Antonia Landi

Archive for the ‘Performing Arts’ 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

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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

Picture: listal.com

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.

The woman behind the feathers – Leyla Rose

In Entertainment, Music, Performing Arts on May 14, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Picture by Lorenzo Paxia

Advertised as ‘the burlesquer they tried to ban’, Leyla Rose is bold, beautiful, and out there. From Vampira to Mermaids; whatever escapes your imagination, Leyla will have a dance routine to match. But with so many stage personas united in one woman you wonder: Who is the real Leyla Rose?

Luckily for you, Leyla has agreed to give an interview about just that.

Tell me about your childhood. How was it growing up in Northern Ireland?

I grew up in Northern Ireland in the 80s with two sisters, a brother and a large close extended family. It was a very troubled place as everyone knows. My parents worked hard at a life that luckily turned out to be comfortable for me and my siblings, so we were not as exposed to the tougher side of the troubles. But we lived with concerns that weren’t normal, like bomb scares when you went to town on a Saturday or concerns about not walking on a certain side of the street in some areas. I went to an all-girl convent school near where I lived and girls came from all over the city to attend it. Some of them lived with the tougher side of the troubles on a daily basis. With so much poverty and no investment, Northern Ireland was not the land of opportunity. But, and probably because of that, there were great little pockets of artistic culture. It still has one of the most exciting music scenes.  Escapism and expression becomes even more necessary under hardship.

Did the love for vintage and burlesque happen at the same time, or was it completely separate? Would you still dress vintage if you had not pursued a career as a burlesque artist?

I don’t remember the first time I encountered burlesque. I feel I always knew what it was and I always wanted to be part of it. Vintage style always appealed to me and I loved forties fashion in the movies I watched as a kid. But I don’t consider [myself to] have a strictly vintage look. I love classic shapes as they suit my figure but I am fond of a bit of everything from most periods in fashion.

I would still dress the way I do regardless [of my profession] as I think I know what suits me, but the burlesque career encourages me to indulge it a little more. I am very lucky to be sponsored by Vivien of Holloway and so I have many beautiful pieces of retro clothing from her that happen to fit me perfectly. I also love Freddies of Pinewood. There is wonderful vintage shopping to be found off Byres Road here in Glasgow and it is nice to find the odd treasure.

Talk me through an average day.

I don’t really have one. It does involve a lot of organisation and I never seem to be at home for long. There are always emails to deal with regarding forthcoming shows, plus whatever interviews I am doing or bits of promotion. If it is a show day I usually have plenty to do [during] the day but I try to wrap it up in time for costume gathering, hair and make up. I have friends and family in many different cities and I travel to see them as much as I can.

What does dancing mean for you?

It meant initially a platform whereby I could act the way I wanted to and express my imagination. I fell into burlesque really – I have been very fortunate. On my first big club date I met Missy Malone, my best friend and dance partner, and we started to work together immediately. Like many burlesquers I had a big imagination as a child and was quite a misfit. Burlesque gives me the outlet for all my energies that I can’t express in everyday life. I get to show off and strut about and have fun with it. I always perform [as if] me and the audience are sharing an in-joke. I have trouble taking myself seriously as a truly serious artist. I work hard but burlesque is still mainly about having fun for me.

What is your most recent obsession?

Katharine Hepburn. It has taken me to this age and stage in life to appreciate [her] fully. I watched Adam’s Rib on the plane to LA in November and became intrigued. Then I started reading a biography of her in a library when I was killing time between appointments. I kept going back. She, and the characters she plays, represents the woman who put herself and her career first. I had always loved other actresses of that ilk, like [Marlene] Dietrich or Bette Davis, but Hepburn has captured my imagination. Her intelligence, insouciance, boldness, energy, sharp wit and feminine vulnerability are firing my imagination right now.

At a time when bellydancing and burlesque was not on your mind, what did your future look like?

I wasn’t thinking of my future then. I was still young and I was living a very comfortable life with a wealthy guy. I always liked to stay busy so I did what pleased me. I only knew bellydancing was too narrow a field for what I wanted to express and I wanted bigger audiences and more rock n roll. It is big business now. So many are into it and there is more scope for different kinds of expression and greater audiences. But by then I had moved on to burlesque and found what I wanted.

What does your future look like now?

It looks good. I have many shows coming up, more workshops with Missy [Malone] and a lot more travel. But I am planning on returning to university to study law and have been accepted. My life will take a more sober academic turn but burlesque will continue for as long as I am wanted.

What makes you nervous?

Performing a new routine in front of a small intimate crowd. Not getting my much-needed four hours alone per day. Spiders.

What would you change about the burlesque scene?

I would like to see performers value themselves enough to charge proper fees across the board, I’d love to see some burlesquers receive much more recognition and reward for what they do and I’d like to see an end to the misconception that everyone can do it for a living if they try, and that it is a good way to ’empower’ yourself. It is not therapy; it is a job, a skill, or an art form. You bring your talents and skills and personality to the stage. You must have all of that formed and intact before you don a pair of pasties. A crowd is there to be entertained, not fill the gaps in your self-esteem.

Suppose you got a new manager, and they told you to slim down. What would you say to them?

Plain and simply that it wasn’t going to happen unless for very very exceptional reasons, for example, to play a thinner girl in a movie or something. But I am no actor. I’m a burlesquer and my size has never been an issue.

Antonia Landi for Trisickle.

Meet the Creative Martyrs

In Entertainment, Music, Performing Arts on May 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Meet the Creative Martyrs. Picture: Caroline Zak

The Creative Martyrs are a brechtian-style cabaret duo that sing and mime, and sometimes speak. Their aim is to entertain the masses by throwing social commentary around the room, neatly wrapped in songs, and at this they are true masters. From children’s cabaret to hosting the most prestigious cabaret nights in Scotland, the Creative Martyrs can be funny when needed, but it is their uniquely sarcastic songs that really make the duo exceptional. Armed with only a cello, a ukulele and their voices, The Creative Martyrs infuse the old art of cabaret with a never before seen modernity and relevance while still remaining true to their profession.

If there has ever been an act that must be seen by everybody, this is it.

Who are the Creative Martyrs?

Gustav Martyr: The Creative Martyrs have been performing cabaret and vaudeville around the world in venues everywhere for the last 128 years. We perform a variety of different acts and play with the fears in society we find on the way.

How were the Creative Martyrs born?

Jacob Martyr: We do not know.

G: One would presume in the normal manner.

J: We appeared just one day, somehow, somewhere, ready to perform.

If you had to describe your act in one sentence, what would that sentence be?

G: Mimed.

If you could collaborate with any person, living or dead, who would it be?

J: The Creative Martyrs, we hear, are a very interesting act.

G: I have always longed to work and interact with one by the name of Gustav Martyr.

J: I by the name of Jacob Martyr.

Where do you get the inspiration for your songs?

J: The Middle Distance.

G: Not too close.

J: Not too far away.

If you were to form a political party, what would you campaign for?

G: We have. We find that the best campaigning is done silently.

What’s the silliest thing you’ve ever done on stage?

J: (long silence) There is too much to choose from.

What is more important, music or words?

G: I feel we would argue that the combination is inextricably linked, the partnership being unbroken wherever possible.

Tell me something unexpected.

G: Banana.

J: Grrrun.

What does this country need?

J: (pointing to themselves) Modesty does not permit us to say.

What are you most looking forward to in the next few months?

J: Time.

Do you have anything planned for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival?

J: Last year we brought a show to the festival called ‘Tales from a Cabaret’. We performed it because we felt that there were interesting comparisons between the world of today and the world of the past. We feel that it is so important that we are returning once more with ‘Tales from a Cabaret’ although we will be developing and enhancing it. We feel that what ‘Tales from a Cabaret’ demonstrates to people is just as important, if not more so, this year than it was the last.

Why?

J: Because of various situations. We do not wish to say that history repeats itself in a definitive way, of course, it is not as simple as that, but there are situations involving economics, politics and people. The way things may or may not go, we feel it is important to at least comment.

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.

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