2019 Oscars

The beginning of the year is known in Hollywood as the award season.  Where is seems like every week there is a new award show on TV. The most popular being the Emmys, Tony’s, Grammy’s, and the Oscars.  Each of these four popular award shows are based on a different category of entertainment: Television, Broadway, Music, and Movies. There is more than one award show for each category, these are just the most popular and seen as the most prestigious.

The Oscars seems to be the biggest award show out of the four, with movie stars coming from all over just to be at movies biggest night.  The Oscars gives awards for a large variety of categories from movie scores, to costumes, to the more common categories like best actress and actor.  Most people only seem to know about the “bigger” categories because those are the only ones broadcasted on television. Most of the other awards are done beforehand and are not shown.

The Oscars also has awards for different types of films.  There is the biggest award of the night, “Best Feature”, and there are also best animated film, best short, and best documentary just to name some examples.  

Generally the public has not seen the majority of the films nominated for Oscars, but it seems that this has changed a little in recent years.  For example “Black Panther” and “A Star is Born” are both nominated for best picture. “Black Panther” was one of the most successful movies of 2018.  Most people still have not seen the best documentaries or the best shorts nominations. However, the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor is playing all of the Oscar nominated best shorts and best documentaries.  This can give people a chance to go and see them before the Oscars, and it gives the opportunity to see something that most people would not have the chance to see otherwise.

Technology in Entertainment

New technology can change an entire industry.  In the entertainment industry, the invention of the camera, and then the video camera changed the way that people consume there entertainment.  The most popular form of visual entertainment used to be plays, until the video camera came along and people became fascinated by movies. Technology has changed the way that people consume media throughout time.

For a long time the most popular form of live entertainment was plays, and operas.  People would go to a theater to have a day of entertainment of long plays by Shakespeare or other famous playwrights.  Once the video camera was introduced, plays and operas declined. The general public was fascinated with the new medium of entertainment that the video camera brought.  Plays and operas eventually found their niche audience, and have stayed in the spotlight. The niche group that plays and operas found was an elite group of people. Plays were for the highest class of people and not very accessible the general public.  This stigma is still attached to plays and operas, but it is smaller than it once was. Now plays will travel around the world so that everyone has an opportunity to enjoy their work.

Video cameras were a huge development in the entertainment industry.  Movies became very popular for the entire public, not just one demographic.  Movies popularity grew with the number of movie theaters that were added around the world.  Movies were much more accessible than plays were because people only had to travel to their local movie theater and not the nearest performance theater.  Movies were also much less expensive than plays so all types of people had the opportunity to enjoy them. With the innovations of video cameras also kept movies in the limelight.  From silent films to speaking films, then from black and white to color, and then the video quality continually improving, and finally with the introduction of the 3D movie. These innovations kept the movies new and exciting for everyone.  The theater didn’t have as much innovations as movies, which could contribute to why its popularity did not grow like the popularity of movies did.

Opera Splashes and Sparkles in ‘Ariadne auf Naxos’

I went to the opening night of ‘Ariadne auf Naxos’ and without reading about the libretto beforehand, I expected something that was stuffy, long-winded, and probably involved corsets or women dressed like this….

Boy was I wrong. What I saw on Thursday night more closely resembled this…

For those unfamiliar with the Greek mythology behind the Strauss opera, Ariadne was a human abandoned by Theseus on the island of Naxos, who spent her days bemoaning his loss and refusing all company except that of Death.

But contrary to my initial impression, this was not the only storyline.  In fact, it served more as a story within a story.

In the prologue of the play, two troupes (a dramatic opera cast and a burlesque show) prepare to entertain a duke and his guests.  However, amidst the hustle and bustle that comes before any performance, both troupes are informed that due to time constraints, they will no longer be performing one after another.  Instead, the duke demands that they combine their arts into one cohesive performance.

What results and forms the bulk of the opera, is the tragic tale of lonely Ariadne on the desert tale of Naxos who is greeted by the funny and flirtacious Zerbinetta and her fellow comedians, who show Ariadne how to pick herself up, dust herself off, and start all over again when the Greek God Bacchus shows up.

The set design closely resembled 1920s Art Deco, with simple, clean lines and flashy costumes.  Most of the men wore suits or tuxedos apart from the comedians, who donned bathing suits and flippers upon learning that they were going to a desert island.

Although every piece was eloquently executed (I was very impressed by the performer’s elocution with the German libretto) my favorite piece by far was Zerbinetta’s operatic version of ‘All the Single Ladies’ aka ‘Grossmachtige Prinzessin!’.  In this rendition, Zerbinetta wore a glimmering red flapper dress and sang about how every time a new ‘god’ comes along in her life, she is dumbstruck.  It wouldn’t be a burlesque show without a parade of tuxedo-ed men who each got their chance to dance with Zerbinetta before she changed her tune and moved on to the next one.  This number made me realize just well-trained opera singers are.  Apart from dancing and interacting with the other performers on stage, Zerbinetta made her laugh sound absolutely melodious, like a group of bells trilling underwater.

When I laugh, it either sounds like a horse or a dying moose.  But never like bells trilling underwater.

I left the performance feeling like I had gotten my money’s worth and to top it off, I was handed a pamphlet for one of the performer’s senior recitals coming up in Kerrytown.  This performance gave me every reason to see more great vocal performances and to continue my support for one of the oldest performing arts still in business.

Go opera!

Image credits: http://wodumedia.com/chicago-2002/catherine-zeta-jones-in-miramaxs-chicago-2002/ and http://www.music.umich.edu/ContainerBridge.php?path=%2Ffmi%2Fxml%2Fcnt%2Fdata.jpg%3F-db%3DRecital_Form%26amp%3B-lay%3DCOE_Fall_2008_Layout%26amp%3B-recid%3D7499%26amp%3B-field%3Dimage(1)