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

PREVIEW: IASA Cultural Show – Vistaara, an Eternal Progression

When: November 13, 2009 7pm

Where: Hill Auditorium

Tickets: $12, $16, $20 (plus a $2 service charge) sold at MUTO, which is in the basement of the Union. For the truly lazy or last minute people, tickets can be bought online at ticketmaster.com.

Vistaara, which means progression/development in Sanskrit, is the official name of the 2009 IASA cultural show. With “time” as the theme, this performance hopes to show ways the different styles of Indian dance and culture have evolved over time. Choreographed by 22 student choreographers, the program consists of 10 different dances:

Bollywood
Gypsy
Classical
Bhangra
All Girls Progression
Raas
Fashion Show
South Indian
Mens Tribal
Village

For a detailed description of the dances, see http://www.umiasatest.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=14&Itemid=142. With 250 performers and 4,000 people in the audience, the IASA cultural show is the largest student run cultural show in America. And all of the proceeds from the show will go to Pratham, a charity devoted to eliminating illiteracy and ensuring that poor children in India receive an education.

PREVIEW: The Boondock Saints II – All Saints Day

Poster for The Boondock Saints II - All Saints Day
Poster for The Boondock Saints II - All Saints Day

The original Boondock Saints film, released in 1999, had a very short run in theaters and received poor reviews from film critics. Because of this it grossed less than half a million in world-wide theatre, yet it made $50 million in US home video sales revenue. It gained a large cult following through word of mouth publicity, making it a hit DVD bestseller.

I personally caught on the Boondock Saints train just a few years back. I loved the acting, the great quotes, and the ridiculously improbably storyline. It was an awesome action-film and the fact that it was a little-known film made it even more cool for me. I told all my friends about it, but you know how that usually goes. “Oh, yeah, I’ll check it out sometime. Nice, dude.” “No, seeeeriously, you have to see this movie!” “Definitely dude, we’ll watch it sometime.” It never happens, and didn’t with The Boondock Saints, either. I mostly shared my favorite quotes and minutes of non-stop laughter with my brother.

As much as I absolutely loved the original, I had no heads up about the sequel coming out! I heard about speculations when I saw the first movie, but never followed up on it, and it was only two Fridays ago that I saw a trailer while eating in West Quad dining. I flipped out and looked for a place to watch it ASAP, but was disappointed to find out that it is also only getting a limited release. I don’t think anyplace in the state of Michigan is playing it… Except State Theatre. Once. Tomorrow at 7:30PM. For free. I just found out today and I’m so excited to watch it! I’m slightly worried that I might not get the chance if enough people get there before me, but I’m gonna try my best–try yours, too!

It’s hard to explain exactly what the movie is about, but it’s basically two Irish-Catholic brothers that are vigilantes against the scum on the streets of Boston. And they’re bad to the bone. If you enjoy  catchy lines, awesome action, and have some free time, I definitely suggest checking it out. Check out the trailer to get a better idea of what part deux will be about. If you have time before tomorrow, I suggest watching the original, too! So far the film has a 7.4/10 on IMDB and an 84% approval rating by the Rotten Tomatoes Community.

“Catch ya on the flip side” 😉
Bhaj

Review: Ghostface Wears A Different Hat

Wrong In So Many Ways
Wrong In So Many Ways

Baseball season is over.  For the Red Sox, it was over one month ago today, the Red Sox were exposed as the subpar franchise that they are in a season-ending sweep by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Although largely unchanged from championship teams of years past, this Red Sox team lost the talent and the spark of other years- while gaining a steroids scandal (in David Ortiz) and a washed up relief man (in Billy Wagner).  So, while Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester munched Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, watched The Notebook, and cried themselves to sleep, the New York Yankees of New York, New York rampaged their way through the World Series.  They finished off the defending World-Series Champion Phillies in six games, never really giving them any hope.

So, I ask, why was Ghostface Killah sporting a green and red Boston Red Sox New Era cap at his Blind Pig performance on Monday night?  Ghostface Killah, man of the Stapleton housing projects of Staten Island, NY.  Take the Staten Island Ferry to the 4 train to Yankee Stadium.   Or, if you have to, even take the Staten Island Ferry to the 1 train to the 7 train to Shea Stadium (or the new Citi Field).  But, come on Ghost, you have to paddle across the river Styx to get to Fenway Park.

Although my barber, Bob, has explained to me on multiple occasions that the handshake and first 20 seconds of meeting someone new is the most important part of a good relationship, Ghostface quickly redeemed his horrendous first impression.  At 39 years old and over 15 years after the Wu-Tang Clan debut, Ghostface still has an intense and demanding stage presence.  Perhaps he is no longer the perpetually high, in your face, attention grabber of the 90’s, but as hip hop has grown, so has Ghost.  He still coaxed the audience to scream in support of their love of weed and conducted a vote of the crowd’s alcohol preference: Hennessey vs. Grey Goose.  But that doesn’t seem to be Ghostface’s gimmick anymore.  He still holds the crowd with his intricate word plays and boasting banter but he no longer seems to need to hold a blunt to connect with his audience.  With the tracks from the new album, he has also let some catchy hooks grab the audience as well.

Despite a bit of a persona change from Ghostface, the crowd remembered exactly who he is.  He could (and on a few occasions did) let the beat drop and let the sweat-soaked, cigarette-drenched crowd do his bidding, reciting every line to his fast paced stories.  He commanded an even greater response for the Wu-Tang hits (including “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nothing To Fuck With” and “C.R.E.A.M.”.

Not that Ghostface has never been sentimental – because he has- but it marks a different path when his best-known song is a track about his love for his pregnant girlfriend, complete with a light-hearted R&B loop.  As was apparent by his on-stage demeanor and set choice, Ghostface is content with the maturing of hip hop, the development of the Wu-Tang Clan, and his own, highly regarded status.

(Also, in my concert-going experience openers are generally not worth mentioning.  However, worth mentioning is local local, DJ Chill Will was on the ones and twos in between sets.  Chill Will has a show called The Prop Shop every Saturday night from 9pm-midnight on 88.3 WCBN– a show that I would very highly recommend to any dabbler in the art of hip hop)

REVIEW: Keith Terry and the SLAMMIN All-Body Band

This unusual performance would be best described as a mixture of beatboxing, singing, stomping, and clapping, and I was quite intrigued by the different types of sounds produced by the hands and feet. Whistles, melodies, and rhythms floated from the world’s most common “instrument”—the human body. In my preview, I wrote “new form of art,” but since humans have been around far longer than any other created musical instruments, it’s safe to say that body music is one of the oldest forms of music and dance. Knowing that the violin sounds the closest to the human voice, I wonder what other instruments were created to replicate sounds made by the body.

To draw a connection between the body and musical instruments, there was an interesting diagram in the kid’s brochure which said “Your body = Drum set.” This unusual comparison drew a connection between a handclap and the high hat (similar to two cymbals), a chest strike and the highest rack tom (a drum), a thigh strike and the middle tom (another drum), and a foot stomp to the bass drum (biggest drum, you step on a lever to play it). Now I wonder if the drum set was created to amplify and prolong the amount of noise the human body can create…

While I enjoyed the performance and the improvisation, I don’t know that this is my type of art. The eclectic mix of sounds and rhythms caught my attention, but I wasn’t captivated the way I would normally be in an orchestra concert. Perhaps the little kids running up the aisles distracted me. But I did find myself smiling when the kids sang along and when prompted, enthusiastically called back to the singers. I found this performance to be mildly strange, but I enjoy watching different types of performances every once in a while.

REVIEW: Jamy Ian Swiss – Sleight of Hand: How Bodies Fool Minds

“Magicians are actors pretending to be magicians.” Jamy Swiss wowed the crowd and backed up his statement in a lecture through the Penny Stamps Distinguished Visitor Series. While I knew that the Art and Design students are required to attend these lectures, I didn’t realize that Michigan Theater would be packed. When I walked in, almost all the seats were full and I wished I had arrived earlier so I would be able to sit in the front and get a good view of the cards used in the illusions.

In addition to being good actors, magicians must be good storytellers. The card tricks would have been boring if Jamy Swiss had not told a funny story to go along with it. And oftentimes, the stories were used to guide our thinking—in the wrong direction! When breaking down one of the tricks, Jamy Swiss emphasized that he said, “Queen of clubs” three times to keep us thinking about that particular card. Good storytelling is the one of many methods used to deceive the audience.

Body language also affected perception of the illusion. The best example was the standard “disappearing coin trick,” the one where you think the coin is switched to the left hand, when it really just stayed in the right hand. In order to fool others, magicians (or sometimes grandpas!) use body language to send the message that the coin is in the left hand. By shifting his weight to the left and looking at his left hand, the magician sends an unspoken message to the audience that the coin is in the left hand.

Perhaps the best way for a magician to deceive the audience is…to lie! In one card trick, he pulled out a red 8 and black 6 and asked a volunteer to put them back into the deck. He then proceeded shuffle the deck, pull out a red 8 and black 6, and proclaim, “And here they are!” The catch: he pulled out the other red 8 and black 6. Essentially, he lied to us. With enough confidence, he was able to convince us that he told the truth. There was no “magic” in these tricks. He was just a good liar and a good actor!

I truly enjoyed the lecture; it was entertaining and interesting. Afterwards, I found myself walking back in silence though my friend was right next to me. I was trying to figure out how Jamy Swiss managed to fool us every single time even though he told us all the secrets!