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

Diane Leone and Jo Adams, Coordinators

October 22: In Praise of Poison Ivy: The Secret Virtues, Astonishing History, and Dangerous Lore of the World’s Most Hated Plant by Anita Sanchez. Jean English, editor for Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener magazine calls this journey through the poison ivy-rich-world of botany, ornithology, ecology, medicine, history and horticulture, a book of elegance, wit and scientific depth. Presented by the author.

John Karl & Don Gavin, Coordinators

October 29: Extremism in American Culture, presented by Howard Eskin, retired educator and scientist from GE Research Laboratory. Though extremism may have been a factor in American history since the Pilgrims landed in 1620, it seems to be more bothersome now than previously in our history. Extremism takes many forms and can be readily seen in matters such as civility, inequality and special interests. Eskin will talk about and illustrate several examples in a brief overview of some serious themes. 

November 5: A Bold Entrepreneur: Sir William Johnson, presented by Don Gavin, retired physicist from Knolls Atomic Power Laboratories. William Johnson emigrated from Ireland at age 22 to supervise the cultivation of a vast estate along the Mohawk River for his uncle, Peter Warren. Gavin will discuss how young Johnson, through his own initiative, declared war on the politicians and merchants of Albany and Schenectady, and seized the fur trade from them. When Johnson died in 1774 he was one of the most prominent and influential figures in America. 

November 19: The Chinese Exclusion Act and the Origins of Immigration Restriction in the U.S., presented by Andrew Morris, Associate Professor of History at Union College. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first law that limited immigration from a particular country to the U.S. Morris will explore the factors leading to its passage and its legacy in US immigration politics.

November 26: International Treaties and Their Impact on the World Order from 1648 to the Present, presented by John Karl. Beginning with the Peace of Westphalia, 1648, there have been a number of major international treaties that have shaped the modern world, including the Congress of Vienna, 1815, the Treaty of Versailles, 1918 and the post WW2 agreements. 

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.