Born: 18 August 1933
Birthplace: Paris, France
Best Known As: Director of Chinatown and The Pianist
Polanski directed the critical and commercial hits Rosemary's Baby (1968, starring Mia Farrow) and Chinatown (1974, starring Jack Nicholson). A childhood survivor of the Krakow ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland, he began acting as a teen, then went to film school and in the late 1950s began winning international awards for his short films. His first feature film, the tense drama Knife in the Water (1962), received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, and within a few years Polanski made his way to Hollywood. The success of the devilish Rosemary's Baby was soon overshadowed by the 1969 murder of Polanski's pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, by members of a cult led by Charles Manson. Polanski returned to Europe, settling in France, and continued to make movies in Europe and the U.S. In 1977 he was charged in Los Angeles with drugging and raping a 13 year-old girl during a purported photo session. After a few months in jail for psychiatric review, Polanski was released on bail and allowed to leave the country to work on a film. He never returned. He continued making movies in Europe and in the 1980s and '90s appeared many times on stage. His filmography includes some great films, some stinkers and a few that can be taken either way, but he is considered by many to be a great director -- an opinion reinforced by his 2003 Academy Award as best director for The Pianist (starring Adrien Brody). His other feature films include Tess (1980), Frantic (1988, starring Harrison Ford) and The Ninth Gate (2000, starring Johnny Depp).
The Pianist is an account of the German extermination of the Warsaw ghetto, echoing Polanski's own past... Polanski was still a fugitive when he won the 2003 Oscar, so he did not attend the ceremonies in Los Angeles... The incident with the 13 year-old girl took place at the home of Jack Nicholson (who was out of town)... The girl's name remained hidden for years, but as a married adult she identified herself publicly as Samantha Geimer; her name at the time of the incident was Samantha Jane Gailey... In 1989 Polanski married actress Emmanuelle Seigner, who appears in his films Frantic and The Ninth Gate... In 1984 he published his autobiography, Roman.
Category: Water Rooster - Kuei Yu
Wilhelm Richard Wagner (May 22, 1813 in Leipzig – February 13, 1883 in Venice)
Wagner was reared in a theatrical family, had a classical education, and began composing at 17. He studied harmony and the works of Beethoven and in 1833 became chorus master of the theater at Würzburg, the first of a series of theatrical positions. Die Feen (composed 1833), his first opera, was in the German romantic tradition begun by Weber; Das Liebesverbot (1835–36) demonstrated his assimilation of the Italian style. In Paris he completed Rienzi (1838–40) but was unable to have it performed there. Its production in Dresden in 1842 was highly successful, and in 1843 Wagner was made musical director of the Dresden theater.
Der Fliegende Holländer (1841) was less successful. It was based on Heine's version of the legend of the Flying Dutchman, a legendary phantom ship, and it foreshadows the idea, developed in Tannhäuser (1843–44) and prevalent in later works, of redemption by love. Tannhäuser, based in part on the actual life of Tannhäuser, and Lohengrin (1846–48) brought the German romantic opera to culmination. In Lohengrin, Wagner for the first time is more interested in his characters as symbols than as actual personages in a drama.
Wagner participated in the Revolution of 1848, fled Dresden, and with the help of Liszt escaped to Switzerland, where he stayed eight years. There he wrote essays, including Oper und Drama (1851), in which he began to articulate aesthetic principles that would guide his subsequent work.
Der Ring des Nibelungen (1853–74), his tetralogy based on the Nibelungenlied (see under Nibelungen), embodies the most complete adherence to his stated principles. In 1857, having completed the composition of the first two works of the cycle, Das Rheingold (1853–54) and Die Walküre (1854–56), and two acts of Siegfried (1856–69), Wagner laid the Ring aside without hope of ever seeing it performed and composed Tristan und Isolde (1857–59) and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1862–67), his only comic opera. Tristan, based on the legend of Tristram and Isolde, was so utterly in opposition to the operatic conventions of the day that it required the intercession and support of Louis II of Bavaria to have it produced (1865) in Munich.
In 1872 Wagner moved to Bayreuth, where in 1874 he completed the third act of Siegfried and all of Götterdämmerung, the last work of the Ring cycle. There he was able to build a theater, Das Festspielhaus, adequate for the proper performance of his works, in which the complete Ring was presented in 1876. At Bayreuth, Wagner entertained the great musicians of his day. Parsifal (1877–82) was his last work.
Wagner indulged in much financial foolishness and in the end enjoyed considerable critical success. Although during his lifetime opposition to him and to his ideas went to fantastic lengths, Wagner's operas held a position of complete dominance in the next generation, retaining their enormous popularity in the 20th cent.
Wagner's operas represent the fullest musical and theatrical expression of German romanticism. His ideas exerted a profound influence on the work of later composers. For the principle of sharply differentiated recitative and aria, Wagner substituted his “endless melody” and his Sprechgesang [sung speech], calling his operas music-dramas to signify the complete union of music and drama that he sought to achieve. He thought that music could not develop further with the resources it had employed since Beethoven's time, and he maintained that the music of the future must be part of a synthesis of the arts.
Adapting German mythology to his dramatic requirements, Wagner applied to it an increased emotional intensity, derived from the harmonic complexity and power of Beethoven's music, to produce what he termed a “complete art work.” He achieved a remarkable dramatic unity due in part to his development of the leitmotif, a brief passage or fragment of music used to characterize an episode or person and brought in at will to recall it to the audience. At the same time, Wagner greatly increased the flexibility and variety of his orchestral accompaniments. He was responsible for the productions of his works from libretti to details of sets and costumes.
Wagner's second wife, Cosima Wagner, 1837–1930, was the daughter of Liszt and the comtesse d'Agoult. From 1857 to 1870 she was the wife of Hans von Bülow. In 1870 she married Wagner. After his death she was largely responsible for the continuing fame of the Bayreuth festivals.
Their son, Siegfried Wagner, 1869–1930, composed 11 operas, orchestral and chamber music, and some vocal pieces, but was known chiefly as a conductor. With his wife, Winifred Williams, he directed the Bayreuth festivals, a tradition carried on by their two sons, Wieland and Wolfgang, after World War II.
Category: Water Rooster - Kuei Yu