何毓琦的个人博客分享 http://blog.sciencenet.cn/u/何毓琦 哈佛(1961-2001) 清华(2001-date)

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The American Broadway Musical, Nostalgia, and memories from 1949-1961 精选

已有 5453 次阅读 2008-9-25 07:14 |个人分类:生活点滴

        The “Broadway Musical” is a unique American invention. Like classic opera (古典歌剧) it is done in music and songs. But unlike operas which sometimes require a knowledge of Italian or German and classical musicology to really appreciate them, the songs and lyrics of American musicals are simple, contemporary, but moving, easily accessible to ordinary people. Also similar to opera it deals with life, love, struggle, redemption, prejudices, and fulfillment. Many of the famous musicals have become part of the fabrics of Americana. Among the representatives, none occupies the status of the series of collaborations between Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein that began in late forties – “Carousel”,”Oklahoma!”, “South Pacific”, and until their last work , “The Sound of Music” in  1961 just before Hammerstein passed away. This past weekend, there was a local live performance titled “ A tribute to Rogers and Hammerstein” which features numerous hits of theirs from all their works. The audience was standing room only composed mostly of the senior set like myself.
The period of their collaboration happens to parallel my own life from 1949 to 1961 when I left home at age 15, became self supporting at 19, growing up as a adult, married in 1959, finished school, had our first born son and started on my career in 1961. Many of the stories about life, love, struggle, redemption, prejudices, and fulfillment in the Rogers-Hammerstein musicals mirror my own life experience. The songs and lyrics in them became indelible part of my memory and express emotions I feel but lacking the literary and musical ability to express. Thus as I was entertained by this Tribute show, my mind was magically transported back fifty some years to those wonderful bitter sweet years. It was truly “once more with feeling”. I am sure many of the audience feel the same way.
It is a truism but worth repeating. Literature, art, and music are so powerful precisely because they and only they can articulate what we ordinary people feel but cannot eloquently express. To a scientist, we can only feel, admire, and wonder at these endeavors in our heart and mind but are unable to understand it as science, say it, and write it down. In the last scene of the academy award film “Doctor Zhivago”, the great actor, Alec Guinness who played the part of Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago, a loyal communist, finally located the lost daughter and love child of Dr. Zhivago and Lara. He wanted desperately to tell the young woman the tragic life stories and love of her father (Yevgraf’s brother), Dr. Zhivago. But looking at the young girl, full of life and hope for the future, oblivious of the suffering of the past, Yevgraf realized that this is impossible. Generation gaps will always exist. Thus, he wisely but sadly watches the young girl walk away happily playing the mandolin. If I were giving academy awards, I’d give Alex Guinness another just for his acting in this scene. In the same spirit, I realize the current younger generations may enjoy these songs and lyrics of Rogers and Hammerstein but they cannot feel the same way as I do and did. Nostalgia is truly solitary and can only be shared by persons who experienced the same.
 In this connection, I quote for my Chinese readers a slightly modified version of the famous poem-prose of 李後主的词
春花秋月何时了,往事知多少。小楼昨夜又东风,故国前途無量月明中。
雕栏玉砌应犹在,只是心情改。问君能有几多愁,恰似一江春水向东流。
This is an approximation of my own Nostalgia. At this late stage of my life, I feel lucky and content. Life is beautiful but can only be re-lived in memory.


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