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

October 21: The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior, by Stefano Mancuso, reviewed by Anita Sanchez, author of In Praise of Poison Ivy, and returning environmental educator. Who thought that plant physiology could be so much fun! Neurobiologist Mancuso considers the fundamental differences between plants and animals and challenges our assumptions about which is the higher form of life. Do plants have intelligence? Do they have memory? They make up eighty percent of the weight of all living things on earth, and are responsible for not only the air that let’s us survive, but for many of our comforts: our medicine, our food supply, and even our fossil fuels. This is an enlightening and optimistic book to read.

History Series
Geri Mulligan, Coordinator

Oct. 28: Schenectady City Historian Chris Leonard will talk on the history of the General Electric Realty Plot in Schenectady. Leonard will cover the dynamic events and unique cast of characters who have called “The Plot” their home. There will be stories and anecdotes about GE inventors and executives, Schenectady business and political leaders, entertainers, and other incomparable individuals, as well as the formation of the Plot and ongoing efforts to protect these stately homes. Some of the luminaries covered include Charles P. Steinmetz, Irving Langmuir, Izetta Jewel Miller and Ernst Alexanderson. Leonard is the author of “Schenectady’s General Electric Realty Plot,” which was published in April 2019.

Nov. 4: Bill Buell, Schenectady County historian, will discuss the Progressive Era (1890-1920), an often overlooked time in American history. Those years included a drastic increase in the number of immigrants to the U.S., and Schenectady’s population boom was as massive as any across the country. Poles, Italians and Eastern Europeans fled their homelands and headed across the Atlantic Ocean, many of them landing jobs in Schenectady at either the General Electric Company or the American Locomotive Company. It was a time of such unrest that Schenectady, a city of over 80,000 people, elected a socialist mayor (see Page E1) and a largely socialist city council in 1911, creating new schools, free municipal garbage pickup, Central Park and other amenities for all of its citizens.

Nov. 18: Diana Carter, adjunct instructor, Workforce Development and Community Education at SUNY Schenectady County Community College, will speak about SUNY Schenectady’s Community Archaeology Program (CAP). Following a short presentation of CAP’s history and curriculum, she will talk about some of the projects that CAP has done, including the Robert Yates House at 109 Union St., the Barringer house site in the front lawn of the First Reformed Church, the Schenectady & Saratoga Railway site at 10 Union St., the French and Indian War site at 32 Front St., the Rosa house site at 234 Union St. and the Flint House in Scotia.

Nov. 25: Join author and biographer Anne Rockwood as she discusses the life and career of Izetta Jewel. Jewel came to Schenectady in 1927, after marrying Union College professor Hugh Miller. While here, she became a broadcaster at GE’s WGY, and later performed in the first ever radio television drama, “A Queen’s Messenger.” Izetta Jewel was active in politics, not only at the congressional and state levels, but served for a time as Schenectady’s Commissioner of Public Works, before moving on to serve in FDR’s administration.

Opera Series
Gene Rowland, Coordinator

December 2: Aida by Giuseppe Verdi. Verdi wrote Aida for the Khedive of Egypt for the occasion of the opening of the Suez Canal and the Italian opera theatre of Cairo in 1869. The opera was first performed in Cairo in 1871.The first production in Cairo was delayed by a year, because the French-made sceneries and costumes could not be delivered due to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. It was a sensational success with performances quickly following in important theaters all over the world, reaching New York before all other European theaters except La Scala in Milan. Verdi received a princely fee of $20,000 and was given the subject by a French Egyptologist Mariette Bey who was in the Khedive’s employment. The French prose libretto by Camille du Locle was translated into Italian. Antonio Ghislanzoni, a man who wrote over 60 opera librettos, was charged with converting prose into poetry.

December 9: The Daughter of the Regiment by Gaetano Donizetti was written for the Comic Opera Comique of Paris with a French text. The house required opera with spoken text on subjects suitable for the well-protected daughters of French families.  Comedy was not required, but the Daughter of the Regiment is truly a funny opera. Marie, the daughter of the regiment is being brought up by Sergeant Sulpice. Everybody loves Marie. The conflict becomes unbearable when she falls in love with a Tyrolean peasant Tonio. In the end everything is resolved as it should be: A truly happy ending.

December 16: Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot is his last and musically most daring opera. He was very ill at the time of composition and could not complete it. Franco Alfano had to compose the ending of the opera. He could base his music on some sketches, but other parts were his own music. Turandot is a Chinese fable originally written by the Venetian playwright Gozzi. It is about an icy princess seeking revenge for the mistreatment of one of her female ancestors. She will marry only a suitor who can solve three riddles.  If a suitor can’t solve the three riddles, he will be decapitated. Many can’t solve the riddles until a foreign Prince shows up. He solves the riddles and claims his prize. Turandot refuses. The Prince gives her a way out: By the next morning she must guess his name. Of course, she can’t, so he tells her his name: Calaf. Meanwhile, he has kissed her ardently – her heart melts.