Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.
And 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 1937 in Saint Louis, Missouri. At 17, 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.
Grace 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 1960, at the age of 23, 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 star.
In 1961, 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.
The 72-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:
"Some people 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."
Robert De Niro won an Academy Award for best actor for the 1980 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 27 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 1974.
Robert De Niro has appeared in more than 70 films. He has also produced and directed several movies, including "Everybody's Fine," released this year. He was born in New York City in 1943.
Mel 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 award.
Mel Brooks began doing live comedy acts in the early 1950s. 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 1968 movie "The Producers."
Other notable early films included "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein," both from 1974.
(SOUND FROM "YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN")
The American Film Institute has a list of the 100 funniest movies. "Young Frankenstein," "Blazing Saddles" and "The Producers" are all listed among the top 20. In recent years a musical play based on "The Producers" became a big hit.
Mel Brooks was born in 1926 in Brooklyn, New York. He is known for his sometimes shocking humor that makes fun of people and situations.
The Library of Congress calls jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck a living legend.
The 1959 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.
Dave Brubeck was born in Concord, California, in 1920. He began piano lessons at the age of four. By 14 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.
Dave Brubeck formed his first quartet in 1951. 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.
His best known jazz works include "In Your Own Sweet Way," "The Duke" and "Blue Rondo a La Turk."
Bruce Springsteen has sold more than 120 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 1949.
His first song to enjoy widespread success was "Born to Run." It was the title song from his 1975 album.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has a list of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll. "Born to Run" is number 21 on the list. Also listed are "Thunder Road," which was on the same album, and "Born in the U.S.A."
The 1984 album "Born in the U.S.A." has sold more than 15 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 the world.
Bruce Springsteen, Dave Brubeck, Mel Brooks, Robert De Niro and Grace Bumbry will be honored at the Kennedy Center on December 6th.
Our program was written by June Simms and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Barbara Klein. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.
soprano: the highest adult female voice, having a range approximately from middle C to the A a thirteenth above it 女高音
mezzo-soprano: a voice having a range between soprano and contralto 次高音；女中音
quartet: a group of four singers or four instrumentalists 四重奏乐团
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