Anna Russell – Crown Princess of Musical Parody

by | Dec 12, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Anna Russell – Crown Princess of Musical Parody

Studio: CBC-TV/VAI 4340
Video: 4:3 B&W and color, all regions
Audio: mono PCM
Length: 74 minutes
Rating: ****

This is the second DVD of the irrepressible Russell, whose classic parodies on various aspects of the classical music world have been entertaining audiences since the early 1950s. Her most famous bit is probably her pocket survey of the entire Wagner Ring Cycle on the first, “The First Farewell Concert,” but this second DVD includes another of her big hits which actually doesn’t involve a note of music. It is her “Address by the President of the Women’s Festival Committee.”  You don’t really need to know much about classical music to appreciate the often broad humor of Anna Russell. Her comedy is the sort of thing that would appeal to anyone liking Monty Python or the British comedies on BBC America.

The program is divided three ways: The first portion comes from a NYC summer festival in l964 which took place on Ellis Island. The camera work is B&W and very basic – just long shots of Russell standing there doing her it. In a sort of survey of various vocal styles, she portrays: Madrigal singers, a Lieder Singer, a Folk singer, A Chanteuse, Russian Song, Popular Song, Christmas Song, and I’d Be a Red Hot Mama.  Part II is in color and comes from 1976 = “Wind Instruments I Have Known,” “A Lecture on the French Horn,” and the Address listed above are here, and lastly is a 1977 interview from the CBC with Russell. The video is primitive in the first of the parts but some of the songs are classic parodies. The bits on the wind instruments will slay classical musicians but have a fairly broad appeal too. She brings out an “undressed” bagpipe at the start of one of them and asks the audience to guess what it is. You wouldn’t believe what some of the guesses have been, she confides. The interviews relate a number of hilarious stories about her career as a sort of female Victor Borge.

– John Sunier

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