On this day in 1709, the Italian composer Francesco Araja was born. We don’t know exactly when he died. And by that, I mean that all we know is that he was alive in 1762. And we know he was dead in 1771. But other than that, we really can’t say. The problem is that although he was born in Italy, he spent most of his life composing in Russia for Empress Anne Ioanovna and later Empress Elizaveta Petrovna. He has the distinction of composing the first Russian language opera. But as a result, he wasn’t such a big deal in Italy. He went to Russia for the coronation of Tsar Peter III. But Peter was assassinated almost immediately (he served just over 6 months). After that, he retired in Bologna, where apparently no one noticed when he died.
He is most known for his operas. Here is a bit from one of his operas for the Russian Imperial Court, Tsefal i Prokris:
Actor June Lockhart is 88 today. Most people remember her from Lost in Space, but she had quite a wide ranging career. And she was a real honey. Civil rights activist and the first black student at Ole Miss, James Meredith is 80 today. Carly Simon is 68. The “Dy-no-mite!” Jimmie Walker is 66. And comedian and Andrea crush Ricky Gervais is 52.
The day, however, belongs to the great writer and social critic George Orwell who was born on this day in 1903. Conservatives really want to claim him as their own because he was such a keen critic of the totalitarian governments of the twentieth century. But the truth is that all of us on the left hated those governments. And we learned from the experience. The conservative movement seems only to have learned that Nazism was bad because it hated the Jews. As for the rest of us, we may be older and wiser but we maintain our ideals—just as Orwell did.
Happy birthday George Orwell!