I know, I know, I've been on summer hiatus. Don't worry, I'll be filling you in on the Art Life and Stilettos summer transcontinental trek in no time. In the meantime why not take a break from the serious world of classical music and check out some rarely seen crossover talent? No, not that kind of crossover...
Opera singer, and singer songwriter Ashleigh Semkiw will be headlining the Drake Underground on Saturday, August 18. Ashleigh is a unique artist, in that her most recent operatic performance was in the spring of 2012 with Chicago Opera Theatre in their production of Shostakovich's Moscow, Cheryomushki, and if you're expecting her pop stylings be reminiscent of Renée Fleming's most recent pop curious album Dark Hope, rest assured that Ashleigh writes and performs her own music and is decisively marching to the beat of her own drum. You can check out Ashleigh's music and art at www.ashleighsemkiw.com
...and for those of you who can't afford the price tag but still want to attend the event, why not consider volunteering for the evening? "Join Opera Atelier for Mirage: the 2012 Versailles Gala and help support their education, outreach and artist development programs by applying to volunteer as a server, a live auction spotter, or even a wardrobe assistant. This is your chance to rub elbows with Toronto's elite and get exclusive behind-the-scenes access at the same time!"
Will Arnett, Jerry Seinfeld, Amy Poehler. (CNW Group/Toronto East General Hospital)
Every once and a while I try to step out of my box and have a new experience. Attending opera and classical music performances is obviously on the top of my list of regulars, along with events in all the performing arts, but attending comedy festivals is something I just don’t do often enough. When I was offered the opportunity to attend the Toronto East General Hospital’s first annual comedy gala, I decided it was about time to write about something else that makes me smile.
The event, which was aptly titled “Laughter is the Best Medicine,” turned out to not only be a fun, inspired evening but a night that made me appreciate the power we have as individuals to collectively affect the lives of others. In this case, the result was overwhelmingly good, and I’m sure being within arms distance of the well-adored (at least by me) Canadian comic, Will Arnett really helped seal the deal.
Yes, that Will Arnett. The same Arnett I fondly remember playing G.O.B. on Arrested Development, the one who played one half of a wicked, hot pick wearing, figure skating pair in Blades of Glory, and my personal favourite, as the little boy in a suit, Devon Banks on 30 Rock.
Sure, Arnett was hilarious at the Gala, but what struck me most is how dedicated his family and adoringly doting wife, Amy Poehler are to supporting the hospital. Will’s dad, Jim Arnett has served on the hospital’s board for seven years, and the Arnett family was commemorated for their long-term support of the hospital. Will was awarded the title of Toronto East General's first-ever "Honourary Doctor," to which he replied, "I'm the first doctor at the hospital that failed math and science...But I've got great bedside manner.”
Will donated his time and talent to host the event, helping to introduce the new five million dollar donation from Peter and Diana Thomson, which will establish the Ken and Marilyn Thomson Patient Care Centre, a surprise announcement of a one million dollar donation from the Jain Family, toward’s the hospital’s capital redevelopment campaign, and to introduce the evening’s comedic headliner, Jerry Seinfeld.
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Hello lovelies, thanks for stopping by today. I've been expanding my horizons and have published an article in Panoram Italia Magazine. It's a profile on Bruno Billio, a sculptor and designer who is the current artist in residence at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. I had a great time interviewing Bruno in his surreal work/living space at the hotel. Spending time with people who so fully live and breathe their art is truly an amazing thing.
Every once and a while I find myself having to take a small break from writing and maintaining this wonderful site because something has come up in another aspect of my life. If only time were more forgiving, because then I would have the time to do everything I want to all at once. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case. That being said, have no fear, the site is not going anywhere. I just wanted to help you solve the mystery of why I’ve slowed down a bit recently. I am still as devoted as ever to Art Life and Stilettos and thrilled that you have come along for the ride with me. Stay tuned for more interesting arts coverage and articles. If you have any ideas for the site, are interested in making a guest contribution or being interviewed please feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Now, for your reading, viewing and listening pleasure, I thought it might be fun for me to share some unexpected criticisms of some of history’s most prolific opera composers. It’s your inspirational moment of zen:
The Overture to Tannhäuser is one of the most curious pieces of patchwork ever passed off by self-delusion for a complete and significant creation...When it is stripped and sifted, Herr Wagner’s creation may be likened, not to any real figure, with its bone and muscle, but to a compound of one shapely feature with several tasteless fragments, smeared over with cement, but so flimsily that the paucity of good material is proved by the most superficial examination.
H.F. Chorley, The Athenaeum, London, May 19, 1855
Those who were present at the performance of Puccini’s opera Tosca, were little prepared for the revolting effects produced by musically illustrating the torture and murder scenes of Sardou’s play. The alliance of a pure art with scenes so essentially brutal and demoralizing...produced a feeling of nausea. There may be some who will find entertainment in this sensation, but all true lovers of the gentle art must deplore with myself its being so prostituted. What has music to do with a lustful man chasing a defenseless woman or the dying kicks of a murdered scoundrel? It seemed an odd form of amusement to place before a presumably refined and cultured audience, and should this opera prove popular it will scarcely indicate a healthy or credible taste.
Nicole Cabell, the un-diva opera star, returns to Palm Beach for “Romeo et Juliette”
By Lawrence A. Johnson
At a time when opera presenters are doing all they can to appear more populist and approachable, one reads countless examples of singers showing how down to earth they are by doing public appearances and meeting their fans — usually for brief CD signings — in an attempt to show they’re just folks like the rest of us.
Meryl Streep is known for completely enveloping herself in her characters, capturing their nuances, speech patterns and personalities. In her films, she's transformed herself into such disparate people as the chef Julia Child, the writer Susan Orlean and plutonium-plant worker Karen Silkwood, winning countless honors and awards along the way.
In her latest film, the biopic The Iron Lady, Streep once again fully inhabits a real-world figure — this time former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Her performance has already won her a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination, and has earned rave reviews from critics, including Charles McGrath in The New York Times, who wrote that Streep "seems even more Thatcher-like than Mrs. Thatcher."
As with all of her roles, Streep conducted extensive research about Thatcher's life before filming began. She learned that Thatcher carried around notecards with quotations from Lincoln and Shakespeare, and that she took voice lessons to sound more confident in her speech patterns." I remember reading that Lawrence Olivier had something to do with arranging for her to have [voice lessons]," she tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "He said he wouldn't care to do it himself, but he steered her in the direction of a good vocal coach. And she did go, and it did help her and and was part of the Pygmalion process."
"The COC production is presented by Daniele Finzi Pasca, best known for his work with Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo and the creation of the closing ceremonies of the XX Olympic Winter Games in Torino in 2006. In Love from Afar, Finzi Pasca also serves as lighting designer, working with set designer Jean Rabasse and costume designer Kevin Pollard. He brings his signature style to a visually arresting new production that uses innovative Cirque-like techniques to extend the range of effects possible on stage. Acrobats gliding through the air, backgrounds of silk and coloured lights, and costumes with seemingly endless silken extensions seductively weave this 12th-century love affair with the 21st century."
Danielle de Niese in a teal Vivienne Westwood corseted gown at Le Poisson Rouge in the West Village. c/o NYTimes
Yes, I love fashion. Yes, I love opera, but when the New York Times decided to do an introspective feature on what Danielle de Niese wore for an entire week, my heart sank a bit. I would have loved to read a journal about her experience performing in Enchanted Island at the Met, what went on at Domingo's birthday party, and who she's studying with in New York rather than some dull nonesense about tucking her jeans into her boots and wearing - le shock! - gym clothes to the gym. This article really missed the mark and failed to include photos of her sartorial journal, which would have at least made the article worthwhile. Of course, I still read it and have reposted after the jump for your viewing pleasure.
National Ballet of Canada, principal dancer Guillaume Côté
Directed by Ben Shirinian
Choreography by Guillaume Côté
Music by James LaValle
Produced by Leslie Aimee Gottleib and David Miller for Krystal Levy Pictures
Updated!! Check out the new translation of the Anna Netrebko interview with Vogue Russia. Meticulously handled by our fabulous friend Sasha. Thank you Sasha. Now the interview makes much more sense, and those awkward lost in translation type moments have mostly dissappeared.
Recital in New York City, main role at La Scala, a Christmas concert in Moscow – for Anna Netrebko the whole world is not enough
No one has done for our operatic art as much as Anna Netrebko. Not because she is the greatest singer of our time - there are others, and not worse. But because she is the most beautiful singer of our time, the funniest and liveliest. And she is ours.
Big opera singer - Maria Callas until 1953 or Montserrat Caballe nowadays – is a huge mobile audio speaker. She moves onto the stage, opens mouth and sings an aria. Then she moves to another corner and sounds from there.
Anna Netrebko is not thin, but there is nothing monumental in her. She knows how to improvise, trusts her charisma and body and therefore can kick off shoes, if they’re too tight; or lose a Chopard earring on the stage of the Moscow Conservatory - who counts them. Even do a somersault - as in "Don Pasquale" at the Metropolitan Opera. That's what her acrobatics lessons were for at the Palace of Pioneers and School Students of the Krasnodar Region. She also sang in the "Kuban Young Pioneers" choir. And learned to ride a horse. And was "Miss Kuban". Drama club, photography club ... but also wanted to sing - the real soviet action girl.
Here at Art Life and Stilettos, we're always trying out new things. Our latest venture is a series called Art Life and Stilettos Live. It's going to be a series of interviews streamed live, direct to you, the loyal viewer. Since this is the first time we're trying it out, there may be a few bugs, so please bare with us. Oh, and you can find out about an exciting contest we're running at the end of this post!
Author Gale Martin
Our first interview will take place live at 11:00am est (there's a countdown reminder above), with the fabulously talented author, Gale Martin. She has written a novel about a topic that is dear to my heart...opera! The book is set in Hankey, Pennsylvania, and is a funny and romantic piece of fiction that takes you behind the scenes at a small town opera company. You're invited to participate in what's supposed to be a world-class production of Mozart's Don Giovanni (hence the book title), as a gang of misfits that include determined flirts, a lusty singing gaucho, ingenious manipulators, a bipolar ketchup heiress, devious lovers, and some very determined ghosts - try to save their opera house from foreclosure. Don't worry, there's a love story too.
Big News!!! Gale has graciously offered to give away a signed copy of her book to one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter the contest is leave a comment below. I'll throw in two more contest entries if you "like" Gale Martin and Art Life and Stilettos on Facebook.
Photo of Ivars Taurins dressed as Maestro Handel by Gary Beechey - Courtesy of Tafelmusik
Tis the season for Handel’s Messiah. The tradition of performing this particular oratorio has become as synonymous with the holidays as the Nutcracker and a Charlie Brown Christmas. If you have never seen a Messiah before, here are a few that might pique your interest, performed by some of Toronto’s best. If you’re a Messiah veteran, why not check out Tafelmusik’s sing-along version–don’t forget to bring your score–I’ll be there on Sunday singing along with the soprano soloist. If you fall into the category of people who have no interest in seeing Handel’s yuletide opus, or if you’ve heard enough Messiah’s that you want to scream, there are a few alternative events on this MASSIVE list that should provide for some spirited, anti-entertainment from the likes of Unsilent Night, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Opera pop supernova, Naria.
I love it when fresh images of iconic artists make the gallery rounds. When it comes to the Velvet Underground, the Factory and anything Warhol, I am always interested. It's too bad the exhibit, All Tomorrow’s Parties - Andy Warhol, la Factory e i Velvet Underground is opening in Bologna, Italy, because I would have loved to view the more than 80 pictures shot by internationally renowned photographers, like David McCabe, in person.
Warhol was a close friend and collaborator with the Velvet Underground, and there is something so fabulously vivid about way the musicians and artists of the period were captured on film. Here are some pictures from the show, in case you don't have a flight booked to Europe for the holidays.