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Entries in Opera (6)

Tuesday
Apr252017

OTD: Ella Fitzgerald, Al Pacino, "Ziegfeld Girl," and what's new on Blu-Ray and DVD

On this day in history (4/25) as it relates to showbiz. Consider this suggestions as to things to celebrate or ponder to liven up your day. Have a great one!

1917 Today is the centennial of the great singer Ella Fitzgerald, born in Virginia one hundred years ago on this very day. She was often referred to as "the First Lady of Song" but her film career amounted to cameos like the one in St Louis Blues (1958) where she sings a song beautifully and that's it. 

She only appeared onscreen in four movies, the first of which was Ride 'Em Cowboy (1942) but as one of the 20th Century's most celebrated voices, you can hear her music in 100s of films and TV shows... 

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Friday
Sep302016

Stage Door: Believing in Breaking the Waves, the Opera

Daniel here to discuss the latest transfer from big screen to live stage. 

Bess McNeill, the golden-hearted islander at the center of Breaking the Waves, is a woman of astonishing faith. It is the source of her resilience and it is her undoing, though the salacious facts of her downfall can distract from the strength of her conviction. However, the whirlwind of anonymous sex, medical trauma and social exclusion that characterize the second half of the film do not undo the romantic catechism of its first scene. 

Bess sits in church, beset by the stone-faced Calvinist elders of her community. They demand to know why she wishes to marry an outsider, an act they clearly interpret as a spiritual betrayal. She responds to their questions with an irrepressible joy. Her confidence in her own love, as well as that of her fiancé, is as compelling a testament of faith as has ever been put to film. 

Or, as the case may be, as has ever been put to music...

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Monday
Jun222015

Happy Merylmas !

Last year we celebrated Meryl Streep's birthday with a list of 65 appropriate ways to celebrate... and all of those still apply, so click over there and do them today. To add a 66th item for her 2015 birthday, rewatch the trailers to Ricki & The Flash and Suffragette or just daydream about Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) in which she plays a terrible opera singer


Happy Merylmas. If you're not following our instructions, how are you celebrating? 

Thursday
May142015

What's Up With Opera Pictures, Doc?

For the past year or so various Streep related announcements have revealed a curious trend: Meryl Streep is suddenly really into musically-themed pictures with four consecutive pictures of that ilk from 2014-2016 (with the exception of her cameos in other prestige dramas). First came Into the Woods, then Ricki & The Flash and next year it was supposed to be all about the Operas.  Opera? Yup. She signed on for a very promising sounding comic bio about a terrible singer Florence Foster Jenkins to be directed by Stephen Frears. The fate of the fourth picture, a filmed adaptation of the stage play Master Class, a fictionalized drama about Maria Callas's time as a voice teacher, is now up in the air. The HBO project aimed to reunite Streep with her most frequent collaborator Mike Nichols but five months after the project was announced, Nichols passed away.

Whether or not Master Class goes before cameras (with or without Streep) it will surely keep getting stage revivals since "La Divina" continues to fascinate actors and storytellers.  French diva Fanny Ardant already played the opera singer for the screen in Franco Zefirrelli's Callas Forever (2002) and word broke yesterday, complete with this gorgeous promotional poster, that Noomi Rapace is next. 

Noomi Rapace recreates a famous Callas photo

She'll star in the already fully funded Callas for director Niki Caro. Rapace broke out in a big way with the Swedish Dragon Tattoo movies but subsequent efforts as an international leading lady haven't attracted as much attention (sorry but Michael Fassbender stole all Prometheus thunder). Still, the writer/director Niki Caro isn't a slouch when it comes to winning her actresses attention. She's only made five movies including the very recent and very atypical McFarland USA, but two of them resulted in Best Actress nominations: Keisha Castle Hughes in Whale Rider and Charlize Theron in North Country. So chalk Rapace down as a threat for the shortlist in 2016 or 2017, depending on how quick they are about this. 

Thursday
Dec042014

Team FYC: "The Immigrant" for Original Score

Editor's Note: We're featuring individually chosen FYC's for various longshots in the Oscar race. We'll never repeat a film or a category so we hope you enjoy the variety of picks. And if you're lucky enough to be an AMPAS, HFPA, or Critics Group voter, take note! Here's Jose on The Immmigrant

Director James Gray has stated on many occasions that he owes his inspiration for The Immigrant to music, to be more specific: opera. How it was when he was watching Puccini’s Il Trittico at the LA Opera, with tears streaming down his face, that he realized he needed to tell this story. Inspired by Puccini’s sinful sister Angelica, he created the character of Ewa (Marion Cotillard) a Polish immigrant forced into prostitution by the conniving pimp Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix) who in a way is perversely in love with her. Gray wanted to tell a grand story about a woman in the vein of the Barbara Stanwyck films he loved, all of which were snootily referred to as “melodramas”.

And it’s precisely in this marriage of music and drama where The Immigrant proves to be absolutely sublime, Gray understood that to make an “operatic” film he needed not to exaggerate but to seek a depth of emotion heightened by the work of composer Christopher Spelman. The two have worked together in the past (going all the way back to Gray’s first film Little Odessa) and specifically they have used Puccini before, with Spelman arranging the orchestrations for the pieces used in Two Lovers.

In The Immigrant Spelman not only arranged the pre-existing opera pieces we hear throughout the film, he also composed a series of haunting melodies which both pay homage and carve their own way from where the Puccini ends. Spelman’s melancholy pieces are infused with a sense of longing that will have you humming them inexplicably days, months even, after you watch the film, making for an experience that’s quite operatic indeed.

Other FYCs 
Original Screenplay, The Babadook
Original Score, The Immigrant
Supporting Actress, Carrie Coon in Gone Girl
Visual FX, Under the Skin
Cinematography, The Homesman
Outstanding Ensembles

Tuesday
Sep092014

Stage Door: 'As One' by Kimberly Reed

Glenn here to discuss the latest excursion to the live stage.

It can be easy to bemoan the fate that befalls many female filmmakers. Lord knows I have often found myself lamenting the post breakthrough careers of the likes of Patty Jenkins, Courtney Hunt and others. Those filmmakers for whom a great early work somehow doesn’t permit them the same carte blanche movie projects as male directors like, for example, Marc Webb who got The Amazing Spider-Man off the back of a slight, but popular romantic comedy whereas Kimberly Peirce won her star an Oscar for Boys Don’t Cry and yet it took nine years for a follow-up. Still, as frustrating as it must be to them and to moviegoers when (I assume) financing doesn’t come to them quite as quickly or as robustly as it might another, we thankfully live in a society that doesn’t mean they have to sit around idly letting their creative juices stop flowing. One of the benefits of the expanding TV universe, for instance, is a greater opportunity for female directors like Jodie Foster, an Emmy nominee for directing an episode of Orange is the New Black, and Jennifer Lynch, for whom Teen Wolf and Psych have allowed more opportunities than film ever has.

This is basically a far too long roundabout way of getting to Kimberly Reed, the director of the fantastic 2008 documentary Prodigal Sons. That film’s autobiographical nature wherein Reed documented her small town high school reunion having since transitioned only to then be simultaneously confronted by the realization that her adopted brother is the biological grandson of Hollywood royalty was perhaps suggesting that film wasn’t always the direction she wanted to take her career. Yet it was an exceptionally good movie, and one that deserved to breed a wider voice for Reed and issues of transgender (six years later and it has finally reached the mainstream). For what it’s worth, I only cottoned on to to Prodigal Sons after having read about on The Film Experience.

While I am unaware of what Reed has been doing in the intervening years, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that she was one of the names behind As One, an intimate chamber opera that played this past weekend at BAM in Brooklyn. Many artists will find any means necessary to tell the stories that are inside them and whether Reed had a hard go of it getting a second film off the ground or not, the emergence of her point of view in any creative outlet is something to cherish.

More after the jump...

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