The Priming the Operatic Pump Edition of the de Vere’s Irish Pub Pub Quiz Newsletter

Thoughts on opera, and tonight's Pub Quiz.

Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,

            I tell my students in the “Writing Across Media” class that I teach for the Technocultural Studies Program every winter that, as creative professionals, they have a responsibility to report to the class on their culturally ambitious weekends. One great advantage of being a creative professional (or a Quizmaster) is that all of our cultural and intellectual experiences can be made relevant to our work. One must “prime the pump.” This past weekend, for example, I enjoyed a David Sedaris performance at the sold-out Mondavi Center, saw the Spielberg film Lincoln, and saw my friend Malcolm Mackenzie perform the title role in The Barber of Seville. I’m grateful to be married to a woman who is also culturally curious, who appreciates comedy, history, and classical music, as I do, and who was willing to accompany me to all these cultural adventures.

            Like most of you, I don’t see a lot of opera. I regret to say that heretofore I have looked askance upon opera in the way that many otherwise culturally-curious people allow themselves to look upon performed poetry, that this particular genre of the performing arts can be ignored or avoided because of its potential for pretentiousness, obscurity, pomposity, and remoteness from one’s current interests and concerns. Some might think, as I have, that opera is a throwback art form reserved for wealthy Eurocentric people. As Moliere said more than 350 years ago, “Of all the noises known to man, opera is the most expensive.”

            But of course we find in opera what we look to find in the best examples of other artistic genres. Susannah composer Carlisle Ford said, “Like any other composer of opera, I choose a subject not for polemical reasons, but because it contains vivid characters in highly charged dramatic situations.” We look for these same qualities in film, though a character like Daniel Day-Lewis’s Lincoln is more subtle, folksy, and discursive than the characters in a typical opera. My advice: buy a recording of the opera you plan to see – as I did with a Maria Callas version of The Barber of Seville – and then listen to it a few times before you head to the show. On the day of the performance you’ll be so familiar with the music that you can focus on the spectacle, the sets, the comedy, and the acting, as Kate and I did. You will soon wish not to be anywhere else in the world. You will even want to take a break from Facebook – a welcome respite.

            And it helps if you know someone in the cast. Occasional Pub Quiz participant Malcolm Mackenzie is an incredible baritone – it’s amazing what these singers do with their voices – and he was rightfully presented last for the curtain call. What an ovation! Coming home from the opera last night, I told Kate that while I find being your Quizmaster to be really rewarding, never will 2,000 people give me a standing ovation as they did yesterday for the baritone barber Malcolm MacKenzie. She pointed out that I am not the Quizmaster of Seville.

            Tonight’s Pub Quiz will contain no questions about my new interest in opera – I’ll save one of those for next week. But there will be a classical music question, and questions about Finland, Virginia employers, Canadians, Steve Martin, Jennifer Anniston, haters, linear algebra involving hockey, Cuban baseball players, pig-rats, Abraham Lincoln, islands, mad men, hardened ivory huts, things that you might learn in People Magazine, books translated into English and other languages, people we are trying to save, The Irish Times, again with the Middle East, small states, Americans born in 1809, gymnastics, football, the FBI, and Shakespeare. There will be one true-false question, several easy questions, and perhaps one stumper. We shall have to see.

            Enjoy Thanksgiving with your families. I am grateful every time I see you and members of the other teams at the de Vere’s Irish Pub Pub Quiz.


Your Quizmaster






Here are five questions from last week’s quiz:


1.         Mottos and Slogans.    "A mind is a terrible thing to waste" is the slogan of the UNCF. What do the letters UNCF stand for? 


2.         Internet Culture. Microsoft first introduced an operating environment named Windows in what decade? 


3.         Newspaper Headlines.   Lance Armstrong has stepped down as a board member of the cancer-support charity he founded in 1997. What is the name of that charity? 


4.         Four for Four.      On the album Motown #1s, which one of the following #1 Motown hits was longer than three minutes? “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye, “My Girl” by the Temptations, “Please Mr Postman” by The Marvelettes, “Where Did Our Love Go” by the Supremes. 


5.         Veterans. Three states in the US have more than a million veterans. California is first with 1.9 million veterans, and two other states have 1.6 million veterans. What are those two states? 


P.S. I believe next week marks the one-year anniversary of the de Vere’s Irish Pub Pub Quiz. What shall we do to celebrate?

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