Tag: entertainment

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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The Columbia Ballet Collaborative offers the kind of performing art you didn’t know you needed in your life. Also called the Ivy Ballet Exchange, the program strives to promote collaboration amongst schools like Columbia, Yale, Harvard in all forms of dance. This year, the Lion was invited to the 2016 Ivy Ballet Exchange. After a day of classes and workshops, all fifty dancers showcased their talents to the audience.

The first group to dance was PUB, Princeton University’s Ballet Company. They performed a piece entitled “Instinct” choreographed by Paige Shaw. The piece was technically sound and was performed en pointe. The music was composed of soft, breathy moans that slowly became discordant.

The next piece was performed by the Harvard Ballet Company, or HBC. The choreography, created by Sophie Carroll, was an excerpt from the longer piece based on The Giver by Lois Lowry. “Rosemary’s Release” was set to Claire de Lune, which was chosen “to explore the melancholy undertones of the song.” The piece involved only five dancers. All of their movements were slow and deliberate, giving their dancing a heavy, deliberate nature.

The following dance, “Ripples”, was a direct contrast. Marisa Remez, who choreographed the piece, said she wanted to celebrate the joy of dancing since this was her last year dancing with PUB. It was a bright, joyous dance filled with bright smiles and elaborate footwork set to a dubstep-y tune that occasionally sounded like soda cans being opened.

Connor Yokus’s piece “Whitey Tighty” was another dance about dancing, but it had a more serious angle. He said he his piece was “a reflection on [his] thoughts about ballet and his complex relationship with it.” It certainly turned many assumptions about ballet on their heads. The piece began with two men partnering in a duet with a corps of women behind them. The music constantly switched between a melodic, classical sounding piece and a more chaotic instrumental with a bassier beat. Later on, there was partnering between two women in an echo of the piece’s start. Still later, there was the more traditional partnering of a man and a woman, but the woman supported the man instead of the other way around. I enjoyed the twisting of my expectations.

The next piece was called “Spindle of Gestures,” choreographed by Norbert de la Cruz III.  This was the only piece where the dancers had distinctive costumes: ombre shirts that turned from white to black along with black leggings. The dancers’ movements were quick but deliberate, and they all seemed to move as parts of one body. In stark contrast, the music was slow and melodic.

“The Shape of the Voice” by Morgan Mcewen featured sharp, angular movements. The music contained vocalized moans and grunts similar to “Instinct.” The choreographer used many 90* angles that were unfamiliar to see in a piece that was mostly ballet. The dancers made it work, however.

Julia Janson of PUB choreographed a piece (“The Construct”) that was more classical ballet-y, except that it was filled with many tumbles, falls, and turns. All of those movements were executed as smoothly as any other movement.

The performance may not have had flashy costumes or a spotlit stage, but it didn’t need it. The dancers had superb technique and all worked well together. The Columbia Ballet Exchange truly fostered a dynamic and collaborative environment that was enjoyable for both viewer and participant. Keep an eye out for their upcoming performance in April!