The Arts on the Stamps of the World — June 23

An Arts Fuse regular feature: the arts on stamps of the world.


By Doug Briscoe

We have an unusually skimpy Arts on the Stamps of the World today, with only four birthdays to celebrate.

Anna Andreyevna Gorenko (23 June [O.S. 11 June] 1889 – 5 March 1966) is known by her pen name, Anna Akhmatova. One of the greatest and most courageous Russian poets, her words have been set by Prokofiev (Five Poems of Anna Akhmatova of 1916), John Tavener, and Arthur Lourié, among others. In 2015 the American country/folk singer Iris DeMent released an album, The Trackless Woods, inspired by Akhmatova. Perhaps surprisingly—perhaps not—the poet has not to my knowledge appeared on a Russian stamp, but there are two from Kazakhstan and the Republic of Guinea.

An even bigger surprise is that France has never honored dramatist Jean Anouilh (23 June 1910 – 3 October 1987) on a stamp, not even for his centenary in 2010. Neither has any other country, apparently!

Swedish composer Lars Johan Werle (1926 – 3 August 2001) is remembered on a stamp for his opera Tintomara (1973), which was written for and performed on the occasion of the bicentenary celebration of the Royal Theater in Stockholm. The stamp was issued at that time. Werle wrote music in an avant-garde, post-Webern style and produced scores for two Ingmar Bergman films, Persona and Hour of the Wolf.

Just yesterday we saluted Katherine Dunham with a stamp from a set of four honoring US choreographers, and today is the birthday of another of them, Bob Fosse (June 23, 1927 – September 23, 1987). He won more Tony awards for choreography (8) than any other person and was four times nominated for Oscars (twice for All That Jazz in both the director and original screenplay categories); he won the best director award for Cabaret (1973). The dancer and actor also choreographed both the stage and film versions of The Pajama Game (1954 and 1957) and Damn Yankees (1955 and 1958).

Another coincidence is that only two days ago we paid tribute here to caricaturist Al Hirshfeld, and today we have another, the Uruguayan-Argentine artist and author Hermenegildo Sábat, who turns 84 today. Sábat had a drawing published in Montevideo’s leading daily when he was just fifteen, later becoming an editor of that same paper, El País. He relocated to Argentina in 1966. Sábat loves jazz and tango and has written a lengthy list of books on those and other topics, including Carlos Gardel, Bix Beiderbecke, Toulouse-Lautrec, Jorge Luis Borges, Django Reinhardt,Charlie Parker, Fernando Pessoa, and Ástor Piazzolla! His caricature of tango musician Aníbal Troilo (birthday next month—Sábat has written a book about him, too!) was used for the stamp in that artist’s honor.

A happy birthday to the distinguished American actress Frances McDormand (born June 23, 1957).

A graduate of the University of Massachusetts with a B.A. in English, Doug Briscoe worked in Boston classical music radio, at WCRB, WGBH, and WBUR, for about 25 years, beginning in 1977. He has the curious distinction of having succeeded Robert J. Lurtsema twice, first as host of WGBH’s weekday morning classical music program in 1993, then as host of the weekend program when Robert J.’s health failed in 2000. Doug also wrote liner notes for several of the late Gunther Schuller’s GM Recordings releases as well as program notes for the Boston Classical Orchestra. For the past few years he’s been posting a Facebook “blog” of classical music on stamps of the world, which has now been expanded to encompass all the arts for The Arts Fuse.

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