WOW 2011

August 24, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the 2011 Bancroft Estate World of Wearableart Awards Show (‘WOW’) last night.

Fantastic ! Worth trying to get some of the remaining tickets.

Warning: spoilers !

In a two hour dance and wow spectacular there were many highlights, but one of them was the Royal New Zealand Ballet dancing (classical) while partnered with life opera (Aivale Cole and Ben Makisi). Another was staging a dancing on a wall. There were four dance companies involve in this year’s production: the Royal New Zealand Ballet; New Zealand School of Dance; Footnote Dance; and the WOW Dance Troupe! Needless to say there was lots of movement – the models can all dance too !

The Children’s section was its usual youthful bright energetic display.

The UV section left me with a sense of Dance Macabre: dis-embodied legs, skeletons, and eyes.

The Microscope section cleverly created a microscopic world with chains of helium balloons – form a mass of cell like air mass. There were lots of wacky looking microscopic life form inspired garments.

The section changes was very cleverly done. The audience’s attention was dramatically shifted by lighting and staging a little segue piece at the ‘back’ of the auditorium – while on stage, in the dark, stage crew made the necessary changes.

The Open section was chock full of interesting and spectacular; all while dancers stood statute-like on stacked up chairs discarding what seemed like an endless supply of wraps from their bodies!

The Man Unleashed section opened with a large group brides and Billy Idol’s White Wedding! I think this section struck a cord with the ladies in the audience!

The Avante Garde section was just great. I feared that I was in danger of watching too much of the dancing (ballet with live opera), but WOW and anticipated this problem, and had cleverly set the choreography to not clash with the garments.

The ‘Kiwi Icon’ section hit the spot: with the surprise appearance of an iconic comedienne (Ginette McDonald), iconic New Zealander, and an iconic kiwi singer (John Rowles); all to kiwi music. Apparently the iconic New Zealander will change every night; on this night it was Tim Shadbolt.

Well worth the ticket price.

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La danse: Le ballet de l’Opéra de Paris

July 23, 2010 at 12:56 am | Posted in Dance Review, Film Review | 3 Comments
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Another 2010 Wellington International Film Festival : I went to see La danse:: Le ballet de l’Opéra de Paris .

This documentary by Frederick Wiseman has not real structure: it is 4 (or is it 5 ?) days in the life of the Paris Opera Ballet company. Much of the footage is of ballet: reherasals and performances. The rest of the footage is fly-on-the-wall views of meetings – mainly with Brigitte Lefèvre, the Company’s artistic director.

Wonderfully shot – Paris seems a magnificant place, the Opera house and surrounds just wonderful. Some of the Company’s rehearsal spaces are lit by natural light from big circular windows. The Company’s reputation for flair and flawless technique is confirmed.

The documentary lets the image tell the story, so there are no voice overs or captions to tell you who is in what sequence, nor what work is being rehearsed or performed, nor what the ocassion might be. You only findout that Brigitte Lefèvre is the artistic directory, because it is bought up in conversation – in as much as you can have a conversation with a near devine entity as an artistic director! The dance bits, and they are the vast majority, explain themselves. But the union and company meetings about retirement age will be forever a mystery.

The film is well worth seeing if you have a serious interest in ballet – otherwise wait for the DVD, so that you can break it up. If seeing it at a theatre make sure to park the car somewhere you can leave it for a minimum of 3 hours!

Rome the Musical

July 28, 2008 at 1:52 am | Posted in Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see Paul Jenden and Gareth Farr’s third in a series of musical inspired by historic events, on at Circa Theatre. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it looked worth a go. I didn’t go to Troy the Musical or The Monarch the Musical, but based on this work, I will try to catch them next time.

July 23, 2008 by


Musical Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
Wellington
New Zealand

This was really a modern opera – what is the difference between an opera and a musical anyway ?

The musical compresses the struggle to be Julius Ceaser’s successor into a single dinner – on the evening of 15th of March 44BC. There is a high body count – very high! The musical is historially accurate – as far as a I can tell from wikipedia after the show – with a few extra bodies thrown in at the end to lead into the political commentary finale. Otherwise the first 90% of the musical is about the struggle between Ceaser (Kingsford-Brown), Brutus (Wood), Mark Anthony (Kennedy), Octavian (Wilson), and Cleopatra (Cusiel). Most of the action is set after dinner; Ceaser’s wife, Calpurnia (Kinane) and a house slave (Solino), keeps the food and refreshments flowing while the bodies stack up!

I found the first 30 minutes hard to get into: lots of characters being introduced and me trying to integrate them into my fading knowledge of Roman history. It might have been better if I had had no knowledge of the Romans. I became more engaged when Cleopatra arrived – her solo gave me the zip I needed. Who can wrestle with the work at an intellectual level when you get lyrics like ‘I don’t look like Elisabeth Taylor” or “My tongue is my best appliance” being sung in lovely seductive voice! Not thinking about Roman history certainly made the last three quarters more enjoyable and accessible.

I kept wondering why the performers weren’t wearing togas. It was revealed at the end, when the general political commentary was revealed. Octavian is actually stands in for all of the charismatic democratic leaders down in the last 100 years. The set was very simple and the symbolism had a definite fascist feel to it – the Roman eagle was more symbolic that anatomically correct and the Roman courtyard had a Reichstag and Brandonberg Gate feel to it

The musical used live musicians, and cleverly introduced them in a parade at the beginning, before hiding them in a stoa; and placed the ‘voice over /commentary’ singer on stage as the soothsayer (Lineham) – who warns Ceaser about the Ides of March – to direct the muscians.

Overall, quite good: definitely worth going to. It was a very intellectual work, that engaged my analytical side more than my emotional side. I thought Lineham (the soothsayer) and Cusiel (Cleopatra) stood out in terms of the singing.

The best death scene award goes Lyndee-Jane Rutherford, who played Mark Antony’s wife, with a very exaggerated death flop.

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Turandot

October 16, 2007 at 6:00 pm | Posted in Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to Puccini’s Turandot last night; due to bad planning I ended up in ‘the gods’ – I was pleasantly surprised by how good the view was.

Oct 16, 2007 by Show_Hanger

Christopher Alden’s production was not like the 1994 wellington City Opera production. The latter was costumes in a faux chinese style. A few years ago I watched the DVD of the Zhang Yimou & Zubin Mehta production staged in the Forbidden City. So …

I found the this production’s stark setting a bit of a shock.

I took me more than the first Act to get into it. I guess that this was my own fault for not reacquainting myself with the plot. I found, in the first Act, that the music tended to drown out the singers. Maybe this was because I was up in ‘the gods’ – and so had a better audio pathway to the orchestra pit than to the stage. It took me a while to workout whether to read the sub-titles or not; I ended up reading the sub-titles during the riddles and glancing at them the rest of the time.

Act I introduces Turandot (the ice princess), Calaf (the wondering prince), Liu (the faithful slave girl) who looks after Timur (Calaf father and blind deposed king of the Tartars), and their short reunion, and the ‘competition’. I found the execution scene that cemented the harsh rules of the contest to win Turandot a little too stylised – especially given the stark 30’s communist Russia feel up to that point.

Once Ping, Pang, and Pong had finished their civil servant set-piece at the beginning of Act II, I found myself more on firm ground regarding the story, and was finally engaged. We see Turandot’s determination to be her own woman – a fairly common desire in the 20th and 21st centuries – surely an odd notion in Puccini‘s time. We see Calaf’s irrational need to pocess her and he plunges into the contest despite everyone advising him not to. Calaf answers the three riddles and in an act of ‘if you love someone set them free…’ he offers to free the princess of her obligations if she can answer one riddle in return.

I did not find the setting of the riddle contest believable: why would any empowered emperor allow some blind beggar to wander around his court – while affairs of state were in progress – and finally sit down behind the throne. I am sure there was some symbology going on that missed me. It was all a bit minimal – neither the Emperor nor Turandot had any attendents.

Act III opens with Turandot completely loosing it, and issues orders that everyone will be executed if they don’t find her ‘the name’. Throughout the opera Turandot is painted as an icy unfeeling person who has a bloody solution to any problem. No wonder the Chinese government would not allow this opera to be performed in China; they relented in the mid-90’s. The Liu character – and Maria Costanza Nocentini, the singer – almost steals the show by sacrificing her life, so that the secret love of her life – Calaf – can have the love of his life. Her torture and suicide was too symbolic – and what should have bee great suffering and great sacrifice seemed to just slip by: torture – tick, hidden love – tick, suicide – tick.

Then a simple kiss from Calaf wins over the princess. I can see that women sufferage was not even a twinkle in Puccini‘s eye. The curtain comes down on a variation of Nessun Dorma.

I did not like the 30’s Russia setting – though the overlay of a show trial upon the riddle contest was clever. I also thought the photo-portraits of all of the contestants was a nice touch – it emphasised how many men had died. But the parade of portraits at the end was just way over the top. It detracted from the relationships between Turandot and Calaf, and Calaf and Liu.

The singing in Act II and Act III was good. I am not a opera buff; but I was taken in and it mostly worked. That it was sung in Italian did not detract from my enjoyment. Margaret Medlyn, as Turandot, was strong throughout. Dongwon Shin, as Calaf, grew as the opera went on, and settled down to a strong voice starting with the riddles in the middle of the second Act. I suspect that voice and orchestra volume issues in Act I was due to the singers being a little tentative.

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Since Puccini died before this, his final opera, was finished – around the scene of the Liu committing suicide – I wonder if he intended a slightly different end. One, with another powerful piece of music, rather than a re-work of Nessun Dorma.

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