Saturday, July 31, 2010
It's a small and cozy authentic French cafe, decorated with busts, military suits and portraits of Napoleon, as well as copies of letters of/to his contemporaries and what else but the famous Tchaikovsky's Overture 1812 playing on the background? Nothing could be more fitting for the place.
The place offers a selection of really heavy country-style breads, baked with prunes, apricots and walnuts, and thematic pastries, like Cookie Corsica, which happens to be a huge white meringue with nuts.
We had sandwiches there and got some pastries and bread to go. Their Opera Cake is a real one, by the way, just like the one we had in Paris, not like the one from your local Trader Joe's.
Friday, July 30, 2010
And if it is, shame on me, because I hope it won’t be shocking to learn that I bought a book and actually started reading it!
Here it is. Yep, by none other than Aaron Copland, the famous American composer.
Even though he is not my all-time favorite, I certainly appreciate his enormous contribution to the world’s music.
I confess, like most impatient readers, I leafed through it briefly and read a bit from a few chapters.
The book is a collection of Mr. Copland’s lectures that he was teaching his (oh, so lucky) university students. It’s written really well and reads easily. The best thing about it is that it’s literally for anyone, not just music majors.
It’s also relatively short, so chances are I might actually finish it one day.
Many moons ago, I was a fast reader and read a lot. However, now with little time that I have left after Troy goes to sleep, there isn’t much I can do. Plus, there is this blog (my biggest family-unrelated commitment) and twitter, and you tube, and other awesome blogs to read and comment on, and movies to watch...
But this book is calling for me. I think I’ll make time for it.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
I could tell right away he really liked Le Nozze! That is love at first sight, my friends, since the day he heard that Chicago Lyric broadcast earlier this month.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
(When he is happy, he does not sit on anybody's lap for more than a minute).
So he sat down on my lap and asked to watch his favorite Andre Rieu Live in Vienna. As he started watching, he calmed down completely, started clapping and then smiling.
He really likes Komm Zigan from Kalman's Grafin Mariza.
I am so grateful to Andre Rieu for bringing the magic of music into my kid's life and for openning the door to its fascinating world.
Troy is 18-months old today and his finger is fine!
Friday, July 23, 2010
First of all, this week I got a new great Twitter follower : none other than Andre Rieu!!! Yes, you read it right. Andre Rieu is now following me on Twitter!
I admit I feel honored!
My Hamlet review is up in the previous post, as you may all have seen. The link is also posted on TOI's Face Book Page.
I agree, it is a little lengthy, but I really wanted it all to be there. I still have to learn how to express myself shorter, but for now, like Joyce DiDonato puts it, pour yourselves a glass of wine! (And another one to celebrate, when you are finally finished! - R.M)
Finally the last, but certainly not the least, is the movie that I watched last night, called
(500) Days of Summer.
Clever, subtle and very true.
On some level, it is about so many of us. Don't want to ruin the surprise for you, in case you are still planning to watch it, but I feel like I have to throw in a little teaser.
The concept of our expectations vs. reality is presented in a very interesting and pretty effective way.
Zooey Deschanel, starring in the main role, is great in every movie. The girl can play anything : from a geeky loser to a sexy femme fatale - no problem!
Who is she in this one? Watch to find out.
The film got great reviews and 87% on Rotten Tomatoes ( I know that you know that I don't care about numbers! Ha-ha-ha!)
Anyway, it's been a great week and hopefully, will be a great weekend. Have a nice one, my friends, and try to stay cool and away from all this heat.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Directed and designed by Thaddeus Strassberger, Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet clearly crowned the company’s season.
Set in the 1950-s, in Denmark “fallen behind the Iron Curtain”, it takes place “in and around the Castle of Elsinore”, which resembles a grand half-destroyed theater. Its dead coldness and pompousness is emphasized by the dark galleries and graffiti covered walls.
In Carre and Barbier’s version, used for this production, all the characters die at the end, with the exception of Queen Gertrude. She and Claudius, the evil duo of the opera, team up to murder Hamlet’s father, which could not be more fitting for the given epoch, notorious for ambitious and blood-thirsty dictators.
A keen stage director, Strassberger captures the audience’s attention at the first note of the overture, and does not let up for one minute! He surprises, shocks, combines incompatible things (his Hamlet smokes cigarettes and carries a sword), but never without a good reason! There is always a clever thought, a clear point or a wise question behind his concept.
An insane fusion of music and drama, this production offers both visual showstoppers and incredibly deep acting.
To the sounds of the overture, a coffin is carried right through the house. Banners with an image of a raised fist are up everywhere. Leaflets with words République Nationale are tossed from the ceiling right into the orchestra, while the statue of the late king is being pulled down in front of the celebrating crowd.
This scene does not only make the audience almost physically involved in the action (orchestra audience could not be happier to catch those leaflets), but also raises an important question:
Who actually was Hamlet’s father: a kind and fair ruler, who fell the victim of his scheming family or an evil tyrant who had to be brought down at any cost?
Strassberger keeps the options open and leaves it up to the audience to search the ultimate answer.
The most phantasmagorical scene and a true showstopper is the so-called Floating Scene, in which Strassberger lets the audience witness the impossible. We get to watch Ophelie sinking into the water and “overhear” the last scattered thoughts of her disturbed mind, right before it stops working.
A curtain resembling pieces of a broken mirror scattered along a dark blue background, splits up to show Ophelie, swinging against a similar “broken mirror” background, with her arms outstretched and waving and her dress spread as if she were floating in the water. Along with a soft off-stage chorus, she sings a subtle aria about her quiet revenge to Hamlet.
As it comes to an end, the parts of the “broken mirror” curtain draw back together and the whole stage blacks out.
In the rest of the production, Strassberger intentionally draws all the expressive means to the minimum, thus giving his cast an opportunity to shine and “fill in the gaps” with their voices and acting.
‘I like the fact that the design and the concept do not do all the work, says Strassberger.
‘As with a piece of jewelry, these elements provide only the setting, while the true gems of the evening are the performers onstage and in the pit’.
He could not possibly say it any better.
When it was announced that both Diana Damrau and Carlos Alvarez had withdrawn from the whole run of Hamlet and were replaced by younger artists, some people were skeptical about the consequences of this major change.
However, the production was an incredible success, in part due to the bold and most believable character interpretation that the new leads were able to offer, thus proving that at times it’s a breath of fresh air that makes an opera truly unforgettable.
Liam Bonner and Michael Chioldi shared the role of Hamlet, and Elizabeth Futral stepped in as Ophelie.
A rising baritone Liam Bonner offered a bold, multi-faceted and youthful interpretation of the character.
Every time he came onstage, he managed to bring in yet a new and different Hamlet.
His character was emotional, cynical, sarcastic, neurotic, desperate, vulnerable, passionate, violent, mature and yet naïve.
A baritone of a lighter, almost tenor-like quality, Liam Bonner probably came as close as possible to Thomas’ original vision of this part, initially composed for a tenor. His clear voice won the audience over with its rich musicality, flexibility and beauty of tone.
The Drinking Song, one of the vocal and dramatic showstoppers, turned the coronation ball scene into a breathtakingly chilling show.
His To Be or Not to Be aria was absolutely out of this world. Lying down on the floor under the king’s open coffin, surrounded by marble busts of Claudius, the artist filled the aria with most genuine despair, pain and vulnerability of a child facing the cruel grown-up world.
Elizabeth Futral offered a beautiful and confident interpretation of Ophelie. Both vocally and dramatically, she was most persuasive in the Madness and Floating scenes.
Samuel Ramey, who sang Claudius, was not quite as impressive as he was expected to be. Even though his voice certainly showed some grandeur that used to conquer the audiences all around the world, at times it was shaky, muffled and lacked elasticity. Dramatically, he failed to reveal the evil energy that his character is supposed to possess.
A favorite of the WNO’s, Elizabeth Bishop, who sang Queen Gertrude, demonstrated an artful management of her voice. Even though dramatically she could be a little more persuasive in certain scenes, she came across strong and powerful in her mausoleum duet with Liam Bonner.
A young Canadian tenor John Tessier offered an elegant and refined interpretation of Laertes. Even though his part in the opera was relatively small, he still managed to produce an effect and impress the audience with the lyrical beauty of his voice.
I was just one of many audience members, incredibly happy to see Placido Domingo back in the pit, looking great and full of energy to get back to work. Lot of cheers and screams “Bravo, maestro!” came from the orchestra audience at the curtain call.
Thomas’ Hamlet boasts everything a gorgeous French opera has to offer: expressiveness and breathtaking dramatism on the one hand, and lyrical musicality and subtlety on the other.
Considering the opera fell into a most undeserved neglect after Thomas’ death and only recently has been revived by some major opera companies, one feels truly privileged to see it live. Nowadays, when operas are staged with a lot of boldness and originality, but rarely with a clear concept and good motivation, it is quite an honor to see Hamlet that has got it all, and yet, somehow, despite the plot differences, brings back that magic Shakespeare feel.
(The 1st 3 photos are courtesy of the WNO, and the last one was taken by yours truly during the curtain call).
Monday, July 19, 2010
On Saturday, July 17th my (almost) 1 ½ year old son was introduced to his 1st live opera during his 3rd visit to BSO!!!
Because of the Artscape, traffic in Downtown was pretty bad. Many streets were closed for the event. We decided that my husband would drop us off at the Symphony Hall, surf the Artscape and join us later.
Like I said earlier, the concert was free, but the tickets existed and were handed out at the entrance. There was no admission age limit and all humans were allowed. The seating was also free, so we got a great aisle seat in the 4th Row. The seat continued to be great, until a huge guy with a hat strapped around his neck, landed into the seat right in front of us. Very politely I attempted to ask if he could possibly scoot one seat to the right (his whole row was empty), because my little guy had a hard time seeing the stage, but heard "No, sorry - I like my seat!" Lucky for Troy, I could turn more into the aisle, so he could still see most of what was going on onstage. I was surprised, however, that the guy was so stingy about a little thing like that. First of all, he was late, and it wasn't exactly like he had to pay for his seat either. People like that never stop surprising me. But...whatever. I guess.
All right, let's change the subject. We have more exciting stuff to talk about.
Troy could not take his eyes off the stage with all the musical instruments right in front of him, the musicians dressed in white and particularly, the conductor, Christian Colberg. He was fascinated with the way the conductor was moving his hands and has been trying to do the same thing ever since.
The concert consisted of just 4 numbers:
Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien,
Offenbach's Les Oiseaux Dans Les Charmille, and
Glitter and Be Gay from Bernstein's Candide, both sung by Rachele Gilmore, and
Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol.
I am proud to report that Troy enjoyed the music with all his heart and being, especially the first two numbers. Just like a grown-up. Except he was sitting on my lap with a pacifier in his mouth (that he mostly uses for shows these days). He listened with all his attention, clapping quietly every now and then and turning to me with a huge smile on his face, as if to check, if I was enjoying it as much as he was.
Other audience members expressed quite a bit of surprise about the way he was listening and behaving. They were almost cheering for him, which made me - oh, so proud of my little guy.
Rachele Gilmore came onstage looking as pretty and youthful as in her pictures. She wore a bright red dress with a bow on the back. I was so happy that Troy got to hear that "signature aria" (that made her sort of famous after her Met debut as Olympia this season) along with the incomparably beautiful music by Offenbach.
I guess in the famous You Tube videos Ms. Gilmore demonstrated a little bit riskier and thus more effective singing, but hey - it was a very decent and confident performance. She spiced the aria up with some acting and Mr. Colberg could not be happier to oblige to wind her up every time she "broke down" having run out of power, which made the audience laugh.
Troy still behaved very well in the 2nd part of the concert, even though his level of concentration was not the same. Who could blame him though? Capriccio Italiene alone was quite an adventure! Even though it is a fusion of incredibly beautiful tunes, it is a heavy, long and tiring work for such a young a listener. I was thinking that had the music selections been lighter and catchier, like Mozart or Rossini for instance, he would have probably had enough concentration for the whole show.
After the concert was over, Rachele Gilmore, changed into a stylish black and grey summer dress, walked through the house, accompanied by a tall, dark and handsome gentleman. A couple of people came up to express their appreciation, but she was obviously in a rush, so we didn’t.
In the foyer, they had smaller musical instruments for the kids to look at and try out. Troy had a chance to run his fingers through the harp strings and hear those beautiful sounds. Even though he was pretty exhausted by then, his face got all lit up and happy. I absolutely love this outreach initiative that BSO has for kids!
All in all, we all had a wonderful time and would definitely do it again.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Make no mistake here – it is a very dynamic creative process, the best part of which is deleting and re-writing it all over again. Or even better, cutting and pasting the end to the beginning, having suddenly discovered that it’s the most logical thing to do.
Music critics who come up with brilliant and funny reviews overnight – please accept my admiration and highest praise. I am aware that this is what you do, but now I appreciate what you do a whole lot more.
I have always written well, so at the end, I might come up with something nice, I hope. However, it takes so much time to sift through every word and syllable to make sure that everything is in the right place and expresses what I need it to express.
I am seriously thinking about taking a couple of courses in journalism at a local college. I think it makes a lot of sense at this point. If writing reviews is something that I might be interested in doing on a regular basis, then I better do it well and a bit faster, right?
Edited to add after midnight: The weather forecast for this afternoon reads 94 F, very hot! The free BSO + Rachele Gilmore concert is supposed to be inside the Symphony Hall. Baltimore loves artists and takes good care of them. AC, everyone - not heat or humidity!!!! So, who cares about the weather forecast? We are going!!!! Stay tuned for details.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Thus, without further delay, this post is to congratulate all Spanish and Spanish-speaking people (like myself) in the world who cheered for Spain: iViva España!
Spain is doing so good in sports this year - first Nadal, and now the World Cup!
A very special greeting goes to my Spanish blog colleague Carlos! Cheers and my heartiest congratulations to you! You must be so proud of your country!
Off I go to get ready for the week.
Friday, July 9, 2010
The acting is superb. Of course! How could it be any different with those two?
Don't want to ruin the surprise for those of my readers who are planning to watch it, but I have to say that the movie is all about homosexuality and is disturbingly tolerant towards it.
Yes, you can call me old-fashioned, narrow-minded and conservative,if you like, but I am really against cheering for sexual minority relationships on the screen and on stage. I just think we have so much of it everywhere already, that kids start having wrong ideas of what a normal relationship should look like.
Anyway, back to the movie, every man there is gay. The "beauty" of same-sex relationship is widely advertised. The most terrible are the kissing scenes.
While I was watching, I kept thinking that the director did not really have any good reason to make the movie about a gay couple. He might have as well let Colin Firth portray a straight man who lost his beloved woman.
I mean really... it's a simple story about a gay guy. I have not found any deepness, or symbolism or any kind of draw for me to want to watch it again. Unlike the Sophie Marceau movie that I watched another time with my husband and liked it even more.
And the sad part is that all my favorite actors played gay people at a certain point of their careers: Gerard Depardieu, Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Matthew Goode. I just pray that Gerard Butler does not join the club. That would be really hard to watch!
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Not that I remembered to.
Shame on me, I completely forgot about it, even though Joyce had informed her blog readers of the date and the time some time ago.
Anyway, Troy and I were driving to my mom yesterday afternoon and as usual he demanded music. So I turned the radio on and here it was Porgi, amor, beautifully sung by Musetta of the century, Nicole Cabell, shortly followed by Joyce's incredible Voi che sapete.
I really thought the production was a wonderful example of both great individual and team work.
Here is what comment I left on Joyce's blog upon return and every word of it is true (except that I forgot to write that Troy was singing along too):
I had a long drive this afternoon and was very fortunate to listen to Le Nozze di Figaro broadcast! Beautiful brilliant work!
My toddler was in the car with me and clapped through the whole Porgi, amor and Voi che sapete. Even though he is familiar with some Handel, Gluck and some Mozart, this was his first encounter with Le Nozze. I truly believe it made his day - he has been all brightened up and happy all day today.
Have a very happy holiday, and as always - thank you!
Happy 4th Everyone !!!
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Actually, on a second, much better thought, Happy 1-year Anniversary of active blogging to me! And many-many more!
Friday, July 2, 2010
If you are not into thrillers this post is obviously not for you because the film is definitely a breathtaking and blood freezing thriller.
I am not going to reveal all the details and catches of the plot, but I will ask you a question: How would you feel if you woke up one morning to realize that the most unstable thing in your life is you and suddenly discovered that you are changing and turning into a completely different person, much more outside than inside?
The worst part of it is that half of you is still you and the other half of you is somebody else.
And guess what else?
It is not getting any better, because while you are thinking about all this horror and what you are going to do about it, half of the other half of you that was you a minute ago, is not you any longer either. Does it sound like Lewis Carroll, or what? Except that it’s not funny at all.
Plus, your family members are changing too, gradually turning into people that you never saw before. The creepy transformation is happening way too fast and nothing can stop it.
Someone got really cynical about this film in their blog and wrote something like “If you want to see Sophie Marceau turn into Monica Bellucci, see this movie”. I think there is much more to that film. There are interesting thoughts and ideas. Maybe the story does not develop fast enough and maybe there are some weaker confusing parts in it. However, even though it might not be an example of perfect director’s and camera’s work, and even acting-wise it could have probably been a little deeper, I think it’s still very much worth seeing. The film keeps you busy thinking and asking questions long after it’s over. The way I see it, any movie that does it, is worth giving a shot.
On another note, changes do take place in real life as well. I honestly used to think that time would never ‘touch’ Sophie Marceau. For a long while she looked as if she were exempt from the inevitable changes. She is still gorgeous, but now you can see the traces of time. However, she has all my respect and admiration for not using plastic surgery to hide them. Nothing is stable, my friends – we just have to learn how to live with that.
On yet another, fashion-related note, my July 4th outfit today is an ultramarine blue shirt, white capris and red heels. Color-bold and stylish (or at least that’s what I like to think).