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

Opera Series
Gene Rowland, Coordinator


December 9: 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 16: 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.

Books Sandwiched In

January 6:  Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World (2019) David Epstein, author of the widely acclaimed book The Sports Gene, starts his book Range with case studies of two magnificently successful athletes—the epitome of single-minded, focused specialists if we’ve ever seen them, right?  But it’s a setup: Epstein goes on to demonstrate masterfully and with the help of ample scientific and everyday evidence, using clear and persuasive prose, why he picked the title for the book.  Reviewer Brad Lewis, Professor of Economics at Union College.

January 13: The Problem of Democracy: The Presidents Adams Confront the Cult of Personality Prolific authors and history professors at Louisiana State University, Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein examine the lives and careers of John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams, rogue intellectuals and unsparing truth tellers who became the second and sixth presidents of the United States.  Reviewer Bill Buell is the current Schenectady County Historian and an author of several books.

January 27:  Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love Dani Shapiro is a best-selling author of fiction and memoir but everything she had previously written has led to this book.  Shapiro recently discovered through a popular DNA test that the father she loved and still deeply mourned after his untimely death more than 30 years ago was not her biological father.  Her parents had kept many secrets from her, but she never imagined the depth of them.   This is an artfully written story of love and acceptance which are themes to which everyone can relate.  Reviewer Rosaline Horowitz is a retired Schenectady educator and founding member of The Sisters of the Blue Moon Reading Club, now in its 21st year.

February 3:  Son of Prince Edward County (2019) Author Twitty J. Styles, Ph.D. and Emeritus Professor of Biological Sciences at Union College, describes himself as “a motherless child born on a farm 92 years ago, in rural Prince Edward County, Virginia, seemingly destined to live a life of poverty.” He learned during the Depression from his widowed father, Peter, the importance of getting a good education, saving his money, not letting anyone take advantage of him, and giving back.  Professor Styles will also be reviewing the book.

February 10: Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? Thirty years after Bill McKibben published The End of Nature, the author surveys the state of our world and finds that as climate change shrinks the space where our civilization can exist, new technologies threaten to bleach away the variety of human experience.  Falter tells the story of these converging trends, and of the ideological fervor that keeps us from bringing them under control.  Reviewer Pat Rush is an inveterate participant in Books Sandwiched In.

February 24: The Very Best of the Best: 35 Years of The Year’s Best Science Fiction Author Gardner Dozois was an anthropologist who died last year; and this is his swan song.  Science fiction is often a reflection of the hopes and fears of the culture.  Using Dozois’ book, we will survey some of the trends over the decades and see what the last few years show us about our cultural condition.  Reviewer Bill Levering is Senior Minister of First Reformed Church in Schenectady.