Category Archives: Opera

Hollywood Fringe 2016 Is Here!

gia on the move hollywood fringe festivalOk, technically, they are in previews this week.  But as promised Gia On The Move will be making the rounds for the entire month of June.  Expect to see a few more theater reviews for the next couple of weeks.  We’ll be back to our ‘regularly scheduled programming’ in July!

Angelenos!  Join us this month in Hollywood for the largest and most organized theater festival that happens in Los Angeles.

Visit: for info.

Isango Ensemble Theatre’s uCarmen Is Unequivocally Vibrant

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Carmen1_426x426When a culture presents its best, we needs must say yes, please, thank you. Then ask for more.

Isango Ensemble’s uCarmen in association with South African Tourism appearing at the Broad Stage this month brought us a broadened and integrated experience of a standard European classic mixed with pulsating African rhythms for a wildly impassioned and yet somewhat enigmatic conceptualization.

Georges Bizet’s French Opéra-Comique which was first performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, on March 3, 1875, has tended to inspire a love/hate sentiment with audiences.  Perhaps it is because in actuality Carmen, in its original production, was not a particular success at first. Its initial run of 36 performances garnered relatively uninspiring reviews from critics and apathy from the general public, even though it broke new ground for its controversy and operatic style. On top of which, even before the conclusion of the run, Bizet died suddenly, never to know the opera’s eventual later celebrity. 

uCarmenThe story, unlike the musical composition which is widely acclaimed for its brilliance in melody and orchestration, is typically overwrought with themes of betrayal and Carmen herself, so “saucy” and self-interested, is not particularly lovable or empathetic.  In fact, the score and dialog, past the death of Bizet was subject to considerable revisions including a multitude of stage adaptations since as early as 1908.

Here is the cross-road where Isango Ensemble’s version matches and departs.

Jealousy, rage and revenge are a pastime for the characters and the controversy of an independent women rebelling in a male dominated society keeps it bold position. There is a definitive grit and “street” that menaces so much more than many traditional versions. Choreographically it is imbued with purely African tones assisted by xylophones and cantations seamlessly inserted into Bizet’s score, that add a considerable measure of absolute frivolity, “real-ness” and modernity.

The arias Habanera” from act 1 and the “Toreador Song” from act 2 are gorgeously sung although not easily heard past the first rows from leading lady, Pauline Malefane.  Overall, there is an unmistakable strong-willed, feminine power solely embodied by this Carmen, obsession and violence intact.

uCarmen is vibrant, full of life bursting at the seams, and more than anything incredibly relatable especially for today’s younger audiences.

Click below for the

uCarmen Program Notes

The Devil Comes to Carnegie Hall November 6th

mephistofelesThe devil gets his due on Wednesday, November 6th at Carnegie Hall, and he has a heavenly voice!


The great bass-baritone, Eric Owens will star in the title role of Arrigo Boito’s, Mefistofele on the occasion of The Collegiate Chorale’s 2013 Annual Fall Gala on November 6, 2013 at 6pm at Carnegie Hall, 154 West 57th Street, NYC.


cast The Collegiate Chorale, American Symphony Orchestra, Manhattan Girls Chorus, and Conductor James Bagwell transport you from hell to heaven in two hours of electrifying and ravishing music. Drama and thrilling musical fireworks from  Owens (Mefistofele),  Arturo Chacón-Cruz (Faust), and Julianna Di Giacomo (Margherita), combined forces with The Collegiate Chorale and Manhattan Girls Chorus depicting sorcerers, witches, ancient Greek nymphs, and cherubim, under the direction of Maestro James Bagwell will provide a spectacular evening of heavenly music and devilishly fun.


250px-Page_004_(Faust,_1925)The evening will start at 6pm with a cocktail reception in Carnegie Hall’s Rose Museum, followed by a seated dinner in the Rohatyn Room.  The concert performance will start at 8pm in the Stern Auditorium. A dessert buffet will be served during intermission.  Attire is festive and Gala tickets are available from $1,000 to $2,500 while tables range from $10,000 to $25,000.  The gala will honor special friends and extraordinary Directors Emeriti Anna and William Mann, for over 10 years of inspired Board leadership. For more information, please email Mariane Lemieux at or call 646-435-9052 or visit .


Arrigo Boito born 24 February 1842 – died 10 June 1918), aka Enrico Giuseppe Giovanni Boito, was an Italian poet, journalist, novelist, librettist and composer, best known today for his libretti, especially those for Giuseppe Verdi’s operas Otello and Falstaff, and his own opera Mefistofele.  Mefistofele is his only completed opera and based on the legend of Faust, but titled after the character that truly drives the action: Mefistofele, the devil himself.

For a special treat and as an introduction for those of you who have never heard this incredible I’ve included an excerpt of the great Samuel Ramey singing the title role for San Francisco opera (1989).



PBS ARTS FALL FESTIVAL 2013 Kicks Off October 18 – Broadway Classics, Country Music, Hugh and Babs!


The 2013 PBS Arts Fall Festival returns in October with seven weekly programs that highlight Broadway classics, music from around the country, and legendary superstar Barbra Streisand.

image001Underscoring PBS’ ongoing commitment to giving audiences a front row seat and a backstage pass to the best of the arts on-air and online, the series will be hosted by award-winning television, film and stage star Anna Deavere Smith (“Nurse Jackie,” “The West Wing”) starting Friday, October 18, 2013 at 9 p.m. ET (check local listings).

New offerings in the Festival include: the television premiere of GREAT PERFORMANCES“ Barbra Streisand: Back to Brooklyn,” featuring the great singer’s return to her hometown; A RAISIN IN THE SUN REVISITED: The Raisin Cycle at Center Stage, which explores the impact of the groundbreaking play; NASHVILLE 2.0 which looks at some of the greatest Americana and folk music artists in the country music capital; and aGREAT PERFORMANCES “40th Anniversary Celebration” with a star-studded lineup celebrating the iconic series at Lincoln Center. Also scheduled from GREAT PERFORMANCES are a star-studded version of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company, San Francisco Opera’s new operatic version of Moby-Dickand a re-airing of the 1999 London stage revival of Oklahoma!

pbs-ipad-app-main“PBS’ commitment to arts programming has been strong for more than four decades, and our role as the broadcast industry’s only true home for the arts is solidified by this fall’s robust lineup,” said PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger. “

“The Festival showcases all forms of art from across the country, with great star power and fantastic performances. It’s a veritable arts road-trip from New York to San Francisco with exciting stops along the way, and with Anna Deavere Smith as our host and guide, we expect these shows to resonate with audiences who seek out classic performances, cutting edge music and some of the greatest artists of all time.”

The full PBS Arts Fall Festival line-up follows below.

GREAT PERFORMANCES “40th Anniversary Celebration” 

Friday, October 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m. ET

Throughout its 40-year history on public television, GREAT PERFORMANCES has provided viewers with an unparalleled showcase of the best in all genres of art, serving as America’s most prestigious center for the lively arts. Over four decades, GREAT PERFORMANCES has provided a national stage where popular artists reveal the surprising dimensions of their creative gifts and often go beyond audiences’ wildest expectations. The honored series has also offered artists a chance to pay homage to the influential figures in their lives and careers, and has spotlighted emerging artists in their feature-length television debuts. In celebration of this legacy, GREAT PERFORMANCES hosted an all-star celebration from Lincoln Center. A stellar roster of alumni share personal stories of what GREAT PERFORMANCES has meant to them, with reminiscences and performances by Julie Andrews, Audra McDonald, Don Henley, David Hyde Pierce, Josh Groban, Itzhak Perlman, Peter Martins, Patti Austin and Take 6, Met Opera star Elîna Garanèa and Michael Bublé.

A RAISIN IN THE SUN REVISITED: The Raisin Cycle at Center Stage

Friday, October 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m. ET

Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking 1959 drama, A Raisin in the Sun, was the first Broadway play to depict the strength and humanity of an African-American family striving for a piece of the American dream by buying a house in a white working-class neighborhood in Chicago. More than 50 years later, playwright Bruce Norris created Clybourne Park, a sardonic Pulitzer Prize-winning prequel and sequel that takes place in the same Chicago house and revisits the questions of race, real estate and gentrification in America.

Inspired by Hansberry’s original and Norris’ follow-up, Kwame Kwei-Armah, artistic director of Baltimore’s Center Stage, penned a third play, Beneatha’s Place, which follows two of the Raisin characters to Nigeria and its post-colonial struggles. Center Stage mounted Clybourne Park and Beneatha’s Place as “The Raisin Cycle” and as part of its 50th anniversary season. Producers James Arntz and John Paulson, in collaboration with Maryland Public Television, presentA RAISIN IN THE SUN REVISITED: The Raisin Cycle at Center Stage. The 60-minute performance documentary captures the history and legacy of Raisinand the backstage challenges of mounting two issue-driven plays simultaneously.

GREAT PERFORMANCES “Moby-Dick from San Francisco Opera” 

Friday, November 1, 2013, 9:00 p.m. ET


One of the nation’s leading opera companies, San Francisco Opera has been the site for many memorable GREAT PERFORMANCES productions. In October 2012, GREAT PERFORMANCES partnered with the company once again to record composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer’s acclaimed adaptation of the classic Herman Melville novel Moby-Dick. Joshua Kosman in The San Francisco Chronicle dubbed the opera “a masterpiece of clarity and intensity, with a score that is at once thematically compact and richly inventive.” Fresh from his headline-making appearance as a last-minute replacement in the title role of Siegfried in the Metropolitan Opera’s epic Ring Cycle, Jay Hunter Morris stars as the obsessive Captain Ahab. Richard Scheinin in the San Jose Mercury News raved that the tenor “sang with a pressurized fury that practically shook the seats of the War Memorial Opera House.”

GREAT PERFORMANCES “Stephen Sondheim’s Company with the New York Philharmonic”

Friday, November 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m. ET

Legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking musical Company — which premiered in 1970 with a book by George Furth and a cast including Broadway luminaries Dean Jones, Elaine Stritch and Donna McKechnie — has continually acquired generations of new fans through various regional productions and its 1995 and 2006 Broadway revivals. Centering on Bobby, a bachelor celebrating his 35th birthday with his ten closest friends (who happen to be five couples), Company culminates in Bobby’s transformation from unattached swinger to tentative monogamist. This New York Philharmonic gala concert production starring Neil Patrick Harris as Bobby and directed by Sondheim veteran Lonny Price, won rave reviews. Harris’ co-stars include Patti LuPone, Stephen Colbert, Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”), Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls), Jon Cryer and Martha Plimpton, who perform the show’s many standards including “Another Hundred People,” “Barcelona,” “Side by Side,” “The Ladies Who Lunch,” and “Being Alive.” Also starring Craig Bierko, Katie Finneran, Aaron Lazar, Jill Paice, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Jim Walton and Chryssie Whitehead.

GREAT PERFORMANCES “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!”

Friday, November 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m. ET

OklahomaCelebrating its 70th anniversary in 2013, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s landmark musical Oklahoma! is still “doin’ fine” in this award-winning production from London’s National Theatre. The magic of the original cast was captured in this handsome film adaptation that returns to GREAT PERFORMANCES for a special encore telecast. The acclaimed production, directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Susan Stroman, set box office records during its runs in London’s West End and later on Broadway. Critics and audiences alike were captivated by its fresh take on a venerable classic. The London production features a sensational, star-making performance by Hugh Jackman as Curly — before his ascent to international movie stardom. Also featured are cast members Josefina Gabrielle as Laurey, Maureen Lipman (The Pianist) as Aunt Eller, and Shuler Hensley as the menacing Jud Fry, for which Hensley won the 2002 Tony Award for Best Supporting Actor.


Friday, November 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m. ET

The performance-filled documentary NASHVILLE 2.0 captures Nashville, known around the world as “music city,” in its role as the historic home of music icons and institutions, as well as rising stars and young musicians who arrive with new sounds and dreams of making it big. Creating the musical landscape of tomorrow, Nashville is home to Americana music, the 21st century version of country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B, gospel and blues. This special explores the American musical melting pot, looking to the future while embracing the breadth and genius of roots music artists. From Emmylou Harris to Mumford and Sons, Rosanne Cash to the Avett Brothers, The Mavericks to Jason Isbell, NASHVILLE 2.0 tells the story, sings the songs, and celebrates the vibrancy of the Americana music scene.

Barbara StreisandGREAT PERFORMANCES “Barbra Streisand: Back to Brooklyn”

Friday, November 29, 2013, 9:00 p.m. ET

Superstar Barbra Streisand makes a historic homecoming at the new Barclays Center arena with her first Brooklyn concert. Joined by special guests Il Volo and Chris Botti, Streisand performs an extensive selection of songs from throughout her five-decade career, and duets with son Jason Gould on “How Deep is the Ocean.” The seemingly endless collection of hits and fan favorites includes “Nice N Easy,” “Didn’t We,” “No More Tears (Enough is Enough),” “Rose’s Turn,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Some Other Time,” “Make Our Garden Grow,” along “Evergreen,” “The Way We Were,” “People,” and “Happy Days are Here Again.” Reviewing her opening night, Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote, “Like few singers of any age, she has the gift of conveying a primal human longing in a beautiful sound.”


Funding for the launch of PBS Arts has been provided by Anne Ray Charitable Trust, public television viewers and PBS.

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Ballet Review: ABT – Lady of the Camellias

Reviewed by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic

Julie Kent and Roberto Bolle in American Ballet Theatre’s, “Lady of the Camillias”

American Ballet Theater is currently celebrating its 70th year anniversary with the company’s premiere of John Neumeier’s ambitious “Lady of the Camellias,” first performed in Stuttgart, Germany in 1978, danced by Marcia Haydee and Richard Cragun.    This is the familiar tale of the opera, “La Traviata”; the classic movie with Greta Garbo; and a romantic chamber dance piece, “Marguerite and Armand,” by Frederick Ashton for Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. All based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils, tell of the passionate love story between Marguerite Gautier, a famous Parisian courtesan, and Armand Duval, her wealthy pursuer. In this offering, Neumeier faithfully follows the original narrative by Dumas, and presents the story of love, jealousy, sacrifice, and death.
The dance begins as flashback:  Marguerite’s worldly possessions are being sold at auction.  The mood is dark, morose, and silent. People are milling about as someone  breaks the silence by plinking on a grand piano, testing it for sound. Marguerite has died.  Armand rushes in late, as all the lots have been sold, and manages to snatch a dress from someone’s hand.  Nanina, Marguerite’s maid, hands Armand Marguerite’s diary.  Armand’s father is present, and Armand quietly begins to recount his tragic story.
All comes to life as we see an audience of Parisian society taking their seats to view a ballet–we are watching a ballet within a ballet. The piece is “Manon Lescaut,”  danced by Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg; the story of a courtesan who flirts unashamedly, and her lover Des Grieux, and their eventual, harried and tragic end.  As a plot device, the dance serves as a signal, or ironic foreshadowing, for the ensuing events.
Afterwards, Marguerite invites admirers to her room, Armand among them. She is annoyed at one of her rude guests, has a coughing attack, for she is ill, and retires to her room.  Armand follows, and at her daybed they tenderly caress; he falls at her feet, and declares his love. Both Julie Kent and Roberto Bolle are well cast in their respective roles–Bolle, as Armand, a classic figure, tall, dark, courtly with noble lines, and Kent, as Marguerite, airy, limpid, and ethereal. When they dance, he gives of himself totally in burning love and adoration.  In beautiful, spiraling lifts, effortless carries, and melts to the floor, the dancers become one. The music by Chopin, Sonata in B minor, is lyrical, meditative, and filled with longing as it builds to their dance of love, measure to measure.  When Armand finally departs, Marguerite pins a rose to his lapel.
But all is not well.  Marguerite is pressured on all sides by suitors, and ill, absconds to the countryside, to an estate owned by an admiring Duke. Armand follows, confronts the Duke, and Marguerite finally, publicly declares her love for Armand. Here, Neumeier has created a beautiful dance piece for the ensemble.  Aptly, and charmingly outfitted in period costumes, the dancers joyfully celebrate in wonderful, circular waltzes while the stage is bathed in warm afternoon light.
The pivotal point of the story develops when Monsieur Duval arrives at the country estate to have a private talk with Marguerite. He demands that she quit her scandalous affair with his son.  In a poignant moment she resists, but then eventually promises to comply.  She then rushes back to Paris; Armand follows, but finds her in the arms of the Duke.  Infuriated, he seduces Marguerite’s friend, Olympia, in a bodice ripping scene of frustration and anger. Marguerite, stunned enters and begs Armand to stop.  They reconcile, and again pledge their love.
With the stage empty, except for golden circles of light, they dance a pas de duex of ecstasy and joy.  Armand lifts her in adoration, carries her high above, offers her as a prayer.  Manon again appears as Marguerite’s alter-ego, as a warning once more, and together they dance as a trio– all is open-hearted,  with wild abandonment. But finally, in the end, she leaves him remembering her promise to his father.
John Neumeier, no doubt invested his artistic soul choreographing this piece, and rigorously followed the story line. But for the dances of passion he created, all becomes too much of a good thing.  The heightened emotions, the repetitive mood and tone of Chopin’s music, becomes overwhelming.  One must turn away and take a breath even though, no doubt, for lovers, time does stands still. That he investigates all aspects of new found love in a rich variety cannot be disputed. Finally though, in the end, it all becomes a bit cloying and overwrought.
Later, at a ball, the women dressed in sumptuous gowns cut in a variety of styles in purples, dusty blues, sea greens, and pinks, and the men in dignified, black mourning suits dance. The costumes by Jurgen Rose are a delight. Armand then approaches Marguerite and humiliates her by throwing money at her feet for past services. Marguerite collapses, is taken to her room weak and ill.  She manages to write her last entry into her diary, hands it to Nanina, and dies.
At the dramatic final scene, Marguerite, as a diaphanous vision from her daybed beckons Armand to her side in a final gesture of love. Standing before her, frozen, looking forward, he clutches her diary.