Monthly Archives: November 2020

No! Pagliaccio Non Son

Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci was first performed at Milan’s Teatro Dal Verme in 1892 – Arturo Toscanini conducted. It rapidly spread throughout the operatic world and like its frequent partner, Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, it was its composer’s only unalloyed success. The opera’s protagonist, Canio leader of a band of itinerant performers, is married to a much younger…


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To Err is Human, to Kvetch Divine

Earlier this month Commentary published its 75th anniversary issue. It contains a long dialogue (Editing Commentary – A Conversation) between John Podhoretz the magazine’s current editor and his father Norman a previous editor. The conversation, nine pages of it, is a largely congratulatory depiction of how heavily edited is the copy published. John describes an…


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Franz Schubert: Two Fantasies

Daniel Dennett is a professor at Tufts University who frequently writes about humans consciousness. He thinks the study of the brain can explain the phenomenon much like the study of the kidney will eventually lead to a complete understanding of how it works – well almost complete. His work is engaging , insightful, and informative….


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Effectiveness of Masks

Those who advise, sometime with the threat of jail time, that everyone use masks as a palliative against the coronavirus are usually the same who proclaim that we should follow the science. Well, when it comes to masks and the current pandemic there isn’t much science. The Annals of Internal Medicine has just published Effectiveness…


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Why Nothing is Hardest

Nothing is harder than doing nothing, especially when it’s the best alternative among a pack of difficult choices. Medicine’s prime commandment – Primum non nocere – often requires that the physician refrain from treatment when the remedy is worse than the malady. While the maxim is endlessly preached, it is rarely observed. The urge to…


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Diet and Physical Activity

The American Cancer Society recently released its guidelines for diet and physical activity. As is typical for these sorts of dicta, there are multiple authors (more than 20) not one of whom is a physician. The guidelines can be shortened to if it tastes good, don’t eat it. If it has any amount of alcohol…


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Leyla Gencer

Leyla Gencer (1928-2008) was a Turkish soprano who made most of her career in Italy. She was a lirico-spinto who like Maria Callas could sing just about anything in the Italian repertory. Unlike Callas, because of an outstanding technique she was able to do so for a long career. To my ears she had a…


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The Stethoscope

A reader suggested that I write about the stethoscope. At first, I wondered if such an article would have much interest to a general audience; but then I realized that there was a lot to say about this instrument that might have wide appeal. The stethoscope was invented by one of the epochal figures of…


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Valentin’s Aria

The famous baritone aria from Gounod’s Faust, ‘Avant de quitter ces lieux’, was not in the opera’s original French version. It was written by Gounod to an English text by Henry Chorley especially for the great English baritone Charles Santley (1834-1922). ‘Even the bravest heart’ was loosely translated into French for subsequent performances. Santely was,…


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Thoughts on the 1918 Flu and COVID-19

A little over a century ago the most lethal epidemic in human history began. It was caused by a virulent form of the H1N1 influenza-A virus. It’s origin is uncertain. Originally thought to have first appeared in Kansas, it may even have originated in China. Regardless of where it started it rapidly spread throughout the…


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