Review: I Can’t Handel Handel

I know, I used the same pun, sorry. But this one kind of sucked out my creative juices. I realized before going in that the concert, Handel’s Messiah, was about Jesus, but since it was near the holidays, I thought it would be more like a happy Christmas story. Instead, I spent three hours listening about how Christ died for our sins. Kind of depressing.

Now don’t get me wrong. The performers were absolutely fantastic; the content was boring. Both the orchestra and the choir displayed an incredible amount of talent, passion, and listening. Harmonies were perfect, timing was sharp and precise, and the overall performance was beautiful. But a giant choir dressed all in black singing to you about the downfall of sinners and resurrection of Christ the lord is one of the most oddly terrifying experiences that I’ve ever had. I realize that they’re not Westboro Baptist Church, but certain moments of the night gave me chills.

Another problem with Handel’s “masterpiece” was that lines were repeated over and over and over again. It lacked in content. A full three hours of lyrics would fit in half of a Microsoft Word Page, all of which were different verses from the Bible (something that I thought was a great idea and if it had been executed well than it would be a wonderfully creative piece).

To shine a better light on the concert, please click this for an informational video

I had never been inside Hill Auditorium before, but I gotta’ say, I’m impressed. It is one of the most incredible concert halls that I’ve ever seen. I just looked up and soaked it all in with my mouth open. And the acoustics are unbelievable. I think that you could probably stand on the stage and clap and people in the balcony would hear it. The sounds were that clear. Which brings me to the best part of the concert. The soloists. More specifically, Mr. Anthony Costanzo.

Anthony Costanzo
Anthony Costanzo

Mr. Anthony Costanzo…The most dreamy voice, and the cutest face, Anthony achieves the highest octaves and perfectly delivers each note like a letter in a mail slot, easy and perfect. His dynamics were fantastic and he has obviously been training his vibrato since he was quite young. What makes Costanzo stick out among the other three soloists is his surprisingly high range. I also want to compliment the amazing choir looming behind them and the talented orchestra surrounding them. All of the performers brilliantly follow the Grammy winning conductor Jerry Blackstone.

This link goes to a fantastic sample of Costanzo’s voice.

For those that are like me and are unacquainted with Handel’s Messiah, I’m sure that you would recognize one piece in it. “The Halleluiah Chorus.” The audience was invited to join in the rejoicing, but it was really just nice to hear the song.

So overall, I wouldn’t suggest that you attend the Sunday Matinee performance (Sunday Afternoon, December 6, 2009 at 2:00 PM), unless of course you are a fan of this annual concert. I feel as if I wasted three hours and next time I will go to a 58 Greene or Dicks&Janes concert. It was an interesting experience, but I think that it was the wrong thing for me.

This is my first bad review, and it’s hard to post it, but you gotta’ do what you gotta’ do.

Danny Fob: Artist and Art Reviewer

Preview: Too Hot to Handel: Handel’s Messiah

Tonight I’ll be attending UMS Choral Union’s production of Handel’s Messiah. The UMSCU is a Grammy Award-winning ensemble that puts on an annual holiday performance of this concert. This event has loyal guests that attend every year and are always so impressed with the UMS group. I personally had never heard of it before some friends suggested that I attend, and now I am very excited to go tonight at 8:00 PM at Hill Auditorium.

Review: After “Coco Before Chanel”

I always forget how interesting the State Theater is, but then I go and am astonished by the antique business that still has incredible artistic integrity. The theater is old, so old even that the bathrooms still have those waiting rooms with benches where the people with perfume used to sit. The advertisements are for classic movies, or maybe some independent films. People that work there seem artistic and very friendly. And the theater itself… it’s old, but it has a certain ambiance that the dollar theater in Briarwood could never muster. I was able to realize these things about the building because I happened to be the only one in the theater on Wednesday night around 9:30. Sad Face Land. There were people seeing “Serious Man” which I’ve heard is very good, but I was the only one watching “Coco Before Chanel.”

If I knew how to type with a French accent I would, but since I can’t, I’ll just ask you to imagine one before I go on. … Got it? This is important because the movie was in French… Ok, I think you’re in the right frame of mind now. “Coco Before Chanel” was an absolutely fantastic story. It composed the tale of Gabrielle Chanel’s life for us to see. Gabrielle, known by most as “Coco,” was placed in an orphanage with her sister at a very young age when her father traveled to America. She grew up an impoverished orphan, raised by nuns, and became a lounge singer/seamstress. Throughout the entire movie, Coco has this blunt confidence in herself and speaks her mind, no matter who it might hurt. As her sister runs away with a Baron, she is left alone to achieve what she hopes will be a fantastic performing career. She fails early on, but finds a “friend” in Etienne Balsan, a man whose money has bought him friends, lovers, and arrogance. Coco sort of pushes herself into his Paris country home and doesn’t leave. By the way, you shouldn’t be reading this with an accent; I just wanted you to feel the setting a little bit. Yeah, I know, I saw you there struggling trying to speak French. Don’t worry about it.

Coco learns to ride horses and starts reading, while also beginning what will become her legacy. Having only brought two dresses to her new home, she begins making new cloths from Balsan’s supply. Now I know that Chanel has one of the most artistic and fabulous clothing lines in the world, but in her meager beginnings her clothing was just awful. So many different plaids and flannels. It’s sad to say, but her clothes were terrible. Not what I expected. But her style was unflawed. A basic philosophy Chanel held about fashion was that one should remove one article of clothing before leaving the house. She disliked ornamental flowers, laces, and jewelry because she felt that they made women like peacocks, or show animals. Throughout the movie she wears a simple straw hat that is the essence of Chanel fashion, and that is the first step to the rest of her fantastic career.

Now Thats Chic
Now That's Chic

Chanel promised that she would never marry, because “A woman in love is helpless. Like a begging dog.” She is so confident in herself, and perhaps one of the first feminists in France, that the idea of being owned by a man was repulsing. That is, up until she met Capel, lovingly nicknamed “Boy.” They fall madly in love and the story takes a turn for the better. But like any true story, it can’t work. He is forced to marry another woman for social status, and Coco never marries, perhaps never falls in love, again.

Finally! Fantastic Clothing
Finally! Fantastic Clothing

I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone, because it is so wonderful, so that is all I’m going to say about the plot. I will tell you that it ends with a fantastic scene of models showing off Coco’s clothing line. Remember though, that the State Theater, and the Michigan Theater for that matter, are both fantastic old venues that give us an idea of the past. Student tickets are only $7, pretty average, just bring your own concessions, because they are way over priced. It’s always a great experience, especially when other people are in the theater with you (it gets pretty lonely all by yourself, and I’m a talker). So overall, the setting was great, the clothing was mostly terrible, but the movie was amazing. It had a historical value and a pleasing muse. Definitely an 8 in my book.

Once again this is
Danny Fob: Artist and Art Reviewer

P.s. See you at Handel’s Messiah this Saturday!

Preview: Chanel on the Big Screen

‘ >Coco Before Chanel
“Coco Before Chanel”… A film that I’ve been looking forward to seeing and didn’t think I’d get the chance. But here I am, writing about it before I get to watch it, knowing that in three hours I’ll be sitting in the State Theater enjoying a medium popcorn and watching previews with a friend. The part of the famous fashion designer is played by Audrey Tautou as the movie moves from Coco’s sad beginnings to her huge success in the design industry. From what I’ve heard, the movie is supposed to be a fantastic story with wonderful acting. This drama is a classic Rags-to-riches story with sentimental and romantic backstage themes. I’m so excited! Everyone should hurry and go though, because there are only two nights left, tonight and tomorrow (Wednesday and Thursday, December 2 & 3). Both nights the show plays twice, 7:15 and 9:30.

Link to preview \"Coco Before Chanel\"

Only $7 for student tickets! So just to remind everyone…
Fantastic show
“Coco Before Chanel” rated PG-13
Wednesday, December 2 at 7:15 and 9:30
Thursday, December 3 at 7:15 and 9:30
State Theater, Ann Arbor
Go see it!
Danny Fob: Artist and Art Reviewer

The Phantom’s Got Nothing on Figaro

Fantastic! Or should I say Fantastico? “The Marriage of Figaro” went off this weekend without a hitch and proved to be an adventure through time and culture. I attended the Sunday Matinee and was absolutely amazed at the amount of talent produced by the singers, musicians, and set/ costume designers. Just amazing!

Figaro is a classic opera and perhaps one of the most famous. Music composed by Mozart himself and story written by Lorenzo da Ponte, Le Nozzi Di Figaro has traversed the centuries with pride and glory.

Attending the show, I was nervous as to how we were to understand the words, being that it was all in Italian, but I was relieved to see the way subtitles were displayed. A small, but adequate, screen presented the English translation and since many of the words were sung more than once, there was ample time to read and enjoy the performance. Anyone who fears going to an Opera here at the UofM in the future, don’t stress. They are catered for us to understand and enjoy.

The sets and costumes were beautiful done. I happen to know that talented young man that designed one of the dresses, the fabulous blue evening gown that the Countess wears for the ladder acts of the performance.

Sorry, image quality isnt the best, but this is the fantastic dress!
Sorry, image quality isn't the best, but this is the fantastic dress!

Everyone that I spoke to agreed with me when I complimented the comedic value of the performance. That is to say that it was hilarious! The audience, including myself, was laughing uncontrollably during certain twists and turns of the plot and at the fantastic satirical deliveries of various actors and actresses. One scene especially kept us going. Characters are eavesdropping constantly and the Countess and Susana play a trick on the Count and Figaro. By trading cloaks, the ladies trick the gentlemen into thinking they are each other. The men must be really stupid, but it is a great theatrical device and it was extremely funny. The things that men do behind their wives’ backs…except in this case it was the Count’s wife, he just didn’t know it. Absolutely hilarious!

As promised in my preview, I have a marvelous interview from a good friend, Nicholas Ward who played Bartolo on Nov. 14 & 15. Nick is a voice performance major who found his passion for singing as a young child. He performed in choirs and school musicals. During High School his teacher introduced him to Opera and he has been in love ever since. When asked his favorite opera singer at the moment, Nick replied “I’d say baritone Sherrill Milnes-he was really big in the 70’s and 80’s and has one of the most powerful and amazing voices I’ve ever listened to.” I asked Nick what he thought of the play, and I agree with him when he says “This show is an absolute success.” Nick is quick to hand out compliments (“Our director and conductor are such talented, knowledgeable people and really helped all the students put together a very well-known and well-loved opera.”), but he should know that he deserves just as much and more phrase. So Nick, and all of you other cast members, Fantastic Job! You are amazing!

Nick is the one in the Powdered wig! 3rd from the Left
Nick is the one in the Powdered wig! 3rd from the Left

Since I had a slight dilemma about the language barrier, I inquired whether this experience and Opera in general helps the performers better understand the Italian language. Nick responded “-yes, being a part of this opera really has helped me with my Italiano. Since there is so much recitative (a speak-singing style of dialogue), you have to be very precise with the Italian so it is clear.” My conversation with Nick proved to be a very interesting one, just like my fabulous Opera Experience. I hope to continue visiting great performances such as The Marriage of Figaro. Nick also hopes to keep going in Opera, but his plans are much more extensive. Ultimately, his goals include professional performance and voice coaching. It’s a long road, but Nick is already on his way and an abundance of talent and perseverance will help him accomplish his dreams.

Don’t fear the Opera! Try new things, buy tickets to something you’ve never heard of, try out for shows and performances, and most of all, never stay in your dorm room watching TV when there are so many things happening right outside your door. I’d like to thank Nick for answering my questions and give one last shout out to the amazing cast and crew of Le Nozzi Di Figaro! Amazing everyone, just amazing!

Danny Fob: Artist and Art Reviewer

Preview: Figaro Figaro Figaro, That’s All I Know

The Marriage of Figaro, an Opera to remember. I don’t care if it’s in another language, I am going to see it! The music was composed by Mozart! Now you have to go see it! The play was written by Lorenzo da Ponte and is now being revived by the University of Michigan’s aspiring talents. I was invited by a fantastic talent Nick Ward, who will be giving an exclusive inside look of the life of a voice performer. As one of the most famous operas in the world, The Marriage of Figaro, or La Nozze Di Figaro, is sure to be one of the most fantastic events of the year.

The performances are this Thursday through Sunday, Nov 12-15 at 7:30 pm, except on Sunday the show starts at 2:00 pm. It’s at the Power Center for the Performing Arts and is most definitely going to put us through a wild surge of Italian Drama and Romance. Don’t forget to get tickets at one of the Union Box offices. Only $9!

The general description of the opera, per Facebook Event, is “The Story: Count Almaviva’s valet Figaro is looking forward to his imminent wedding with the beautiful Susanna. Unfortunately, his lascivious employer is also intent on bedding the young chambermaid. Aware of the Count’s intentions, the Countess, with Susanna’s help, intends to teach her husband a lesson on the dangers of infidelity. Add in a love-sick teenager who causes unexpected confusion and hilarity abounds as multiple love interests vie for the perfect pairing. Through subtle intrigue, scintillating sexual games, and mistaken identities, Figaro and Susanna must outmaneuver and outwit the entire household to end up finally in each other’s arms.
Artistic Significance: Called “the world’s most perfect opera,” The Marriage of Figaro has delighted audiences since its premiere in 1786. The first collaboration between Mozart and librettist da Ponte, Figaro is the successful sequel to The Barber of Seville. Da Ponte’s witty libretto melds humor with humanity and is paired with Mozart’s groundbreaking score in a true marriage of music and drama. From the instantly recognizable overture to the rousing ensemble finale, the opera is filled with one brilliant melody after another. A celebrated operatic tour de force, The Marriage of Figaro sparkles with genius.

For more information, join the Facebook Event or visit a Union Box Office. The show has English subtitles for those of us who don’t speak Italian, so most of us. Everyone should definitely attend at least one performance, if not two, just to immerse yourself in culture and trying something new.
As always, this is Danny Fob: Artist and Art Reviewer