Creator / Anna Russell
Anna Russell (born Anna Claudia Russell-Brown, 27 December 1911 – 18 October 2006) was a gifted English singer-comedienne-pianist-satirist-composer-parodist who made fun of Opera
, Gilbert and Sullivan
, Classical Music
, and pretty much anything else she could get her hands on. Audiences loved it.
Some of Madame Russell's most notable routines:
Discographical note: most of her routines were recorded live in concert and released on short records (with bizarre names like Anna Russell Sings?
, Anna Russell in Darkest Africa
and Anna Russell Sings! Again?
). All of these concert recordings are currently available collected on three CDs:note
- The Anna Russell Album?
- Anna Russell Encore?
- Anna Russell Again?
Anna Russell's works display examples of:
- Affectionate Parody: Her spoofs of popular and classical music varied widely in their sincerity. In "Survey of Singing from Madrigals to Modern Opera," though the parodies of madrigals and coloratura arias are too silly to be true, "Wir gehen in den Automaten" could be mistaken for a Bach cantata if the lyrics weren't about ordering bacon at the Automat, and "Aria from 'The Psychiatrist'" only sounds insane when compared with Magda's aria from The Consul and its repetition of the question "What is your name?"
- Anti-Love Song: "Miserable," a Torch Song parody on how awful it is to be happy without her lover and how she'd much rather be miserable (or as she renders it, "mizz-urr-ubb-ull") with him.
- Birthmark of Destiny: In "How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera," the fat contralto character of Dandelion reveals (in song, assisted by chorus) that the rich tycoon Claude Billy Bunion was born with a mark "just like a Spanish onion" behind his ear, but being a stupid Gilbert and Sullivan character she switched the bassinets. Such a mark is discovered on the tenor, whom the soprano can now marry instead of the patter baritone, who has to marry the contralto.
- Christmas Songs: Lampooned with "Please Santa Claus."
- Death by Woman Scorned: "Dripping With Gore" and "Two Time Man" are (mild) parodies of this trope as used in country music.
- Diseased Name: "How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera" has Pneumonia Vanderfeller, a typical "British piercing-type soprano." And then, of course, there's the heroine of "Anaemia's Death Scene."
- Hooked Up Afterwards: "How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera" spoofs (along with every other G&S trope) the tendency of "the liitle man who sings the patter song" to end up with "the big fat contralto". Dandelion (the aforementioned "big fat contralto") even sings about it in the final number, although it appears it will come as a surprise to Claude Billy Bunion ("the little man who sings the patter song").
- Idiot Hero: Siegfried in "The Ring of the Nibelungs: An Analysis."
And he's very young, and he's very handsome, and he's very strong, and he's very brave — and he's very stupid... he's a regular Li'l Abner
- Impoverished Patrician: The plot of "How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera" stems from how Parnassus Q. Vanderfeller has lost all his money but is "much too aristocratic to work."
- Jingle: "A Practical Banana Promotion" includes not only "Eta Banana," a parody of the Chiquita jingle, but also "Alas, What Should I Do," which sounds like just a rather mushy ballad when played the first time, but with subliminal advertising supposedly included. The song is repeated to reveal many contemporary (1950s) commercial jingles and slogans.
- Ladies and Germs: "Introduction to the Concert (By the Women's Club President)" begins: "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen...and others."
- Immediately followed by: "...I'm sorry, of course I know all our members are ladies and gentlemen. What I meant to say was, some of you have brought friends."
- Last-Second Word Swap: In the grand-opera spoof "Anaemia's Death Scene," the dying Anaemia refers to her Unwanted Fiancé as a "miserable old...baritone."
- "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: "The Ring of the Nibelungs: An Analysis" includes what is probably the Trope Codifier.
- Oh Wait, This Is My Grocery List: In "Introduction to the Concert (By the Women's Club President)," the speaker introduces "that magnificent pianist, Miss ... er ... Miss Hamburger."
- Old Money: Parodied in the opening chorus of "How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera."
- Parenthetical Swearing: In "The Ring of the Nibelungs: An Analysis", when Siegfried meets the Gibichungs, Russell notes that Gutrune is a Gibich and that her half-brother Hagen is a son of a Gibich, with the emphasis very much on the second syllable.
- Poirot Speak: "Schreechenrauf," introduced as a pastiche of Wagnerian arias for dramatic soprano, is actually a parody of the Ring cycle, with mangled Anglo-German phrases like "wir fallen in lieber" set to Richard Wagner's music. The aria reaches a climax when it puts down one of the characters from Götterdämmerung (Gutrune, daughter of Gibich) as "Gutrune, die Götterdämmerung Gibich!"
- She does the same thing with what can only be described as dog-Italian, in "Canto Dolcemente Pipo", from the opera La Cantatrice Squelante.
- Rule of Funny: Anna Russell's claim that Gutrune is the only woman Siegfried meets who isn't his aunt is actually incorrect, as Siegfried has a scene with the Rhinemaidens (the three daughters of Father Rhine) in Götterdämmerung.
- Running Gag:
- In "The Ring of the Nibelungs: An Analysis", Siegfried's tendency to run into women he unbeknownst to him are his aunts.
- Also, whenever a character or plot element reappears after Wagner has gone an entire opera without mentioning them, Russell pausing to check with the audience that they still remember that character or plot element.
- Sophisticated as Hell: One of many examples: Anna states that, when one enters the world of opera, one will discover, "that the competition will be fierce. The currying favor with the impresario and the visiting conductors, and the Machiavellian plottings and plannings that go on are absolutely legendary. So to be reasonably certain of success in this field, you would need be a glorious-voiced, independently wealthy, sexy, politically motivated, backstabbing bitch."
- Standard Snippet: In "The Ring of the Nibelungs: An Analysis", when Alberich puts a curse on the Ring, she plays the standard snippet that usually accompanies a Dastardly Whiplash up to no good,note then apologizes — "That's the wrong curse, isn't it?"
- Surprise Incest: Spoofed in "The Ring of the Nibelungs: An Analysis."
"That's the beauty of grand opera: You can do anything
) So long as you sing it
- Victorian Novel Disease: "Anaemia's Death Scene," naturally.
- Vocal Range Exceeded: The coloratura parodies "Canto dolciamente Pipo" and "O gentle bird with feathered breast" end with cadenzas that are obviously going to end on notes high above the staff, except that, after a few seconds of breathing (and, in the case of "Pipo", with an audible mutter of "Oh, the heck with it"), she instead sings her final note two or three octaves lower.
- Wacky Americans Have Wacky Names: In "How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera", the wealthy American patriarch is named Parnassus Q. Vanderfeller.
- You Bastard: Played for Laughs in "The Rubens Woman": "She is dead, and who killed her? Who killed her? You killed her! You!"