Simanaitis Says

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OCCASIONALLY DURING MY YOUTH, THE CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA would have children’s concerts. However, my education and love of classical music came not from these privileged trips to Severance Hall, but from Looney Tunes of the era. 

I was reminded of this in reading the June 2023 Opera News: Henry Stewart’s “Operapedia” is devoted to “Art and Artists.” Here in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow are tidbits arising from this particular “Operapedia.”  

Operatic Painters. Of course, Stewart cites the painter Marcello from La Bohème and Tosca’s pal Mario Cavaradossi. “But,” he says, “the most raucous opera about artists is surely Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini, starring the titular Renaissance goldsmith, famous for his violence and sexual affairs (all of which Berlioz’s librettists played down)….”

“Later,” Stewart continues, “Cellini would inspire Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin’s Firebrand of Florence.” Yes, that Ira Gershwin.

Caruso the Caricaturist. Stewart recounts, “Enrico Caruso was not only a legendary lyric tenor: He was also a prolific caricaturist, sketching portraits of himself, in and out of costume. Some he gave away; others he’d send to the Italian-language newspaper La Follia while staying in New York during the Met season.”

Enrico Caruso, self-sketched, 1906. This image and the following from

Caruso also sketched other musicians of the era.

Above, composer Gustav Mahler, 1908. Below, composer Richard Strauss, 1913. Image from

Caruso composed a sketch of Madama Butterfly, in which he portrayed Pinkerton. And even a caricature of Theodore Roosevelt. 

Image above from Below, from the Library of Congress.

Other Artists. David Hockney is cited for his theatric designs, as is Pablo Picasso.

And a Duck Named Daffy.  Henry Stewart writes, “The 1953 Merrie Melodies short ‘Duck’s Amuck’ is the series’s most self-conscious, focused on art and animation. In it, Daffy contends with an unseen animator who keeps changing the costumes, the scenery, everything, leading the duck through an increasingly desperate and dangerous series of events. (Spoiler alert: Bugs Bunny is the animator.)” 

“At one point,” Stewart observes, “Bugs transforms a parachute into an anvil, and the subsequently hammered anvil then becomes a munition, which explodes. Carl Stalling’s eclectic score accompanies this moment with a snippet from Wagner’s Rienzi.”

Tomorrow in Part 2, we expand on classically themed cartoons with Daffy’s pals Bugs, Elmer Fudd, and others. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2023


  1. Mike Scott
    May 25, 2023

    Re: your Cleveland Symphony children’s concerts, rare breaths of fresh air on what FCC Chair Newton Minow in 1961 well summed “a vast wasteland” were Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts. The wonderful Wynton Marsalis and Yo-Yo Ma today continue trying to reach the ADD masses even as public schools cut music and art programs.

    Recalling Einstein being a passable violinist reminds us that the human brain is not so compartmentalized.

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