Antonia Landi

Archive for the ‘Edinburgh’ Category

American Lulu

In Edinburgh, Opera, Performing Arts, Review on August 31, 2013 at 10:10 am

Photo: Anja Köhler

It is difficult to credit anyone in particular for the birth of this operatic piece. Just like Lulu herself, this opera has many facets. Olga Neuwirth would be the most obvious one to credit, as she did most of the re-writing and re-orchestrating of Berg’s Lulu. But Berg himself took his inspiration from Wedekind’s play of the same name. So here we have a twenty-first century opera, based on another opera, based on a play. And somehow, it all works.

Taking place throughout the 1950s –70s the audience follows Lulu’s tragic life story. Injected with a hefty dose of modernity, Neuwirth deliberately chose to centre her opera on the civil rights movement and the African American community in the United States, which makes American Lulu full of subtle, yet powerful political statements. The mise-en-scène simply works, just as the choice of audio and video material helps to seamlessly transition from one scene to another.

Angel Blue makes a wonderful Lulu with great singing talent, although unfortunately she has a tendency to swallow the last syllable of some words. Jacqui Dankworth as Eleanor is an excellent match for Lulu’s strong voice, and a soothing voice of reason after Lulu’s rollercoaster of emotions. The lack of supertitles for the dialogues is a pity, and would certainly be appreciated by audience.

On the whole, Neuwirth’s take on Lulu is very successful, both in its orchestration and modernisation. The world of music needs more people like her: People who can be smart about making a statement and do so in a wonderfully engaging way.


Antonia Landi for Edfestmag


Don Quichotte du Trocadéro

In Dance, Edinburgh, Festival Theatre, Performing Arts, Review, Theatre on August 30, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Whoever thought that catapulting a nearly 150-year-old ballet into the present day by means of contemporary dance would make it any less puzzling to us, was wrong.

While José Montalvo’s radical re-interpretation of Petipa’s 1869 ballet Don Quixote certainly feels closer to our present day, it nevertheless offers a strange amalgamation of everyday comedy, century-old allegories and complex dance routines.

If street dance is your thing, then you will greatly enjoy this show. Thanks to Montalvo’s project it is possible to see both classical music and street dance in a completely new light. Accompanied by video and sometimes even singing, Don Quichotte du Trocadéro feels new and alive. The cast of excellent dancers really make this show what it is, although their rather complex dance moves unfortunately seemed, to me at least, to be slightly out of time more often than not. Understandably, the dancers were most comfortable when they were allowed to be in their own element, with one exception: Lead dancer Sandra Mercky showed her talents time and again, delighting the audience with exceptionally executed ballet moves as well as fierce hip hop and street dance.

Among other highlights were Patrice Thibaud in the role of Don Quixote, whose effortless comedy tied the whole show together, and flamenco dancer Sharon Sultan, whose passionate and ardent performance took the energy of this show to a whole new level.

Montalvo’s take on Don Quichotte du Trocadéro offers a night full of unique performances and fun – and lots and lots of street dance.




Antonia Landi for Edfestmag

Bang on a Can All-Stars

In Edinburgh, Music, Performing Arts, Review on August 26, 2013 at 11:53 am

One thing is certain: After you’ve seen and heard Bang on a Can All-Stars, listening to the world will never be the same again. Taking music and its meaning to entirely new and exciting levels, the All Stars ensemble comprises six of the most talented and innovative musicians alive today. Combining unique compositions with both audio and video recordings, the group constantly pushes the boundaries of music, how we interpret it, and where it can be found.

Seeing the ensemble play live is much like what I imagine hearing music for the first time must be like. Even, or maybe especially, to practiced ears, Bang on a Can offers an entirely new musical experience. From cat-cameras to airport noise, no matter how absurd the pieces and settings seem at first, it is nearly impossible not to tap your foot to them. Bang on a Can successfully do what many musicians can’t: They make music entirely new, and completely exhilarating.

To say that these musicians are innovators would be a severe understatement. They take the concept of music and all its meanings up until the present, and turn them upside down and inside out. The word ‘avant garde’ barely scratches the surface of this ensemble. A truer and more encompassing performance of the world would be hard to find. And within this, lies the future of music.




Antonia Landi for Edfestmag

Dido and Aeneas & Bluebeard’s Castle

In Edinburgh, Festival Theatre, Music, Opera, Performing Arts, Review on August 25, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Making an opera feel relevant to the present day and captivating to the audience is always a difficult task. Making an opera that is over three hundred years old relevant and captivating is nothing short of a masterpiece. Unfortunately, Oper Frankfurt did not quite succeed in this. Accompanied by a small ensemble with authentic instrumentation, Barrie Kosky’s take on Purcell’s Baroque opera Dido & Aeneas simply felt a bit too ridiculous at times. Unnecessary nudity and costumes that gave the feel of a fancy dress party all too often distracted from the story. Vocally, Paula Murrihy’s interpretation of Dido was exceptional and gripping, especially during the third act. The three witches were just as enticing, although sometimes overshadowed by their own acting.

Second in this double bill was Bela Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle. Unlike the interpretation of Dido & Aeneas, Oper Frankfurt did a splendid job of creating the ideal setting for Bartók’s music to shine. Minimalist both in the mise-en-scène and costumes, Bartók’s opulent music took centre stage. By using very few props and an absolutely blank stage, Kosky deliberately relied on the audience’s imagination to fill in the gaps; a fitting decision considering Bluebeard’s Castle’s expressionist style.

Both Robert Hayward and Tanja Ariane Baumgartner, in the roles of Bluebeard and Judith respectively, impressed with their stellar vocal performances. Although some of the settings and acting needed further explanation, this was almost always done by dialogue, and is only a minor blemish in an otherwise captivating performance.

All in all, this unique double bill offered the audience to see opera in two completely different ways. Even though the interpretations were slightly disappointing at times, the evening nevertheless showcased some great operatic talent.


Antonia Landi for Edfestmag

5 Minutes with Jason Webley

In Edinburgh, Entertainment, Music, Performing Arts on September 5, 2011 at 1:48 pm


He’s loud, he’s talented, he’s away. For those of you who have missed him at the Fringe, you’re going to have to wait quite some time for your next chance. 11.11.2011 will be the date of his last gig and after that it’s some well-deserved alone time for this Seattle based accordionist. So before he takes a break, Jason decided to re-visit every country he’s played in before and more. Appearing in Edinburgh both as a solo act and as one half of the Siamese twin duo EvelynEvelyn, Jason rarely travels alone. With the likes of Amanda Palmer and Sxip Shirley in tow, you’ll always be guaranteed a unique experience at his gigs. Here he talks about his first Fringe and the future.

Tell me about your first time at the Fringe. Were you here as a spectator or as an artist? What were your first impressions?

This was my first time at the Fringe, and sadly I didn’t get to get out much… I was jetlagged and busy. But it was lovely to spend some time in such a beautiful place and see a lot of friends.

Do you feel any differently about it now? Has anything changed for you?

Before I ever came I always thought to avoid Edinburgh during the Fringe, that it would probably be a crazy rat race with so many people fighting for the attention of a limited audience. But in the end, I enjoyed the energy and think it could be nice to come back again.

Your music is very unique – not only because of the choice of instruments. How did you end up playing the accordion?

I was working on a play my last year of college, writing the music, and my father had bought an accordion at a garage sale. For the end of the play, I wrote a few songs using the accordion.

You are on an Europe-wide tour right now. What will happen after this?

A little tour of big shows with my band in the US and then a big show in Seattle and then a big break.

Tell me about the 11th November.

The 11th of November is a lot of things… it was Kurt Vonnegut’s birthday. It was the end of World War I. It is the date of my last concert this year.

Where will you be in two years?

Where will you be in five?

I honestly don’t know.

Did you manage to catch any shows during the festival? Did you see anything memorable?

I was bad. As I said, I didn’t really get out at all. I just went to one of Neil Gaiman’s talks. I wanted to see more but everything conflicted with my shows.

EvelynEvelyn – how did this happen?

I was doing this project, writing songs with a bunch of musician friends for a series of little records. I approached Amanda and we enjoyed writing together so much that it we decided to do a full album and a stage show as well.

What was the last song you wrote about?

Probably the last song I finished was my silly song about the solstice.

Antonia Landi for Trisickle.

Live review: Showtunes Cabaret – Voodoo Rooms 21/04/11

In Edinburgh, Entertainment, Performing Arts on April 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Captain Anchor transformed the Voodoo Rooms into a music hall from the 1930s, with the help of his friends Kassandra Killjoy, Tom de Lish and Lilly de Lure. An intimate crowd of about 20 people made this evening a special treat and the crowd was made to feel at home by the host of the night. The main act was Captain Anchor himself, delighting the crowd with cabaret and musical classics such as Mister Cellophane and Over The Rainbow. His performance makes it clear that Captain Anchor belongs on a musical theatre stage. Not only because of the grandeur of his persona – Captain Anchor’s voice is definitely up to the challenge.

Up next was Kassandra Killjoy, a delightfully enticing lady with an enormous voice. Kassandra’s repertoire included songs from shows such as Cabaret and Chicago. Her performance is flawless, were it not for her skimpy outfits. Whereas showing flesh in a cabaret show is accepted, if not even encouraged, Kassandra forgets that class really makes a difference. Her voice is gorgeous and could not be more suited to cabaret – but please girl, put something on!

Up next was Lilly de Lure, who was said to ‘delight’ the audience with her burlesque act. Unfortunately, she did not quite manage to live up to that, but instead provided the crowd with a mediocre act with a confusing backstory.

The highlight of night was Tom de Lish, whose set included a laugh-out-loud song about a Starbucks romance and possibly one of the best boylesque performances I have ever seen. The fact that he is trained in ballet and jazz as well as contemporary dance really pays off during his performance, as he shows off his moves with the biggest impact possible. His burlesque act contains all you could ask for – from make up to costume, everything just works, and Tom’s professional background gives him the credibility his act needs.

The final send-off to this grand little night could not have been better, as Captain Anchor once again reached for his microphone and wished his audience farewell with his performance of ‘Copacabana’, which was as memorable as the man himself.

All in all Showtunes Cabaret offered a fun filled night full of acts worth seeing, even though some were more professional than others. Captain Anchor served his audience a memorable night, and we cannot wait until he does it again.

Antonia Landi for Trisickle.

Filmhouse goes mental: Psychiatry Ethics Film Festival scheduled for late November

In Edinburgh, Entertainment, Science on November 17, 2010 at 8:00 am

Stepthen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive will be screening as part of the Psychiatry Ethics Film Festival. Picture: Filmhouse

The Filmhouse will host a Psychiatry Ethics Film Festival from the 26th to 28th of this month. The film festival includes Oscar winning films such as ‘Girl, Interrupted’ featuring Angelina Jolie and Wynona Rider, as well as a set of documentaries that look at the history and procedures of mental health institutions in Britain.

The annual biomedical ethics film festival at the Filmhouse is coming up again and this year it will focus on mental health. It is organised in partnership with the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics and will see a range of panellists discuss ethical issues raised by the films in the series after each screening. The three day festival will show a variety of films, among which is a documentary about manic depression narrated by Stephen Fry, and the critically acclaimed film ‘The Eighth Day’, in which a young man with Down’s syndrome changes a workaholic’s life. In previous years topics have ranged from eugenics and transplantation through to human cloning.

Dr Calum MacKellar from the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics explained: “It’s important [to have a biomedical ethics film festival] because it’s always difficult for the general public to get interested in issues, especially in medical ethics, that seem quite difficult to understand.” He said that one of the SCHB’s jobs is to inform the public about difficult issues, so that they can then make informed decisions about laws and legislations. “So what we’ve tried to do” he said, “is present some of these issues, raise some of the topics that really need discussing through the use of a film and then have panellists catalyze [the issues] and have a discussion with the general public”.

Dr MacKellar also stated that it is not always easy to get the films they want. “With some of the films we are sort of blind, we know what’s in them, but we haven’t seen them because they are so difficult to get”, and sometimes things do not always work out. “Some films we couldn’t show – we had a transplantation film festival some years ago and there was a very good documentary that was showing the transplantation of organs on a child, but a few months after [filming was done] the child had died and the parents did not want this film to be shown ever again”.

With the Filmhouse’s biomedical ethics film festival going into its sixth year, it still remains the only one of its kind in the world.

Useful links:

The Filmhouse

Click here to go to the Psychiatry Ethics Film Festival

The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics

One day exhibition brings Orkney Venus to Edinburgh

In Arts and History, Edinburgh on November 13, 2010 at 9:00 am

The Orkney Venus is set to visit Edinburgh this Monday. Picture: BBC

A one day exhibition is taking place this Monday in Edinburgh, giving the public the chance to engage with Scotland’s cultural and historical heritage. The exhibition, entitled ‘My Home, My Place, My Scotland’, will showcase exhibits from The National Trust, Edinburgh World Heritage, Historic Scotland, The Heritage Lottery Fund and Architecture and Design Scotland and will bring Scotland’s oldest known representation of a human form, the Orkney Venus, to the capital.


The event, initiated by the minister of culture for Scotland Fiona Hyslop, is free and will offer a range of activities and exhibitions. The star of the exhibition will be the Orkney Venus, which Historic Scotland calls “one of the most significant finds in Scottish archaeology”. The figure, which was found last summer on the island of Westray, has already been seen by over 100000 people. Iona Matheson from Historic Scotland said: “[The exhibition] covers the whole spectrum of activities; we’ve got live stonemasonry demonstrations happening in the courtyard of the [Roxburghe] hotel, [as well as] costumed performers: we’ve got redcoats from the jacobite exhibition at the Scottish parliament there, and there will also be junior guides in costumes giving a presentation of the kind of work they’ve done.”

Matheson added: “The key thing for the minister was [to create] an opportunity to target people in Scotland and make them connect with their culture.”


Besides showcasing Scotland’s heritage, the exhibition will focus on the economic value it holds for Scotland, and give the public the opportunity to see all the developments over the last few years across the historical and cultural sector. When asked if the Scottish public knows enough about its cultural heritage, Matheson replies: “It probably varies from community to community. I think they do appreciate it, but I think sometimes they are not aware of the whole breadth of activities that’s out there for them to be enjoyed in front of their doorstep.” My Home, My Place, My Scotland will not only offer a range of activities for the whole family, it will also give the public the opportunity to see ‘behind the scenes’ of historical and cultural preservation.


Useful links:

Historic Scotland

The Orkney Venus

Popularity of the paranormal is on the rise as Mary King’s Close offers first overnight event

In Edinburgh, Tourism on October 30, 2010 at 6:00 am

The entrance to Mary King's Close. Picture:

Tonight, arguably one of the most haunted places in Edinburgh will host its first public overnight event. From 11.30pm until 5.00am a group of people will spend the night in Mary King’s Close in search of paranormal activity. At £70 per person the event has proven to be popular, as tickets sold out within two weeks.

The Real Mary King’s Close visitor attraction is renowned for its ghostly past and has regularly featured in shows such at ‘Most Haunted’ and ‘Ghost Hunters International’. The paranormal has fascinated people for centuries, and TV series like ‘The X Files’ have proven that it holds an incredible entertainment factor. With more and more ghostly films and TV shows being immensely popular (e.g. the film ‘Paranormal Activity’ cashed in over £3.5m on the opening weekend in the UK, only topped by the sequel which was released just over a week ago), the public interest in the paranormal has risen to a new high.

Nigel Hosier, general manager of the Close, explains: “The whole [paranormal] market has been growing over the last 10 years. I argue it’s probably peaking about now”. He says that the fact that the Close has been featured on several shows investigating its paranormal potential gives the site an “authenticity and credibility”.

When asked why they decided to offer an event of this sort now, Mr Hosier explains that they have been experimenting with a few private groups in the past year and now felt confident enough to offer tickets to the public. However, The Real Mary King’s Close will not be transformed into a practice site for wannabe ghost hunters.

“We don’t want to get away from our core product, which is a historical but entertaining tour”. Hosier says. He also mentions the financial pressure on organisations such as the National Trust of Scotland and argues that events of this kind might catch on with other attractions in the future, if proven to be popular.

Mary King’s Close has recently been nominated for a Scottish Thistle award in the Heritage Experience category, which, if won, would make its award count go up to three.

Useful links:

The Real Mary King’s Close website

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