini to sign lengthy conducting contracts with the organization.

Rudolph Bing was another dynamic general manager, serving from 1950-1972. His modernization efforts eliminated many of the old practices that had cost the company dearly, such as the Met's regular weekly performances in Philadelphia. Under his direction, the first African-American opera singers were prominently featured in U.S. productions. Contralto Marian Anderson made her belated debut in 1955, paving the way for such future stars as Leontyne Price, Shirley Verrett, and George Shirley. If Gatti-Casazza's tenure was the Silver Age, then Bing's was certainly the Golden Age. The Met attracted singers like Joan Sutherland, Elisabeth Schwartzkopf, Carlo Bergonzi and Nicolai Gedda, singing a wide range of operas that included the revival of many bel canto works (by Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini) that had not been heard on the Met's stage for decades.

Joseph Volpe was the general manager from 1990 to 2006, the first to hold this post after having risen through the ranks of the organization from the position of set-building carpenter. He helped expand the opera company's international touring schedule and was also involved in offering more world premieres (4) and company premieres (22) than any previous director since Gatti-Casazza. Among the singers who came to prominence under Volpe's tenure were Renée Fleming, Angela Gheorghiu, Anna Netrebko, Ben Heppner, and Bryn Terfel.

In 2006, Peter Gelb assumed the role of general manager. Using his background as a former music executive with Sony International, he truly helped bring the Metropolitan Opera into the 21st century. His innovations included the scrapping of staid, outdated productions dating all the way back to the early 1970s in favor of fresh interpretations by some of the most exciting stage directors around. In the 1930s, Texaco had begun its sponsorship of Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts across North America. For many opera fans living far away from New York City, this was generally their sole opportunity to hear a world-class opera production. When Texaco chose to end this relationship in 2005, the luxury home building company known as Toll Brothers stepped in to Save the Met Broadcasts (a campaign headed by legendary soprano Beverly Sills) and continues to sponsor twenty-plus radio broadcasts every season. Gelb's greatest move, however, was the creation of "The Met in HD," a collaborative effort with Fathom Events to provide live streaming of Met operas via satellite to thousands of movie theaters around the world. During its first year, the 2006-07 season, the Met sold more than 300,000 tickets for its run of six operas. The eight performances during the 2007-08 season attracted nearly one million theatergoers. Most recently, the company has expanded its HD offerings to 11 or 12 cinecasts per season, including innovative stagings of operas rarely if ever performed on the Met's stage. Gelb has furthermore been a driving force in giving 20th century opera some much-appreciated exposure. In recent seasons, HD audiences have seen Nixon in China and Doctor Atomic [John Adams], The First Emperor [Tan Dun], Satyagraha [Philip Glass], The Nose [Dmitri Shostakovich], and Peter Grimes [Benjamin Britten].

Despite some contentious labor negotiations over the past few years, and a downturn in the economy in the 2008-09 time frame that saw patronage drop to its lowest funding levels in decades, today the Met continues to be the standard-bearer for high-quality opera in the Western Hemisphere. Fiscal challenges notwithstanding, New York's premier opera company can still boast of its ability to showcase the best singers in stunning productions of the world's most beloved operas.

Sport and Social Change

In America the North was covertly racist, but the South was overtly racist and segregated. George Wallace, then governor of Alabama in the '60's, made the statement, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." In 1970 Sam "Bam" Cunningham of the USC football team raced past defenders of Alabama's famed Crimson Tide. Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant of Alabama congratulated Cunningham after the game. It has been said that Cunningham may have done more to integrate Alabama in 60 minutes than Martin Luther King Jr. did in 20 years.

The place that sport holds in social change was solidified on the gridiron that day.

Enter the University of Missouri 45 years later. What started with a hunger strike by a graduate student quickly escalated. The call went out for the resignation of the university president for his failure to properly address the racism that existed on campus. But it was not until the football team, including the coach, stood united, insisting they would neither practice nor play until the president resigned that the real social change took place. The president resigned and the chancellor stepped down. THAT is the power for social change that sport holds. When used correctly, the lessons learned on the field, court and all arenas of sport can transcend boundaries. Some may resent the power that sport holds even shunning it as a bunch of dumb jocks, but the reality is that sport has the power to change societies. Organizations such as Right To Play have used sport to teach children many lessons and to help form leaders with good moral and ethical ideals.

There are some athletes who claim they should not be viewed as role models, but the reality is they really are role models and have the responsibility to act appropriately. When athletes do things that are reprehensible, they must realize that there will be many who view the athletes' actions as a license to do the same thing. On the positive side when athletes set the standard for behavior high, others will follow.

Doing the right thing towards reducing racism and stereotypes not only means reducing the overt behaviors that people see but also eliminating the microaggressions that sometimes neither the person saying something nor the person on receiving end are aware. Telling a minority football player that, "Wow! You are really articulate" has the subtle assumption that just because he is a football player and a minority, he would somehow not be articulate. The subconscious effects of microaggressions are often worse than outward behaviors because they are covert and so often invisible to all parties, yet their effects are cumulative and lead to prejudice.

Discrimination of any kind is blight on all societies. Sport holds the unique position of being able to cross all boundaries and deliver a message. The University of Missouri football team delivered a strong and reverberating message that was heard loudly and clearly. It brought about a step in social change, albeit a small one. There is still much work to be done. Athletes alone cannot make all the changes, but the collective voice of sport is much more powerful than anyone previously believed. Just ask the former president of the University of Missouri.

© Copyright Yellen & Associates, Inc. 2015 All rights reserved

Dr. Yellen is a parent, former educator, and clinical & sports psychologist in private practice. He has appeared nationally television as well as giving commentary on local television and radio stations. He is the author of The Art of Perfect Parenting and Other Absurd Ideas, coauthor of Understanding the Learning Disabled Athlete and Social Facilitation in Action, and most recently the author of Love Shopping List, a partner to the Love Shopping List app. He can be reached at (818) 360-3078 or by e-mail at docyellen@yellenandassociates.com

Body Piercing Aftercare & Healing Essentials

The most important thing to keep in mind after your body piercing has been performed is that you have essentially just sustained an open wound, and you should be caring for it exactly like you would a surgical wound or injury. That is, with the same kind of care, cleanliness and attention that you would to a serious injury to make sure that you don't scar or get an infection. There are two different types of body piercings to consider: non-oral and oral.

Non-oral body piercing aftercare Keeping your piercing clean can't be stressed too much! It just can't. Twice a day, every day, without fail. No excuses. Use a mild antibacterial soap that doesn't have fragrances in it, such as Provon® Antimicrobial Lotion Soap or Satin® Therapeutic Skin Cleanser, both of which are approved by the Association of Professional Piercers (APP). The best place to clean your piercing is usually in the shower, where the warm water will help you loosen and remove those crusties around the base of your jewelry. Use a cotton swab or a Kleenex to remove these, and then throw the swab or Kleenex away.

Never use a washcloth -- these things are breeding grounds for germs and bacteria! The same for bath towels after your shower! Then, with clean hands, gently cleanse the area with the soap and turn the jewelry so that the soap gets in the piercing and let this sit for a minute or two. After rotating it again, rinse thoroughly with warm, clear water. Make sure you get all of the soap out to prevent irritation. The rinsing is very important, so try to be thorough without irritating the area. It often helps to cup your hands and drizzle water over the area, since the shower stream can be a little too hard to aim directly on the area. Don't forget your sea salt soaks After cleansing, a sea salt soak helps to draw out any piercing infection and impurities while soothing the area and calming any inflammation that may be present. Mix about ¼ teaspoon of sea salt with 8 ounces of warm water. Using a disposable cup, soak your piercing in this for ten minutes the first time, and five minutes each time after that. If your piercing is in a location that makes this difficult, apply the solution with cotton swabs, tissues or some other disposable product that's soft and clean. Never use a hanky, washcloth or any other item that is going to be reused. Always pat your piercings dry with cotton balls, cotton swabs or tissues -- don't rub them, pat them. This reduces irritation and possible tearing of the skin and helps promote healing. Although it seems to be a minor step, keeping your piercings dry is actually an essential part of piercing aftercare because it reduces the opportunities for bacteria to breed (they love a warm, moist place to play). If you aren't sure about mixing your sea salt soaks properly or it's too inconvenient, there's a new alternative on the market that's less messy and is portable. H2Ocean® Piercing Aftercare Spray is a pre-mixed sea salt solution containing lysozyme, a natural antibacterial that is gentle to the skin. Simply spray it on the area and allow to drip dry; it's easy to use because of their patent-pending compressed air delivery system that produces a fine mist. This product is guaranteed to heal navel piercings in only a month and a half if used regularly and is highly recommended by numerous piercing communities like BME and Prick magazine. H2Ocean® also comes in a portable size for your pocket or purse, which makes piercing aftercare away from home easier. X-pressions Piercing Aftercare Spray is also available for both oral and non-oral body piercings and is a mild antibacterial solution with purified water in a non-aerosol, pump spray with a pleasant, peppermint flavor. Once a day (not more often, because you'll be unnecessarily irritating the area), check that the ends of your piercing jewelry are firmly screwed on. But wash your hands with antibacterial soap first. And now, a few "don'ts"
  • Don't ever put hydrogen peroxide or alcohol on a piercing -- they are too drying and will delay healing.
  • Don't ever use Neosporin on a piercing -- it can actually trap bacteria. Read the label; it actually says, "Not for puncture wounds." Guess what? A piercing is a puncture wound.
  • Don't ever remove your piercing jewelry before the piercing is completely healed, which may take months or up to a year. If you suspect a piercing infection, see your piercing professional or doctor first.
  • Don't sleep on your piercing until the initial healing phase is over.
  • Don't wear tight clothing over your piercing during the initial healing phase.
Oral piercing aftercare During the first three to six weeks after an oral piercing, rinse your mouth with an antibacterial agent after every meal to kill bacteria and make sure not tiny food particles aren't lodged around your piercing just waiting to fester and turn into problems later. There are several excellent products on the market for this, including APP recommended Biotene and Tech2000 Dental Rinse; these have the proper ingredients and have the right potency to get the job done without being too strong. Don't bother with mouthwash, because it's not strong enough to do anything but cover your bad breath, which won't be much consolation when you have a swollen, tender tongue because of improper aftercare. You can also use a commercial antibacterial rinse, but dilute it so that it isn't too strong. If your tongue develops a whitish or yellowish look, your mouth rinse is too strong and will slow healing. Sea salt rinses ... ahh! Mix the familiar warm water solution of 8 ounces water to ¼ teaspoon sea salt and swish this in your mouth for 15-20 seconds after drinking anything other than water and after smoking. It's not only an aid to healing, but can be very soothing to the pierced area. If your oral piercing is sore or swollen, you can find some relief by allowing crushed ice to melt in your mouth. Popsicles, ice cream and the like also work, but will need to be followed up, like everything else, with a sea salt rinse (or H2Ocean®). Brush, brush, brush You can keep your tongue and piercing as clean as you want, but if you don't brush your teeth well, you'll still have millions of bacteria in your mouth. Try to brush your teeth three times a day during the first several weeks of healing. Buy a new soft-bristle brush that will be gentle on your piercing. Don't use a brush that you've already used before your piercing, as it will harbor old germs. You should also gently brush the balls on the ends of your piercing jewelry to prevent the natural build-up of plaque on your jewelry. Oral piercing "don'ts"
  • Don't smoke, chew gum or use snuff or rub during the healing period; these increase the risk of piercing infections astronomically.
  • Don't play with the piercing jewelry or click it against your teeth; this can cause cracking of your tooth enamel.
  • Don't engage in any activities, including kissing, that exchange body fluids during the initial healing period of several weeks.
General tips to improve healing success Proper piercing aftercare is the primary reason for a successfully healed body modification, but your overall health and how well you take care of yourself is also a contributing factor. If you are run-down or your immune system is compromised, you will not heal as quickly and you will be more prone to infection. For that reason, you should keep in mind a few things whenever you have any kind of piercing in order to help ensure that your piercing aftercare measures are given the best chance of success:
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Eight glasses of day at the very least.
  • At least eight hours of sleep a night
  • Try to limit the amount of stress in your life
  • Vitamin C and Zinc supplements to help speed the healing process
  • Lots of fruits and vegetables, and a multi-vitamin if needed
  • If the pain bothers you, take Ibuprofen. If you are comfortable, you are less likely to fidget with the piercing.
Signs of trouble Even with excellent piercing aftercare, there will be some swelling at the site of a piercing for a few days. You'll also have some clear, watery discharge and perhaps some mild bleeding. The bleeding will usually stop within 24 hours, while the discharge may last for several days or weeks. This is simply drainage of the wound and actually helps prevent piercing infection. Signs that the piercing is in trouble include:
  • Discharge that becomes noticeably thicker and is yellow or green in color. This is a sign or infection and should be checked by a doctor.
  • Inflammation that lasts longer than a few days, with redness and irritation. See your piercing professional or doctor.
  • Red streaks from the piercing site and a fever, along with body aches. See your doctor.
  • Hives, redness, itching and irritation around the piercing, which may signal an allergic reaction to the piercing jewelry. Your piercing professional can try replacing it with an alternative metal.
  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing after your piercing, or a feeling that your mouth or throat are swelling closed. Seek emergency attention immediately!
So how long does all this healing take? If you perform your piercing aftercare properly, your body piercing will heal cleanly and leave you with a beautiful new piercing with no scarring, migration or keloids. The time it takes to achieve this, however, will vary depending upon what kind of piercing it is. The general timeframes listed below are just for reference. All of these depend upon your individual body's response, how much stress you are under and a thousand other variables.
 Earlobe or Eyebrow: 6 - 8 weeks
Genitals: 4 weeks - 4 months
Labret/Lip: 6 - 8 weeks
Navel: 6 - 18 months
Nipple: 3 - 6 months
Nostril: 3 months - 1 year
Septum: 6 - 8 weeks
Tongue: 4 - 6 weeks
 Cartilage: 3 months - 1 year Disclaimer: All piercing aftercare information provided herein is for information purposes only. It is not meant to be a guideline for body piercing aftercare, but a starting point in making an informed decision concerning body piercing. If you have any questions or proceed with a body piercing, please be sure to discuss the procedure with a medical or piercing professional and get complete and clearly understood piercing aftercare instructions at that time. Evaluseek Publishing claims no responsibility for the accuracy of this content, which is based on the general consensus of the piercing community, which is constantly evolving and changing. This article on the "Body Piercing Aftercare & Healing Essentials" reprinted with permission.
Copyright © 2004 Evaluseek Publishing.

The History of Body Piercings - Ancient and Fascinating Around the World

Body piercings have seen a resurgence of interest in the last ten to twenty years and are becoming more and more a part of the mainstream Western culture. Take a look at any fashion or entertainment magazine and you'll see plenty of well-known celebrities with body piercings like navel rings or a labret. You might be surprised to find out that piercing is actually an ancient form of expression that most cultures have practiced at some time or other for thousands of years. Egyptian body piercings reflected status and love of beauty The earliest known mummified remains of a human that was pierced is over 5,000 years old. This worthy gentleman had his ears pierced with larger-gauge plugs in his ears, so plugs may be one of the oldest forms of body modification there is! We also know that the Egyptians loved to adorn themselves elaborately, and even restricted certain types of body piercings to the royal family. In fact, only pharaoh himself could have his navel pierced. Any one else who tried to get a belly button ring could be executed. (Tell that to Britney Spears!) Almost every well-to-do Egyptian wore earrings, though, to display their wealth and accent their beauty. Elaborate enameled and gold earrings frequently portrayed items in nature such as lotus blossoms. Body piercings are also mentioned in the Bible. In the Old Testament it's obvious that body jewelry is considered a mark of beauty and wealth, especially for Bedouin and nomadic tribes. In many cases, body jewelry was given as a bridal gift or as part of a dowry. It is clear that piercing was a sign of status and attractiveness in Biblical times. Romans were practical piercers Romans were very practical people, and for them piercing almost always served a purpose. Roman centurions pierced their nipples not because they liked the way it looked, but to signify their strength and virility. It was a badge of honor that demonstrated the centurion's dedication to the Roman Empire. As a symbol, it was important and served a specific function, unifying and bonding the army. Even Julius Caesar pierced his nipples to show his strength and his identification with his men. Genital piercing through the head of the penis was performed on gladiators, who were almost always slaves, for two reasons. A ring through the head of the penis could be used to tie the organ back to the testicles with a length of leather. In gladiatorial combat, this prevented serious injury. With a large enough ring or bar, it also prevented the slave from having sex without the owner's consent. Since the gladiator was "property," a stud fee could be charged to another slave owner for the highly prized opportunity to raise the next generation of great fighter. Making love or war, piercing makes it better Going across the ocean at around the same time, the Aztecs, Maya and some American Indians practiced tongue piercing as part of their religious rituals. It was thought to bring them closer to their gods and was a type of ritual blood-letting. The Aztec and Maya were warrior tribes, and also practiced septum piercing in order to appear fiercer to their enemies. Nothing looks quite as frightening as an opponent sporting a huge boar tusk thrust through his nose!

This practice was also common among tribes in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Some of the materials commonly used were bone, tusks and feathers. Hundreds of years later, French fur trappers in Washington State discovered American Indian tribes who wore bones through their septum and called them the Nez Perce, meaning "Pierced Noses" in French. It's interesting that civilizations separated by thousands of miles and even centuries often developed a love for the same kind of body piercings to enhance certain features, isn't it?

In Central and South America, lip labrets were popular for purely aesthetic reasons - women with pierced lips were considered more attractive. In fact, the holes were often stretched to incredible size as progressively larger wooden plates were inserted to emphasize the lips as much as possible. (Kind of like collagen today). The Aztecs and Maya also sported lip labrets of gold and jade, many of them elaborately carved into mythical or religious figures or sporting gemstones. These were seen as highly attractive and to enhance sexuality. As the world moved into the dark ages, interest in piercing died down somewhat and the medieval church began to condemn it as sinful. For a few hundred years, Western civilization abandoned the practice. As the Renaissance went into full swing, however, interest in piercing began to pick up again. A new era and a new interest in body piercings Sailors became convinced that piercing one ear would improve their long-distance site, and so the site of a sailor with a gold or brass ring became common. Word also spread that should a sailor be washed ashore after a shipwreck, the finder should keep the gold ring in exchange for providing a proper Christian burial. Sailors were both religious and superstitious, so they generally spent a lot for a large gold earring to hedge their bets. Men became much more fashion-conscious during the Renaissance and Elizabethan eras, and almost any male member of the nobility would have at least one earring, if not more. Large pearl drops and enormous diamond studs were a great way to advertise your wealth and standing in the community. It could also designate royal favor if your earring was a gift from a member of the royal family. Women, not wanting to be outshone by the men in all their finery, began to wear plunging necklines, with the Queen of Bavaria introducing the most outrageous, which consisted of not much at all above the waist. In order to adorn themselves, women began piercing their nipples to show off their jewelry. Soon they began wearing chains and even strands of pearls draped between the two.

 Men and women both discovered that these nipple piercings were also delightful playthings in bed, adding sensitivity to the breasts and giving the men both visual and tactile stimulation. Men began getting pierced purely for pleasure as well. While not entirely mainstream, piercing of the nipples and, occasionally, the genitals, continued to hold interest for members of the upper crust of society in Europe on and off for the next few hundred years. The next resurgence of interest was, surprisingly, during the Victorian age, which is usually seen as very repressed. Prince Albert, future husband of Queen Victoria, is said to have gotten the penis piercing that is named after him in order wear the tight-fitting trousers so popular at the time. The ring could then be attached to a hook on the inside of one pant leg, tucked safely away between the legs for a neat, trim look. Although we have no record of Victoria's response to the piercing itself, there is ample evidence she was wildly in love with her husband and almost never left his side after their marriage! Soon, Victorian men were getting Prince Albert's, frenums and a variety of other piercings purely for the pleasurable sexual effects, and women were doing the same. By the 1890's, it was almost expected that a woman would have her nipples pierced. In fact, some doctors at the time suggested it improved conditions for breastfeeding, although not all agreed. It was an interesting double standard -- plenty of people were doing it, but no one was talking about it. Modern-day body piercings In the last hundred years or so, body piercings in the Western world have mostly been limited to the ears, a standard hold-over from the fact that both men and women wore earrings during Elizabethan times. The Puritan movement did away with men wearing earrings, however, and it didn't really regain popularity until recently. Nose rings found new interest when young people (they were called hippies then) from the U.S. began traveling in India extensively looking for enlightenment in the 1960's. They noticed the nostril rings that most women had been wearing there since the sixteenth century. In India, this was a form of traditional, accepted adornment and was often linked to an earring by a chain. For rebellious teens from America, it was a great form of rebellion. After bringing nose piercings back to the U.S., the interest in body piercings of all kinds quickly caught on during the 1980's and 1990's. Celebrities, sports stars and singers all began sporting a variety of piercings. Soon, high school students and even stay-at-home moms were flashing new body piercings. And the rest, as they say, is history! This article on the "History of Body Piercings" reprinted with permission.
Copyright 2004 Evaluseek Publishing.

The Beatles Arrive In America!

Before I start this article, I would like to say that I have never really been much of a fan of the kind of music which is commonly known as "rock and roll" or popular music yet I do find some of it along with its stories fascinating. It being with this in mind that I wish to share this particular story about The Beatles's first trip to the United States.

It was in 1964 that The Beatles first arrived in America, landing in New York's international airport which had recently had its name changed from Idlewild Airport to John F. Kennedy. It being upon arrival that the four members of the Beatles were met with literally thousands of screaming fans who simply could not get enough of their rock and roll idols yet I; for my part when I saw the video many years later asked one question. How did all those fans manage to find out the exact time and flight on which the Beatles would be arriving? It giving the appearance that they must have had some connection to the Beatles themselves or some sort of inside information as to their schedule; which told them at which gate at the airport to wait at.

It was however many years later while working in a brokerage firm in New York that I found out that the chaotic scene at the airport caused by the arrival of the Beatles arrival had not been an accident of any kind. It in fact having been a radio station which was responsible. It being a particular radio station (not mentioned by the person who told me the story) which made an announcement which went along the following lines.

"The rock group the Beatles will be arriving today at Kennedy airport but we urge all Beatle fans not to go to Kennedy airport to receive the Beatles. The airport will be very crowded and this will create problems for not only the Beatles but for other travelers therefore please avoid Kennedy airport at (they gave the time of arrival) and please above all avoid gate (they gave the gate number) if you must go to Kennedy airport. The Beatles are arriving on Panam flight number (they gave the flight number) but please do not go wait for them because this will only crowd up the airport."

This of course being a message which more then encouraged people to go to JFK airport and wait for the Beatles though it was presented in a way that perhaps playfully tried to get the opposite result. The radio announcer clearly using what could be hailed as reserve psychology which apparently worked as thousands went to JFK to greet the Beatles in what become a historical day in rock and roll music.

My name is Gianni Truvianni, author of many an article to be found on the internet along with the book "New York's Opera Society". My works also include the books "What Should Not Matter", "Love Your Sister" and several others which still remain unpublished though I am presently looking to change this.
By Gianni Truvianni

Great Moments In Opera, Conclusion To Puccini's "Tosca"

The conclusion to Puccini's Tosca is one of the most dramatic ever in the history of opera. It is after Mario Cavaradossi finishes singing "E Lucevan Le Stelle" that Floria Tosca comes to see him to tell him the wonderful news. Tosca telling her lover, Mario Cavaradossi that she has struck a deal with Scarpia in which his execution will be but a simulation to give the impression that he has been killed. This so Scarpia can save face but the truth is that they will only pretend to execute him. After which he is free to go with her to the boarder where the document she has received from Scarpia will guarantee her and the one who accompanies her a safe passage.

Mario, naturally rejoices at the offer which has been made as he shows his joy yet Tosca tells him that it would best if he did not smile and put on the face of somebody who is about to be executed. Mario accepts as he makes his best effort to look the part yet Tosca is feeling the elation of triumph which she unlike Mario does not have to hide or at least not to the same extent. Tosca after all has not only secured a deal which should save the love of her life but has even killed the man who was feared by practically the whole of Rome.

It had been Tosca, herself who with steak knife had stabbed Scarpia to death. After which she had the pleasure of seeing him plead for help as he looked in to her eyes which declared all too clearly that it was she and nobody else who was killing him. This was Tosca's moment as Mario is about to be executed which is her victory as she has not only been able to safe her beloved but has done away with the dreaded Scarpia. Tosca showing all the joy of those who are about to emerge triumphant yet for my part I see this as being Angela Gheorghiu. Gheorghiu best capturing the sensual passionate woman of strength; who is but one of fiction yet comes to life when interpreted by Angela Gheorghiu.

Mario Cavaradossi is taken to where a firing squad will fire upon him yet all the while we see and hear Floria Tosca as she describes the scene while the music is one of victory mixed with drama and suspense. Tosca calls it a comedy yet one which they must go through if they are to be free. This as she finds it almost too difficult to control her emotions of joy yet she must await for the ceremony to be completed before she and Mario can be off. All in the fashion of a child who is forced to look at presents, he or she can not open till Christmas and is very much aware of the fact that they will be taken away if he or she even attempts to open them prior to the day of Christmas.

The music increases in its bombastic effects as Mario is fired upon yet Tosca admires and even praises him for his acting ability which allows him to fall to the ground so convincingly when he is shot. Tosca words being "Ecco un artista!" (there is an artist) with a hint of pride that perhaps he has been influenced by seeing her on stage on so many occasions while her eyes sparkle with all their beauty as does the rest of her with the radiance which is really Angela Gheorghiu's. Angela Gheorghiu being the one to bring vigor to this character by not only providing her with a grand voice but making her come to life; as if she were transforming herself in to Floria Tosca.

The tension in the music builds as Mario is about to be fired upon while Tosca thrills in ecstasy and it is precisely at the moment that the shots finally come that there is a moment of relief. As if all is but a distant memory and Tosca and Cavaradossi are free at last. Tosca as if passing on instructions to Mario not to move which he of course can not hear yet they are perhaps more for herself. This as Spoletta goes over to check if Mario is really dead which he does with a touch upon Mario's throat; after which he turns to Tosca and smiles with a wink. This as if passing on a secrete message that their deal is completed and she and he are free to go in peace.

Tosca awaits the moment for all the guards to leave the place so she can rush over to her Mario and be on their way. Tosca seeming like a child who is waiting for that moment on Christmas in which she can open her presents yet knows that it will arrive any minute. This as Tosca continues to sing out instructions to Mario that he must not move. Tosca acting much like an air traffic controller when guiding an airplane on to a runaway which is about to land. Tosca trying so hard to control both the elation she is feeling along with Mario's.

The moment does arrive when all the soldiers have gone and there is a silence which is relief that all is over. This prompting Tosca to run to Mario like that child to her Christmas presents with all her desires and hopes being as apparent as the beauty which radiates from her. Tosca runs and kneels to Mario, whom she urges to get up so they can escape yet it is at that moment that she sees that all those lovely Christmas presents were but beautifully decorated boxes which in fact are empty. This being the cruel joke which had been played upon her by Scarpia. As the truth is that Mario is truly dead and the execution had been real.

Tosca crying out "morto,morto" (dead) in despair as all her optimism has been dashed. Tosca now seeing that all had been but a trick to fool her in to making love to Scarpia; who had been no more honest in keeping his end of the bargain than she had been in keeping hers. Tosca's bitter tears are clear as she feels the rage of having her beloved lie dead at her feet yet just as she is going through the anxiety of Mario's death; she hears voices and the firing squad returning. It is apparent that Scarpia's body has been found and that this time they are coming for her.

All of which sending Floria Tosca in to a frantic run to where she might be able to jump off the top of Saint Angelo's castle which is the place where they find themselves. This being a fall which is sure to kill her yet she is Tosca, who will slay herself; for her life is hers and hers alone to end. This as the music reaches dramatic heights as Tosca runs with the freedom of those who are still in a position to decide their own fate for themselves. Tosca standing on top of the parapet as she screams "Scarpia will answer to God!" just before jumping to her demise. Thus bringing Puccini's opera Tosca to its grand conclusion which grants neither defeat nor victory to any of its main characters; as to a certain extent they have all died with a taste of both.

In conclusion, I would say there is grandness in Puccini's "Tosca" as it allows us to feel all the emotions of victory while it demonstrates the political turmoil of the time. As for the role of Tosca though many have played this particular role; I would say that there is something about Angela Gheorghiu's perhaps passion along with her perhaps at times capricious ways which make her the ideal Tosca. Angela Gheorghiu being one whose gestures and strength of personality seem ideally suited to play this woman, who adores with all of herself; in ways that do not exclude those of jealousy and possessiveness. Naturally, it also being the power of her voice which allows us to feel the pain of Floria Tosca; whose ways include not only those of a woman of strength but at times those of a delightful child.

My name is Gianni Truvianni, author of many an article to be found on the internet along with the book "New York's Opera Society". My works also include the books "What Should Not Matter", "Love Your Sister" and several others which still remain unpublished though I am presently looking to change this.
By Gianni Truvianni

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