Tag: entertainment

Photo Courtesy of CUBE

Step into another world and dive into wonderland with Columbia University Ballet Ensemble (CUBE)!

In this stressful time of the year, CUBE delivered a much-needed, light-hearted rendition of Alice In Wonderland, brightening up finals season. On December 8th and 9th, ballet dancers in CUBE took on the enchanting characters we all love, and turned them into delightful dancers. The performance featured a beautiful, expressive Alice, danced by Kasey Broekema, wandering her way through Wonderland, meeting characters such as the time-absorbed white rabbit, danced by Kyryk Pavlovsky, the mysterious Caterpillar, danced by Sophia Salingaros, the playful Mad Hatter, danced by Trevor Menders, and of course the feisty and elegant Queen of Hearts, danced by Anna McEvoy-Melo. The dancers playing lead roles were evidently accomplished and skilled as they pirouetted on pointe or leaped across the stage in their challenging choreography. Their acting and expression through their bodies brought the characters to life as well.

CUBE is lauded for their ability to integrate all levels of dancers while creating a cohesive piece. Alice in Wonderland was the  perfect example of how to do just that. With beautiful choreography for each dancer, CUBE highlighted everyone in all their dances, from Flamingos to Flowers to Cards.

Opening night was full of excitement and energy. The expressiveness of the dancers particularly stood out as they told the story of Alice falling through the rabbit hole to trying to save the Knave from the wrath of the queen. I only wish there were a larger audience to cheer on their work. CUBE’s Alice in Wonderland was a laudable and charming performance that left me wanting to follow the Alice down the rabbit hole to wonderland.

Haley So is a first year in SEAS who wishes she could dance and be as fierce as the Queen of Hearts.

Photo Courtesy of the Varsity Show

Last night, members of The Lion went to watch the Varsity Show’s 122nd production. We’ve compiled our take as well as comments we collected from students at the performance to help you decide whether you should go watch the show.

Comments from Lion Writers:

Upon entering Roone, we were handed the show’s booklet styled in what appeared to be a Blue and White Magazine. As we perused through the booklet, the show’s creative team divulged detailed interviews of the cast along with a breakdown of the show that hinted the show would be starting fashionably late (16 minutes to be exact) and a whole host of other humorous content. But even though the guide indicated the show would conclude by 10:18PM, it did not end until 10:48. We don’t know what happened there, but we were more than ok with that.

The show was absolutely phenomenal. From start to finish, the show captured the audience’s attention and with a good dose of humor, recanted many of the motifs commonly found in Varsity Show productions. Bar some sound issues with the microphones, it was quite clear how much effort went even into the smaller details of the show. Even when approaching controversial topics, the writers successfully created jokes that poked fun of the issues, but were not controversial to cause backlash or offend students and staff.

It was also nice to see a same-sex relationship featured as a major component the show. As far as we are aware, this is the first instance of this in a Varsity Show production and it was nice to see. The audience felt the same way based off the loud cheers that emanated throughout Roone.

If we had to pose a criticism, we would say the show was a bit too ambitious. In trying to incorporate so many issues into one two and a half hour production, it felt like several details were ignored. For instance, Jenny Park, the protagonist (played by April Cho CC ’17), refers to being a first-generation student, but this plot point is not really fleshed out. In addition, the show clearly tried to update itself to incorporate more topics given the addition of references to the proposed new sculpture set to be installed in front of Butler Library. It would have been nice to see points like these incorporated into the production that were more than just a few comments.

Overall, we would highly recommend going to the show. It was an ambitious production, but it definitely lived up to much of its hype.

Comments from students and alumni:

To better understand student reactions to the production, our team went out and polled students from a variety of academic years and backgrounds about their reactions. Check out what students said below.

“I want someone to look at me the way Professor Wilkenson (Henrietta Steventon) looked at that wine bottle” – SEAS ’17

“Is it bad I could easily imagine Dean Kromm prancing around campus in colonial wear?” – CC ’18

“Lin-Manuel Miranda, you have some competition coming from uptown” – CC ’18

“I actually thought I would die laughing when they all started singing ‘There’s a dead white man inside us all’ ” – CC ’19

“How do these people have the time to write and create an entire musical in a semester? That was phenomenal. I cannot imagine the amount of work that went into making that.” – CC ’17

“I liked the part where George was expelling students and then became ambivalent to the show.” – SEAS ’18

“Who did the reading for today? I’m sorry, I meant, Who wants to talk about the reading we were supposed to do? That’s was too real. Literally what every CC class is like”  – CC ’18

“Their take on campus activism was spot on.” – SEAS ’16

“How does a dead white man get into Pith and I’m still on the damn wait list???” – CC ’18

“I couldn’t stop laughing after Professor Wilkenson (Henrietta Steventon) yelled at Shreyas Manohar’s character to check his privilege after he desperately asked for help” – CC ’19

“I liked the show from two years ago a lot more” – SEAS ’18

The Varsity Show is performing through May 1st with showings at 2PM and 8PM. Be sure to buy a ticket (starting at $7) from the TIC or online here.

Have a comment or response you want to share? Comment below or email us at submissions@columbialion.com.

With only two weeks left in their season, the Metropolitan Opera looked forward to the summer with an exuberant presentation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (“The Abduction from the Seraglio”) last Friday night. The piece, which premiered in 1782 when the composer was only 26 years old, is a German singspiel – an opera in which spoken dialogue is interspersed between arias and ensembles. The story includes antiquated notions of the relations of East and West and is certainly of its era, but listening to Mozart’s timelessly ebullient music still makes for a mirthful way to spend a springtime evening.

Entführung is set in a Turkish seraglio into which three European travelers – the noble lady Konstanze, her maid Blondchen, and Blondchen’s sweetheart Pedrillo – have been sold into servitude for the ruling Pasha Selim. When the opera begins, Konstanze’s betrothed, the Spanish gentleman Belmonte, has arrived at the harem to rescue Konstanze. But before doing so, he and Pedrillo must outmaneuver the palace overseer Osmin in order to free the ladies, while Konstanze struggles to remain firm against the Pasha’s advances.

Just a week after the Met announced that Music Director James Levine would resign from his position due to health concerns, the conductor was back on the podium for this performance. Thanks to the smaller demands of a chamber orchestra and only half-a-dozen cast members, Levine was able to keep all the musical forces together and led a buoyant yet lithe rendition of Mozart’s early masterpiece.

As Konstanze, Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova offered a portrayal marked by refined timbre, rosy tope notes, and crystal clear vocal runs. Shagimuratova especially excelled in delivering Konstanze’s two formidable arias, which she dispatched with both precision and sophistication.

Kathleen Kim brought her characteristically radiant soprano and charming persona to the role of Blondchen who, despite her small stature, goes toe-to-toe with the towering Osmin to protect her modesty. Hers was also an enchanting characterization throughout.

Tenor Paul Appleby sang with a polished focused sound, that, while appropriately Mozartean, often struggled to fill the Met’s expansive auditorium and receded into the background during ensemble singing. Making his Met debut, Brenton Ryan was an adorable Pedrillo. With outgoing physicality and enthusiastic singing, Ryan brought great charisma and winning energy every time he appeared onstage.

Bass Hans-Peter König as Osmin plumbed the depths of his vocal range and sang with a dark, booming sound that nicely complemented his cast mates’ lighter voices. In the spoken role of Pasha Selim, Matthias von Stegmann gave a satisfactory if unremarkable interpretation.

The Met continues to use John Dexter’s 1979 staging of Die Entführung aus dem Serail each time they revive the opera despite the fact that, with its reliance on dusty flat scenery and some garish velvet costuming, is rather outdated. More remarkably, the production does little to address the cultural stereotyping in the source material. Not that Entführung is a terribly offensive piece considering the context of its composition, but this presentation still relies on dark makeup and “Middle Eastern-inspired” clothing to depict the Turkish characters. All this being said, this revival of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail features an accomplished cast that enlivens the evening with (mostly) stellar musical performances, making for an exciting way to celebrate the end of the season.

Performance of Die Entführung aus dem Serail run through May 7th with the final performance broadcast live on WQXR 105.9 FM. More information can be found online at the Met’s website.

Last Thursday night, the Metropolitan Opera roared with thunderous applause at the conclusion of Gaetano Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, the first ever presentation of the piece in the company’s history. Even more momentous, with this performance, soprano Sondra Radvanovsky completed her season-long journey of singing all three lead heroines in the composer’s “Tudor Trilogy.” To celebrate the occasion, the Met assembled an all-star cast to perform the work in an opulent new production by Scottish director Sir David McVicar.

With each outing in these roles, Radvanovsky has further asserted her mastery of vocal technique and dramatic interpretation, even if her large voice is not typical of the Bel Canto repertoire. In Roberto Devereux, she plays an aging Queen Elizabeth I, weary after a long reign on the British throne. As the opera opens, Elizabeth struggles to win the affection of the much younger Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, who has secretly taken up with Sarah, Elizabeth’s close confidant and wife of the Duke of Nottingham. After Robert is convicted of treason, Elizabeth is determined to save him from punishment, but when the truth of his affair with Sara is revealed, her love turns to rage, and she instead signs the death warrant that seals his – and her – fate.

Radvanovsky’s singing was even more polished than in past performances, characteristically combining prodigious sound with razor-sharp high notes while still carefully massaging the role’s lyrical phrases. As always, the soprano was especially moving when effortlessly floating sustained pianissimi, and with increasingly unhinged physicality, Radvanovsky conveyed Elizabeth’s descent into despair and resignation. Hers was a masterful portrayal that deserved the prolonged ovations it received, but in future performances Radvanovsky could bring a touch more grit to the interpretation and achieve even greater impact.

Nearly two decades after his Met debut, tenor Matthew Polenzani’s talent is being rewarded with some of opera’s most coveted leading roles; he likewise succeeded as the conflicted title character. Bringing a tone that has become rounder and more tender with age, Polenzani’s singing was both warm and insistent, and he capped ardent lines with robust top notes. Unfortunately though, Polenzani lost his stamina during his final impassioned aria, only cautiously concluding a triumphant night.

With a creamy mezzosoprano colored by just the right amount of smokiness, Elīna Garanča imbued her portrayal of Sara with great sympathy and expressivity. Up against the exceptional performances of his colleagues, baritone Mariusz Kwiecien’s portrayal of Nottingham was underwhelming. While Kwiecien often brings a wealth charisma to his performances, this outing felt unnaturally forced and was not aided by wooden singing.

McVicar has set the world of Roberto Devereux in the claustrophobic confines of a Jacobean theater that is filled with stunning visuals. The set, designed by McVicar himself, features black wooden walls, gilded ornaments, and imposing viewing galleries that drip with the trademark grandeur of the Tudor court and is enhanced by Paule Constable’s cinematic lighting. Especially noteworthy are the sumptuous costumes by Moritz Junge that utterly transform these modern singers into Elizabethan nobility. Unfortunately, McVicar’s direction did not match the lavish production values, with much of the onstage movement marked by unmotivated action devoid of any real emotional urgency.

Under Maurizio Benini’s baton, the first scene of the opera was thrilling; here each singer performed at his or her vocal and dramatic best. But this energy waned in the scenes that followed. In key moments, Benini chose uncomfortable tempi, and his sluggish pacing of Act 2 robbed the opera’s exhilarating showdown between Elizabeth, Nottingham, and Robert of much of its intensity. Eventually, the performance re-found its vigor with riveting final scenes by Radvanovsky and Polenzani, but this was not enough to save the evening from an overall sense of inconsistency.

In all, this performance, which was loaded with great potential, only partially delivered on expectations. Thanks to three strong vocal performances and attractive aesthetics, Columbia students will still find this an engaging night at the opera. Hopefully, with subsequent performances, the weaker elements can rise to meet these high standards.

Performances of Roberto Devereux continue through April 19 with the April 16 matinee performances being broadcast into movie theaters live in high definition and presented for free on 105.9 FM WQXR. More information can be found online at the Met’s website.

The 88th Academy Awards are scheduled to happen Sunday, February 2016 at 5:30pm. Each year, the Academy Awards (commonly termed “the Oscars”), honors the best films of the previous year with the most esteemed award in Hollywood.

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