Archive for directors

Opera North’s Queen of Spades

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on October 20, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Neil Bartlett’s new production of Tchaikovsky’s great opera of gambling, of secrets, of love and death opens at Opera North today. Bartlett – making his operatic debut – picks his key moments from the production:

Tchaikovsky’s score for The Queen of Spades is an extraordinary thing. At once expansive, excessive and opulent, it’s also strangely interior; the real action of the opera takes place largely inside one man’s head. As heroes go, no-one is more solitary, more at odds with his world, than Herman. At key moments in the show, I’ve chosen to sweep all the glamour of the 19th century setting aside and present him with brutal simplicity.

The second act of the show opens with a grand masked ball – a scene that could easily drown the music in frocks and glitter. The task here was to connect the disconcerting theatricality of the masquerade with the deeper themes of obsession and fatality that run through the music.

A chorus is much more than just a group of people – they’re a team who can act as one, amplifying an emotion or gesture on stage to a scale that a solitary performer can never dream of achieving. Put the simplest action – knocking back a drink, in this case – in time with music as theatrical as Tchaikovsky’s – then amplified by the number of people you’ve got in the chorus, and the gesture can acquire an extraordinary kick. The simplest tricks are the best.

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Brown Bread: Miriam Karlin

Posted in Books, Culture, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

“The sequinned grande dame of British theatre, a Jewish legend and Equity terrorist.” Anthony Sher

“I can’t imagine being anything but left-wing. I was brought up in a home where justice was the most important quality. I’m part of a race that has survived 2,000 years of persecution. I think, if I’d had any ambition at all, I would like to have been the first female British Prime Minister. I would have been a rather lovely English Golda Meir, a benevolent dictator. I am, shall I say, a Utopian socialist. I have an idealistic dream of a wondrous socialist world where there will be a real brotherhood of man. I know it will never happen, but it doesn’t hurt to have such belief, and it keeps me going.” Miriam Karlin

Miriam Karlin, who has died of cancer aged 85, was a pillar of the British acting establishment who was also a fully paid-up member of the awkward squad. During sixty workaholic years, she acted in every area of the performing arts except ballet and the circus, and is fondly remembered as the truculent, whistle-blowing shop steward Paddy (complete with her catchphrase “Everybody out!”) in the classic TV sitcom The Rag Trade. Parallel to her life as a performer, she was a dedicated political activist, spurred on by her lifelong socialist beliefs and an unerring sense of justice, promoting broadly leftwing causes as a member of the council of the actors’ union Equity, and as a campaigner for the Anti-Nazi League, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Soviet Jewry.

She had been unwell for a number of years, suffering from peripheral neuropathy for a decade.

Here is the last page of her 2007 autobiography Some Sort of a Life, based on conversations with writer and director Jan Sargent:

I don’t think I’ll last much longer. I have to say that the contemplation of my own death only frightens me if I think it’s going to be painful and if I can’t control how I go. The idea of not being here only frightens me in terms of my vanity: I hope that I die looking good with my teeth in and that people won’t say awful things about me. I hope that the obituaries will be nice. Perhaps what I am writing now is my own; that’s what it feels like, some sort of a life story.

I don’t want another 20 years in pain; I can’t contemplate very much more of it. I want to say that’s enough, thank you, been there, done that, got all the T-shirts, let’s now finish it in a dignified fashion. I don’t want to die throwing up everywhere; I would just like to die nice and quietly. If only I hadn’t given that damn “Do It Yourself” book to somebody who never gave it back …

I love conversations and talking on the phone, but it’s probably because I have always lived alone. I’d miss gossip, not being here. I’d miss going to wonderful concerts listening to beautiful music. I don’t believe any longer in heaven; I don’t think I am going to hear beautiful harps in a mystical place. I think this is all there is. I’d miss music and my friends. I’ve got some wonderful friends that I’ve had for a very long time, and of course I’d miss my brother, my sister-in-law and my niece Vivien. I can’t really say “I’d miss” because I’d be dead, so I wouldn’t know how to; but if one could, those are the things I’d miss.

R.I.P. Miriam Karlin (Miriam Samuels) 1925-2011

Ken Russell: The Old Devil

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

It’s been 40 years since Southampton boy Ken Russell filmed his notorious The Devils. Stuart Jeffries asks him about saints, sinners and the most frightening film he ever saw

We’re meeting because Russell’s notorious film The Devils will be shown in a rare uncut screening on Sunday at the East End film festival. Filmgoers will be able to savour its so-called “rape of Christ” sequence in which 17th-century French Ursuline nuns defiled a statue of Jesus during an orgy – not to mention the scene in which Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave) masturbates with a charred bone from a burned priest played by Oliver Reed. Plenty of other sequences kept censors the world over in business. The Devils had the singular fate of winning a silver ribbon for best foreign film from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists in 1972, while being banned throughout Italy.

Russell’s film was adapted from Aldous Huxley’s 1952 non-fiction novel The Devils of Loudon, as well as John Whiting’s follow-up 1960 play The Devils. They were all inspired by the notorious case of supposed demonic possession in 17th-century France, in which a charismatic Catholic priest, Urbain Grandier, was accused of bewitching nuns. The accusation was trumped up by Richelieu as an excuse to destroy a Protestant stronghold.

Russell takes even more liberties with this material than Huxley. Why portray the king as a cross-dressing homosexual who shoots Protestants dressed as birds in his royal park for fun? “Because that’s exactly as I saw him,” says Russell.

(Source: Grauniad)

Woody Allen

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

With nearly 50 movies behind him, the veteran director says his latest film took ‘years of disillusionment’ to make. Here he talks with Carole Cadwalladr about his controversial marriage, the three children he lost in a custody battle, and his desire to work again with Diane Keaton.

The reason for the interview is the UK release this week of You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, the fourth film he’s shot in the UK.

Woody Allen: ‘My wife hasn’t seen most of my films… and she thinks my clarinet playing is torture’

(Source: Observer)

In Woody Allen’s universe there is no reason why some things happen and others not. His atheism allows no delusions of that kind, but what about age, I ask him? Do you resist hearing that you’re old?

“I do, I resist. I feel the only way you can get through life is distraction. And you can distract yourself in a million different ways, from turning on the television set and seeing who wins the meaningless soccer game, to going to the movies or listening to music. They’re tricks that I’ve done and that many people do. You create problems in your life and it seems to the outside observer that you are self-destructive and it’s foolish. But you’re creating them because they’re not mortal problems. They are problems that can be solved, or they can’t be solved, and they’re a little painful, perhaps, but they are not going to take your life away.”

2011 Oscar Winners & Nominees

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Best motion picture of the year
WINNER: The King’s Speech
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

Performance by an actor in a leading role
WINNER: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Javier Bardem (Biutiful)
Jeff Bridges (True Grit)
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
James Franco (127 Hours)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
WINNER: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone)
Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)

Achievement in directing
WINNER: Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
David O Russell (The Fighter)
David Fincher (The Social Network)
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (True Grit)

Art direction
WINNER: Alice in Wonderland – Robert Stromberg (production design), Karen O’Hara (set decoration)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – Stuart Craig (production design), Stephenie McMillan (set decoration)
Inception – Guy Hendrix Dyas (production design), Larry Dias and Doug Mowat (set decoration)
The King’s Speech – Eve Stewart (production design), Judy Farr (set decoration)
True Grit – Jess Gonchor (production design), Nancy Haigh (set decoration)

Achievement in cinematography
WINNER: Wally Pfister (Inception)
Matthew Libatique (Black Swan)
Danny Cohen (The King’s Speech)
Jeff Cronenweth (The Social Network)
Roger Deakins (True Grit)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
WINNER: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech)
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

Best animated short film
WINNER: The Lost Thing (Nick Batzias, Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann)
Day & Night (Teddy Newton)
The Gruffalo (Jakob Schuh and Max Lang)
Let’s Pollute (Geefwee Boedoe)
Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary) (Bastien Dubois)

Best animated feature film of the year
WINNER: Toy Story 3
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist

Adapted screenplay
WINNER: The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin
127 Hours – Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
Toy Story 3 – Michael Arndt (screenplay); John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich (story)
True Grit – Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Original screenplay
WINNER: The King’s Speech – David Seidler
Another Year – Mike Leigh
The Fighter – Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (screenplay); Keith Dorrington, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (story)
Inception – Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg

Best foreign language film of the year
WINNER: In a Better World (Denmark)
Biutiful (Mexico)
Dogtooth (Greece)
Incendies (Canada)
Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi) (Algeria)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
WINNER: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
Jeremy Renner (The Town)
Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)
Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (original score)
WINNER: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network)
John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon)
Hans Zimmer (Inception)
Alexandre Desplat (The King’s Speech)
AR Rahman (127 Hours)

Achievement in sound mixing
WINNER: Inception (Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo and Ed Novick)
The King’s Speech (Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley)
Salt (Jeffrey J Haboush, Greg P Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin)
The Social Network (Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten)
True Grit (Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F Kurland)

Achievement in sound editing
WINNER: Inception (Richard King)
Toy Story 3 (Tom Myers and Michael Silvers)
Tron: Legacy (Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague)
True Grit (Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey)
Unstoppable (Mark P Stoeckinger)

Achievement in makeup
WINNER: Rick Baker and Dave Elsey (The Wolfman)
Adrien Morot (Barney’s Version)
Edouard F Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng (The Way Back)

Achievement in costume design
WINNER: Colleen Atwood (Alice in Wonderland)
Antonella Cannarozzi (I Am Love)
Jenny Beavan (The King’s Speech)
Sandy Powell (The Tempest)
Mary Zophres (True Grit)

Best documentary short subject
WINNER: Strangers No More (Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon)
Killing in the Name (Nominees to be determined)
Poster Girl (Nominees to be determined)
Sun Come Up (Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger)
The Warriors of Qiugang (Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon)

Best live action short film
WINNER: God of Love (Luke Matheny)
The Confession (Tanel Toom)
The Crush (Michael Creagh)
Na Wewe (Ivan Goldschmidt)
Wish 143 (Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite)

Best documentary feature
WINNER: Inside Job (Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs)
Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz)
Gasland (Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic)
Restrepo (Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger)
Waste Land (Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley)

Achievement in visual effects
WINNER: Inception (Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb)
Alice in Wonderland (Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi)
Hereafter (Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell)
Iron Man 2 (Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick)

Achievement in film editing
WINNER: Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter (The Social Network)
Andrew Weisblum (Black Swan)
Pamela Martin (The Fighter)
Tariq Anwar (The King’s Speech)
Jon Harris (127 Hours)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (original song)
WINNER:
We Belong Together (from Toy Story 3, music and lyrics by Randy Newman)
Coming Home (from Country Strong, music and lyrics by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey)
I See the Light (from Tangled, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater)
If I Rise (from 127 Hours, music by AR Rahman, lyrics by Dido and Rollo Armstrong)

Richard Burton as Richard Wagner

Posted in Culture, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Even the more ardent admirers of his musical genius will concede that Richard Wagner, the man, was obnoxious – fascinating, perhaps, but almost relentlessly obnoxious.
(John J. O’Connor, New York Times)

Tony Palmer directed this epic TV mini series; Charles Wood wrote the screenplay. Vanessa Redgrave plays Cosima.

The scene that sticks in my mind is the one where Richard Burton leans over the concealed pit at Bayreuth, grins at the sweating musicians, and says, “Hello boys”.

The 2010 Brown Bread List

Posted in Books, Culture, Music, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Here is a list of some of the significant figures who departed in the last year.

Kate McGarrigle, singer and songwriter, born February 6, 1946; died January 18 2010

Jean Merilyn Simmons, actor, born 31 January 1929; died 22 January 2010

Lee Alexander McQueen, fashion designer, born 17 March 1969; died 11 ­February 2010

Michael Mackintosh Foot, politician, journalist and author, born 23 July 1913; died 3 March 2010

Malcolm Robert Andrew McLaren, impresario, born 22 January 1946; died 8 April 2010

Alan Sillitoe, author, born 4 March 1928; died 25 April 2010

Lynn Rachel Redgrave, actor, born 8 March 1943; died 2 May 2010

Lena Mary Calhoun Horne, singer and actor, born 30 June 1917; died 9 May 2010

Dennis Lee Hopper, actor, photographer and painter, born 17 May 1936; died 29 May 2010

Beryl Bainbridge, writer, born 21 November 1934; died 2 July 2010

Alexander Gordon Higgins, snooker player, born 18 March 1949; found dead 24 July 2010

Edwin George Morgan, poet, born 27 April 1920; died 19 August 2010

Tony Curtis (Bernard Schwartz), actor, born 3 June 1925; died 29 September 2010

Joan Sutherland, opera singer, born 7 November 1926; died 10 October 2010

Agostino “Dino” De Laurentiis, film producer, born 8 August 1919; died 11 November 2010

Ingrid Pitt (Ingoushka Petrov), actor, born 21 November 1937; died 23 November 2010

Leslie William Nielsen, actor, born 11 February 1926; died 28 November 2010

Boris Ivanovich Tishchenko, composer, pianist and teacher, born 23 March 1939; died 9 December 2010

Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart), musician and artist, born 15 January 1941; died 17 December 2010

Roberto Alfonso Farrell, singer and dancer, born 6 October 1949; died 30 December 2010

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