Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Movie Marathon

Hallo everybody! It’s been a while since my last post, I do apologize. Today is a very sad day for the whole musical community, the renowned Italian conductor Claudio Abbado has passed away. And I got rather upset when I heard the news, we get so emotionally attached to these people because of the beautiful work they do it feels as if it was someone I knew. 

But I’m here to talk about good things. Like the fact that The Hartt School called me to audition for their Graduate Voice Program. YAY! This means I will be going to the US once again and staying in NYC for a while longer! YAY! I’m really happy because so many of my friends are going to actually be there, some I’ve already met in person and others not. Plus I’m going to get to go to the Met and see some pretty freaking awesome opera! If any of you are going to be around here are my dates;

13th of February - Gerald Finley Recital in Carnegie Hall
15th of February - Rusalka at the Met
17th of February - Prince Igor at the Met
18th of February - Werther at the Met
20th of February - Jonas Kaufmann Recital in Carnegie Hall
22nd of February - Werther and Die Fledermaus at the Met

I might go to Prince Igor on the 21st as well, but I will probably decide then. And I will most certainly be seeing some Broadway musicals.

This is a different kind of post, I’m not really going to talk about opera in this one. I did a rather fun thing last week that I wanted to share with you guys. I barely went to the movies last year because of all the college stress and there were SO MANY movies I really wanted to see that passed me by. So I did a all week cinema project, last week I went to the movies 5 days in a row. You might be socked as to what is playing now since some of these movies premiered last year in the US and have only just come out here.

Monday - Last Vegas

I’ll do a quick recap of the movie. It’s about these four guys who have been friends since they were 6 or something but now they are almost 80. One of them, Michael Douglas, is getting married to a 30 year old beauty and decides he wants to have his bachelor party in Vegas. As the other friends we have Robert De Niro, who lost his wife and is in a depressing mourning mojo, Kevin Klein, whose wife gives him a free pass and a Viagra pill for Vegas (his wife is played by Joanna Gleason, the original Baker’s Wife of Into the Woods, I’m a musical theater geek!) and Morgan Freeman, who had a light heart attack and now whose son is fussing about him and not letting him do anything. In this cast we also have the actress I love to call “Percy’s Mum”, she plays Percy Jackson’s mum and she’s just what I pictured for that character so I like calling her that, but I think she’s a fantastic actress. And to my absolute delight we also have one of my favorite Broadway performers all in drag Roger Bart, he did a lot of Broadway and some movies, he’s freaking awesome.

But on to the movie, really funny, but I’m a person who is easily amused. I went to this one with my mother and she is definitely not someone who laughs at just anything and she laughed a lot. But the laugh champion was the old lady sitting next to me, I guess I actually knew all that medication they were talking about. The movie is fun and light and has some minor drama that is resolved before you can say bazinga. It’s a feel good movie, fun but maybe not for the whole family, don’t take the kids.

Tuesday - August: Osage County

This one blew off the roof! The basic story is that the patriarch of the family goes missing and then is found dead and the whole family comes together to mourn. And we have an astounding cast, starting off with the woman who could even pull off playing Batman, the one and only Meryl Streep. She plays the mother who has mouth cancer and is so utterly addicted to pills, she’s got no filter, she says whatever she wants to say and don’t care about the consequences. As her daughters we have Julia Roberts, sort of separated from her husband with a teenage daughter, the youngest Julianne Nicholson , who has a bit of a lesbo vibe but really isn’t and the middle daughter Juliette Lewis who is kind of ignored and mistreated by her mother. To add to the cast we have Ewan McGregor as Julia Robert’s sort of husband, he had/ has been having an affair with a much younger lady, and their daughter is played by Abigail Breslin, rebel, smokes pot, the perfect dysfunctional family. To add to the mix we have Meryl Streep’s sister who is sort of a bitch and her nice husband and their son, played by none other than Benedict Cumberbatch (yes Sherlock!). I loved Benedick in this because he shows he’s really such a flexible actor, this character, Little Charles has next to zero similarities to Sherlock. Awkward, insecure, kind of daft, very pure of heart and sporting a thick American accent. Gotta love Cumberbatch, he can go from Dragon to this to Sherlock freaking Holmes!

This was definitely one of my favorites of the week, of the year. The story starts out kind of warm, the only high points being when Meryl Streep has a scene. But then it gets dark and profound and like a bomb is about to explode as the family secrets start coming out and everyone’s lives change forever. This movie is rather heavy, also not for all audiences, no kids or overly emotional people or people who think it’s comedy. Seriously, the daft girls sitting next to me, apart from not stop talking, thought it was a freaking comedy! I mean, have you seen the poster? It’s a great movie but it’s not for the faint of heart.

Wednesday - Até que a sorte nos separe 2

This is a Brazilian movie, a sequel to “Até que a sorte nos separe”. Brazil produces REAL funny comedy movies, it’s so funny that you can’t hear all the jokes because everyone is laughing so hard at the previous ones. The story is the following, a young couple wins 100 million bucks in the lottery and after 15 years they have managed to spend EVERYTHING and are broke and in debt. They go through some pretty hard times and at the end the wife’s uncle takes pity on them and gives them some money and jobs and that’s how the first movie ends. In the second one the uncle dies leaving 50 million bucks in his will to his niece with a request that his ashes are to be thrown at the Grand Cannion by someone who loves him. So the family goes out to Las Vegas to throw the ashes, dad, mum and their two kids. But as the father is a complete idiot he manages to gamble away all his wife’s heritage and gets into a 10 million dollar debt with the leader of the Mexican Mafia. How stupid is that? The film is really funny, REALLY FUNNY. But at the end of the day I didn’t like it. It sends out the most absurd message. After being pursued by the mafia and kidnapped the cops arrest the mafia people. The guy’s wife actually forgives him for gambling away all her money (I mean, WHAT?) and an old rich man gives him a dollar which he gambles in the roulette and makes 2 freaking million dollars and they live happily ever after. So it’s ok to be totally irresponsible and inconsequential with someone else’s money because you are such a funny and well meaning guy? Ah! It seems like everything in this country is just wrong!

Thrusday - Frozen

Now I’ve come to the conclusion that the older I get the more I cry watching Disney movies. I had heard just that day that there are plans to making a musical out of this movie and just today that there’s gonna be a sequel. For me it’s one of the best Disney movies I’ve seen so far. Ah I started crying at the Disney logo, I mean, what’s wrong with me?

Frozen tells the story of two sisters who are princesses, Elsa and Anna. But Elsa has a secret she has a freaky ice touch thing and she can basically turn stuff into ice and make ice stuff and snow. When they are little Elsa and Anna are best buddies and Anna knows about Elsa’s powers and they play in Elsa’s snow all the time. UNTIL the day Elsa’s magic accidentally hits Anna and she get weirdly sick and a strand of her hair turns white, like Elsa’s. The queen and king take Anna to the trolls, who are very cute, and the master troll cures Anna but the parents decide to make Anna forget about Elsa’s powers and to separate them and close up the gates of the castle for what they think is the best. Elsa feels super guilty and shuts herself away inside her room and almost never comes out. They grow and their parents end up dying in a ship wreck and after 3 years Elsa is to be crowned queen. The day of the coronation they open up the gates and hundreds of people come in (including Rapunzel and Flyn Ryder, yeah, cool). Anna meets a dreamy prince and they fall for each other almost instantly and he asks her to marry him and she says yes. At the party Anna asks Elsa for her blessing and as a responsible adult and queen she says “No, you can’t marry someone you’ve just met!” they argue and Elsa lets out her freaky powers by mistake and freaks everyone out and runs away. But in letting out her inner kraken she brings into the town an eternal winter feel. Now Anna goes after her so she can come back and unfreeze everything. On her way she meets a cutie named Christopher and his reindeer Swen who agree to help her and also Olaf the most adorable snow man ever!

It’s a great movie with many plot twists and surprises. The music is beautiful, it seems as if it’s adaptaded already from a musical or maybe I dream too much. But it is very really good. The “theme” song “Let it go” sung by Elsa aka Idina Menzel aka Elphaba the wicked witch of the west is beautiful. Although I do think Idina’s singing is screamy at times and that bothers me a lot, I want Joyce singing this song! Pretty please! It’s a great movie for everyone in the family to watch, absolutely loved it!

Friday - Delivery Man

When I saw this movie’s trailer I was like, man I need to see this movie! And I wasn’t disappointed. This movie tells a story of a guy, Vince Vaugh, who isn’t really good at doing anything in particular and every project he tries to start just blows up in his face. Plus he owes money to the mafia or something. He has this girlfriend who has just told him she is pregnant but wants to raise the kid on her own because he’s such an irresponsible douche bag. But one day a man comes to his apartment and tells him that there’s a big ass law suit on his back. When he was twenty something he donated his sperm 6 hundred and something times to the same fertility clinic. But the thing was, his sperm was rather good so the clinic used it a lot, I mean, A LOT. A lot like now he has 533 kids. And about a hundred of them want to know who he is and are filling a law suit for that information. The guy is completely stunned. His sons and daughters who want to meet him have all sent him a profile of their selves to see if he gets interested in coming out. Even though his lawyer told him not to read them he does and decides that he can’t be their father but he can be a guardian angel so he starts helping them out as best he can without revealing his identity.
It’s a lovely movie, it’s funny, it has some drama, and it’s set in NYC.  Think it’s fit for the whole family, it’s guarantee of a good time.

Ok so that’s it. I’m not a very good movie reviewer but I tried! I’ll be posting a lot next month so I’m getting back to my solfegio books now!
Peace everyone! 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Four Artists and a Fat Man

Happy New Year everybody and merry Christmas! Long time no see! I’m so sorry about that, I did try to write several posts but they all kind of couldn’t stand for themselves, I’m feeling kinda bitter today so this post might be a little poisonous. And let me just draw your attention to the title of this post, it's supposed to be a derivation of Four Weddings and a Funeral, I'm so witty haha

Today I’m talking about the two operas I saw in December of last year in São Paulo.

Generic Falstaff

Now, everybody went to the live in HD of Falstaff but I wasn’t able to make it. I was really upset about that. BUT only a week before that transmission the opera house just around the corner from my house was actually doing a production of Falstaff. Funny enough, that looking back at that production and of what I saw of the Met’s production they are oddly similar. Set in the same time in history, even the color choice of some sets were very much alike. But no matter. I did like this performance a lot. The guy playing Falstaff was really very good and VERY funny! It’s very difficult for me to warm up to female singers, maybe because being a female singer myself I can spot defects more easily in women. I thought they were all OK, Nanetta was kinda pissing me off, she was odd. The lady I mostly liked was Mistress Quickly, she was real good and her scene with Falstaff in the beginning of the third act was just superb. Another superb moment was Mr. Ford’s aria in the first part of the second act. That guy was good, real good. He got quite a nice ovation for his performance. But I think the part I mostly liked was the end in the woods. Maybe it’s because the chorus was a bunch of people that I knew from a choir I used to be part of and it was real fun to see them all dressed up.

But there lies one big problem with opera in Brazil. Those people, the chorus people, they are great people, such nice, hardworking and fairly good sounding people. BUT they are not singers, this choir is not a professional choir, it consists mostly of retired people who love to sing and although they sound quite nice I don’t think its right for them to do this project. This is supposed to be a professional production of Falstaff and the people who call the shots decided to call these people to sing for a very simple reason. They love to sing, singing for them is a hobby and they will sing for free, because they always sing for free and they did sing this opera for free, all of them. I just think it’s wrong having so many unemployed singers out there to just grab an amateur chorus that consists of people who learn their parts via audio MIDI files made in Finale to sing in a Verdi opera just because they will do it for free. And don’t get me started on “they don’t have enough money to pay for a chorus” because they do. This opera house is founded by the State Government and we pay a hell lot of taxes in this damned State. But that’s just a taste of glorious Brazil politics and lack of interest when it comes to anything that won’t profit billions.

Closing the Year a la Puccini

The last opera I saw last year was La Boheme, I must admit I was very skeptical going to the Theatro Municipal to see this. Last time I’d been there I saw the most horrifying thing ever, the singers managed to kill one of my favorite operas and I grew rather resolute in never getting back there. I did skip a performance of Cavalleria Rusticana and another of Das Rheingold that I had tickets for just because I knew there was a very big chance that I would hate them. And also because those were after I came back from NYC and really nothing I have seen yet has matched or even come close to that experience. But I love Puccini and I had tickets for opening night so I thought I’d give the São Paulo Opera House another chance. 

I actually really liked this production, I went alone, as always, and I had one of the best seats in the house, 9th row orchestra center, quite nice. When the curtain went up the whole audience went “OOOh!”, seriously, that’s exactly what happened. The stage was all covered with white paper and in the center we had some boring looking furniture all pilled up. As Marcello and Rodolfo sang they also organized the furniture and before you know it you have a flat in the middle of all that white paper. I found that even though it was rather different it worked marvelously well. The tenor playing Rodolfo was none other than the Brazilian who’s been singing all over Europe with Angela Gheorghiu, Atalla Ayan. He was just stellar, really fantastic! But for me the best of the night was the baritone playing Marcello. He really had it all, a fantastic, well projected and beautiful voice and refined acting skills. The other artists weren’t far behind and I did love this staging, the stage director had them hoping from one place to the other almost all the time and it gave the first act such incredible lightness as if they were really just chatting and happened to be singing. There was an easiness to their movements and interactions that was really quite nice to watch.

But then came Mimi and at first when her music started playing I felt tears come to my eyes but not because of the singer but because I’m starting to learn this music so it really hits home. And since I’m getting far too familiar with this La Boheme score I almost couldn’t stand this lady playing Mimi. In my opinion her take on the character was almost all wrong, she wasn’t delicate or fragile at all. She was too energetic and bubbly singing “Si mi chiamano Mimi” as if telling a friend of all the fun things she has done which really didn’t work out for me. Plus she was doing something that THOROUGHLY irritated me which was imitating Angela Gheorghiu’s voice. Now, I’ve had my share of listening to Angela Gheorghiu specially in this particular role and I’m telling you this lady would imitate to the last portamento EVERYTHING Angela would do. She even sort of lost her voice in the middle of her first aria, I imagine because singing with a voice that isn’t yours isn’t really healthy, which resulted in her forte moments being transformed into piano which was really a shame. Even the ignorant ladies sitting next to me who knew nearly nothing about opera noticed there was something wrong.

Second act out on the streets was pure fun! The stage was over flowing with people and the choruses were wonderful! Again there was no scenery just various pieces of furniture and everyone was wearing tones of blues and grays. something else that bothered me was the fact that Mimi's hat wasn't pink, it was gray just like all the ladies on stage, boo for that. Again, the other lady of the production did not amuse me not even a drop bit. The lady playing Musetta was very pretty, very thin, blond with quite a nice body a petit body, what was missing was body of voice, that beef a singer must have to sing Puccini. She did not posses that, I’m not saying she was a bad singer, no, but she didn’t have enough size of voice or enough warmth of voice o even enough size for this role that is pure seduction. Her aria came out little and bland to me and after second act we had intermission and everybody seemed to be talking about the lack of Musetta qualities in that Musetta. It’s just sad that people are cast to play a role like this just because they are pretty. 

During intermission I didn’t even bother to get up, since 1 I was wearing very high heels and 2 I wasn’t meeting anybody anyways. Third act was up and it’s not one of my favorite moments in La Boheme, I find it’s all so mushy and melodramatic, Angela… oops I mean Mimi with the cough and Rodolfo being an ass. The only part I do like in this act is Musetta’s and Marcello’s argument, I find it quite funny. Maybe I’ll grow to like these things but for now, na.

We had another short intermission after the third act and as the curtain came up for the last time I understood why. There was again another collective “WOW” from the audience as we saw the whole stage floor covered with neatly placed red roses. The effect was absolutely gorgeous! Really a work of art! The beginning of this act felt like the beginning of the opera with the 4 friends playing around and they did such a fantastic job! Musetta arrives and the mood completely changed, they bring Mimi up and lie her down. It was really very sad but the whole scene was directed very well, you could see that the director took very good care of this work. And quite unexpectedly when Mimi dies and Rodolfo holds her and screams the famous “MIMI!” red rose petals fall from the sky and I could not hold back my tears. It was very beautiful.

Overall I really liked this opera, I left the theater pleased. Well, until next time peeps! Peace!