Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve
I'm Barbara Klein. Each year, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing
Arts in Washington honors performers for their lifetime of work. This year the
Kennedy Center will honor Mel Brooks, Dave Brubeck, Grace Bumbry, Robert De
Niro and Bruce Springsteen.
Opera singer Grace Bumbry earned starring roles as a
soprano and mezzo-soprano in some of the world's most famous opera houses. Her
warm voice and wide range brought roles including Carmen, Salome, Aida, Tosca,
Medea and Bess.
She was born in nineteen
thirty-seven in Saint Louis, Missouri. At seventeen, she won her first big
competition. The prize was a scholarship to a local music school.
But the school would not let her attend classes with
other students because she was African-American. The school offered her private
lessons instead. Her parents refused.
Bumbry went on to study music at Boston University and Northwestern University.
She also studied at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California.
In nineteen sixty, at the age of twenty-three,
she made her international debut at the Paris Opera. She appeared as Amneris in
Verdi's "Aida." Her performance is said to have made her an instant
nineteen sixty-one, Grace Bumbry became the first black singer ever to perform
at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany. Again, some people objected because of her
race. In the end, her performance as Venus was a great success.
seventy-two year old singer is retired now from opera. But she continues to
sing in concert and teaches students around the world.
ROBERT DE NIRO IN RAGING BULL:
aren't that lucky. Like the one that
Marlon Brando played in, 'On The Waterfront.' An up-and-comer who's now a down-
and-outer. Do you remember that scene in the back of the car with his brother
Charlie a small time racket guy? And it went something like this…
It wasn't him
Charlie, it was you. You remember that night at the Garden. You came down in my dressing room and you
said, 'Kid, this ain't your night.' We're
going for the price on Wilson?' 'Remember that? 'This ain't your night?' My
night. I could've taken Wilson apart that night. So what happens? He gets a
title shot outdoors in the ballpark, and what do I get, a one-way ticket to
Palookaville. I was never no good after that night, Charley. It was like a peak
you reach, and then it's downhill."
De Niro won an Academy Award for best actor for the nineteen eighty movie
"Raging Bull." He played boxing champion Jake La Motta. The movie is
a good example of how far the actor will go to perfect a role. To prepare for "Raging
Bull" he gained twenty-seven kilos and became a boxer.
He also won an Oscar for best supporting
actor. He played the young Vito Corleone in the second "Godfather"
movie in nineteen seventy-four.
De Niro has appeared in more than seventy films. He has also produced and
directed several movies, including "Everybody's Fine," released this
year. He was born in New York City in nineteen forty-three.
Brooks is a comedian, actor, writer, producer, director and composer. He has a
long list of credits from television, film and stage. In fact, he is one of
only a few entertainers ever to have won an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony
Mel Brooks began doing live comedy acts in the early nineteen
fifties. He later wrote for TV comedy shows before making his mark on the
Hollywood film industry. His awards include a best writing Oscar for the
nineteen sixty-eight movie "The Producers."
notable early films included "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein,"
both from nineteen seventy-four.
(SOUND FROM "YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN")
American Film Institute has a list of the one hundred funniest movies. "Young
Frankenstein," "Blazing Saddles" and "The Producers"
are all listed among the top twenty. In recent years a musical play based on
"The Producers" became a big hit.
Mel Brooks was born in nineteen twenty-six in Brooklyn,
New York. He is known for his sometimes shocking humor that makes fun of people
Library of Congress calls jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck a living legend.
nineteen fifty-nine album "Time Out" by the Dave Brubeck Quartet was
the first jazz album to sell more than one million copies. It includes the well
known "Take Five," written by Paul Desmond.
Brubeck was born in Concord, California, in nineteen twenty. He began piano
lessons at the age of four. By fourteen he was performing in local bands.
During World War Two, Dave Brubeck, who
is white, formed one of the first racially mixed bands in the Army. After
leaving the Army he studied with the French composer Darius Milhaud.
Brubeck formed his first quartet in nineteen fifty-one. The group's unusual mix
of jazz and classical styles earned praise around the world. Since then Dave
Brubeck has had many different quartets and produced many different works,
including two ballets and a musical.
best known jazz works include "In Your Own Sweet Way," "The
Duke" and "Blue Rondo a La Turk."
Springsteen has sold more than one hundred twenty million albums. Most of his
songs tell stories about American life. Many are about his life growing up in
the state of New Jersey, where he was born in nineteen forty-nine.
first song to enjoy widespread success was "Born to Run." It was the
title song from his nineteen seventy-five album.
The Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame has a list of the five hundred songs that shaped rock and roll. "Born
to Run" is number twenty-one on the list. Also listed are "Thunder
Road," which was on the same album, and "Born in the U.S.A."
nineteen eighty-four album "Born in the U.S.A." has sold more than
fifteen million copies in the United States alone. It is considered one of the
greatest rock and roll albums of all time.
Bruce Springsteen is also known for his live
performances. He and his E Street Band remain one of the top selling acts in
Bruce Springsteen, Dave Brubeck, Mel
Brooks, Robert De Niro and Grace Bumbry will be honored at the Kennedy Center on
Our program was written by June Simms and produced by Caty
Weaver. I'm Steve Ember.
I'm Barbara Klein. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special