Noon Programs

The Monday series of talks, sponsored by the Friends of the Library,  are held at noon in the McChesney Room of the Central Library on Clinton Street. You may bring a bag lunch; coffee and tea are available for a nominal fee. The room is equipped with special devices for the hearing-impaired. These programs are also broadcast on the Schenectady Public Access channel.

Geri Mulligan, Coordinator


Josef Schmee

Josef Schmee, Professor of Management (emeritus) at Union College, will present operas by Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini during our December noon programs (Dec. 3, 10 & 17). Please note: each program will run 1 & 1/2 hours.

December 3: Mozart’s Don Giovanni has been called the “opera of all operas”. Kierkegaard analyzed it philosophically.  Gounod wrote at length on the music. The theologian Karl Barth said the first person he wanted to meet in heaven was the composer of Don Giovanni. Many others have sought to understand this sensualist Don Giovanni. Is he immoral or amoral? Is he a charmer or a brutish rapist? Is he real or just a prototype? How much of the Don is in us? The answer can be found in Mozart’s transcendent music.

December 10: Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera was one of Toscanini’s favorite operas. It comes in two versions. One version, often played, was the one the censor allowed to be performed. It takes place in Boston. We look at the version Verdi intended to be performed with the location in Sweden. A great performance with King Gustavus III sung by Luciano Pavarotti, one of his great roles, is recorded on DVD. Amelia is Aprile Millo at her best. Her husband is Leo Nucci who made his Met debut in that role.

December 17: Puccini’s Tosca is based on the play Tosca by V. Sardou. Puccini saw a performance in French and he hardly understood a word. Yet he was taken by the theatricality of the play. He engaged Illica and Giacosa, collaborators on La Boheme, and charged them with turning the play into an opera libretto. The new opera had its first performance at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome. Even though some of the arias were applauded and repeated, the opera was not the success everybody expected. In 1956, the American critic Joseph Kerman, famously called Tosca that “shabby little shocker”, a surprising if not shocking characterization.

Don Gavin & Joan Ham, Coordinators

January 7:  Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann, reviewed by Don Gavin, retired physicist from the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory and active member of Union College UCALL program. David Grann presents the reader with a shocking and sad account of the numerous murders of Osage Indians in the early 1920s. These unsolved murders led to the birth of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

January 14:  God Save Texas by Lawrence White, reviewed by Joan Ham, past BSI reviewer and active member of the UCALL curriculum committee. Lawrence White is a Texan who loves his state but also worries about the direction Texas and America are going. He reviews the history, culture, and politics of Texas. The book is “a profound portrait of a state that not only reflects America as it is, but as it may become.”

January 28:  1917 Lenin, Wilson and the Birth of the New World Disorder by Arthur Herman, reviewed by Robert Dickson, UCALL lecturer, BSI contributor. Mr. Herman`s thesis is that our new world disorder is the legacy left by Wilson and Lenin and their vision of the perfectibility of man. The author shows that one hundred years later we still sit on the powder keg which was first detonated by Lenin and Wilson through war and revolution. A reviewer noted “that good intensions or deliberate ruthlessness have the same pernicious effect of using the state to defy human nature.”

February 4:  Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami,  reviewed by Paul O`Brien, retired Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School English teacher. In this collection of short stories, Murakami explores the idea of loss and the concept that we all have to make corrections. One of the antidotes to isolation, his stories suggest, is a curiosity that can lead to a momentary stay against the darkness.

February 11:  Life Flows on in Endless Song by Robert V. Wells, reviewed by the author. In the preface of his book Professor Wells tells us that his primary concern has been to explore the historical side of the folk songs as their lyrics connect to wider themes of American  social history.   Dr. Wells is a retired professor of History and Social Science from Union College where he taught for over 40 years. While teaching he found that the students could better grasp and remember history when it was combined with folk songs and tales. He will bring both song and verse to his presentation.

February 25: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, reviewer to be announced. In a letter written to his teenage son, Coates relates his experience as a youth growing up in Baltimore. He illustrates how history has shaped the experience of navigating today’s world and institutions as a black man. The review will mark the kickoff event for the 2019 One County, One Book program.