An American version of The Magic Flute
Imagine Mozart and his librettist Schikaneder enlisting the help of a contemporary dramaturg to pitch their singspiel The Magic Flute to the American public. This unlikely premise was exactly what Boston Lyric Opera was going for with their world premiere of a new English adaptation of Mozart’s famous opera. Bolder than most, the new production featured a more comprehensive backstory, altered geographic setting, clearer symbolism, and delightful English lyrics. The stage décor was enchanting, the costumes eye-catching, and the singing breathtaking. 222 years after its premiere, Mozart’s opera sounds incredibly fresh in this ingenious reimagining, delivering its potent mix of jovial humor and nuggets of wisdom with a renewed vitality, and a surprising up-to-date relevance. Attending the BLO’s production of The Magic Flute made for a spectacular night at the opera, at once entertaining and inspiring.
An interview with the Queen of the Night
This year, the Boston Lyric Opera (BLO), New England’s largest opera company, has an exciting season lineup. Their first production, a new English adaptation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, marks the highly anticipated debut of soprano So Young Park, currently a student at the New England Conservatory (NEC). She will be interpreting the iconic role of the Queen of the Night.
Changing what’s possible, in biographic cinema
The first feature-length biopic about Steve Jobs, the iconic entrepreneur of our times, hit the theatres last week. While the movie comes out a year and a half later than the approved Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, it is not, in fact, an adaptation of the book. Director Joshua Michael Stern managed to beat the establishment by releasing his own emotional tribute to the creator of Apple computers, an ingenious movie that strays from your typical boring biopic, both in content and in the manner of presentation. The intense criticism that this movie met recently left me very disappointed, as it was clear that neither the critics nor the audience truly got it; most people seemed to get bogged down disputing the factual accuracy of scenes and individual lines, or the prominence of various characters, while ignoring the artistic merits of the movie itself. This movie is a compelling, thought-provoking drama, full of nuance. Akin to Steve Jobs, it challenges the biopic genre, going further on innovation and originality. Whether you’re a Steve Jobs worshiper or not, an Apple fan or a Linux nerd, this movie is a must see.
Speed and fury at its finest
They’re back! The star-studded cast of the venerable 12-year-old franchise, with its explosive combination of fast cars and furious drivers, returns to deliver another high-octane action thriller. Justin Lin is once again at the helm of the movie, continuing his stellar directing performance on the franchise. Lin was in fact instrumental in resurrecting and rebooting the series after the first few mediocre sequels.
Is Schrödinger’s cat dead?
Dustin R. Katzin ’12 is a quintessential MIT renaissance scholar, whose impressively diverse achievements are a testament to the remarkable breadth of MIT education and simultaneously set stratospheric standards for the rest of us. A scientist and artist in one, in the four short years of college, Dustin has managed not only to complete a double major in physics and mathematics, dazzle his peers with musical artistry and stay involved in myriad other extracurriculars, but also to have fun while doing it. His crowning artistic achievement is Schrödinger’s Cat: a Musical Journey into the Strange World of Quantum Mechanics, a programmatic orchestral work that was premiered by MITSO last Friday. I sat down with Dustin to talk about music and life at MIT.
CONCERT REVIEW BSO unveils Harbison’s newest symphony, his sixth
Two years ago, the Boston community eagerly welcomed James Levine’s vision to survey the symphonic music of the world-renowned local composer and MIT faculty John H. Harbison. Indeed, over the last season and a half, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, directed by Levine, performed in chronological order all of Harbison’s five symphonies to date. Last week, this symphonic cycle reached its zenith, as BSO premiered Harbison’s newest Symphony, his Sixth, specifically commissioned by (and dedicated to) Levine. While precarious health kept Levine away from the podium for the premiere, David Zinman, a long time friend and champion of Harbison’s music filled in. He enthusiastically conducted the concert series, which in addition to the new symphony, featured music by Weber, Beethoven and R. Strauss. Given the eclectic blend of music featured, this program was sure to be a crowd-pleaser; indeed, the Saturday performance that I attended was top-notch throughout and enthusiastically received.
MOVIE REVIEW A nerd-worthy pandemic
Imagine the chilling prospect of a deadly pandemic throwing the entire world into chaos. In Contagion, Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh takes us on a high-pace cinematic experience depicting the emergence of a novel, highly contagious viral pathogen, and mankind’s dramatic struggle to contain the disease and find a cure. Unlike other disaster movies, the science behind Contagion is highly plausible and described in significant detail, often making the movie feel like a documentary — it’s appealing to the typical (nerdy) MIT crowd. Additionally, the movie features a star-studded cast — a key element for closely connecting with the audience and delivering an intense psychological drama. While highly ambitious and far-reaching, Contagion succeeds in being both an original artistic movie and an entertaining thriller.
OPERA REVIEW The dawn of the future dramatic art
Ever felt that going to the opera is old-fashioned? Fear not. With his latest dramatic work Death and the Powers: The Robots’ Opera, MIT composer Tod Machover attempts to bring the operatic art solidly into the 21st century and a little beyond. Machovers’ opera is the most recent and most compelling display of technology-enabled art and technology as an art form. The show, which had its American premiere on March 18 in Boston’s Cutler Majestic Theatre, is a remarkable artistic achievement, enabled by cutting-edge MIT Media Lab technology that permeates all aspects of the production. The audience is exposed not only to stunning visuals and lighting effects, but also to innovative soundscapes generated by a mix of traditional instruments and electronic hyperinstruments — one of Machover’s pioneering inventions. The opera features human singers and, as the title suggests, robots (which are indeed real, sophisticated robotic machines, not just stand-in props). All performers, human and machine, interact seamlessly and compellingly. However, Death and the Powers also remains true to the operatic tradition and features a challenging, thought-provoking story, which persists in our minds long after the music has stopped and the technological flash has faded away. The opera was enthusiastically received at the sold-out premiere, with the audience engaged in a frantic, standing ovation at the end.
OPERA REVIEW Balinese paradise
A night at the opera transfiguring into a trip to the tropical paradise of Bali sounds like an excellent selling point to all the weather-ridden Bostonians. Yet, Evan Ziporyn’s recent opera “A House in Bali” has only now been staged in our beloved city after more than a year since its American premiere, which took place in San Francisco last fall.
CONCERT REVIEW Electrifying performance of contempo-music
Artistically, October is often a busy month at MIT, and this year is no exception. Vicky Chow’s recital, as part of the Bang on a Can Residency (sponsored by MIT Music and Theatre Arts department) was the first notable musical event of October. This concert was highly anticipated, given the artist’s strong ties with Bang on a Can All-Stars, a chamber ensemble renowned for its free and experimental approaches aimed at blurring the distinction between all forms of music. Chow’s recital was a vivid demonstration of piano contemporary music, showcasing the possibilities of the instrument extended with the aid of computer generated effects. While this contemporary music might initially sound inaccessible and strange, the showmanship of Chow and her feisty technique kept the audience engaged and thoroughly entertained. In many ways, this recital was a veritable eye-opener, offering a glimpse of the distant future of classical music (and music in general), and highlighting the enormous range of the expressive possibilities of the piano, most of them still untapped today.
CONCERT REVIEW An American classical music fest
Last weekend was truly delightful for classical music fans. A substantial portion of the music-making community came together to deliver two entertaining concerts, which included world premieres, surprises, awards, experiments and of course, great music. Last Friday, MIT Symphony Orchestra conducted by Adam Boyles, premiered the Symphony No. 2 by MIT music lecturer Charles Shadle and then joined forces with Aardvark Jazz Ensemble for an exquisite tour of the jazz world. A day later, the MIT Wind Ensemble led by Frederick Harris, featured the chamber chorus to premier the vocal suite <i>Spring Rituals</i> by MIT music lecturer William Cutter, after which it explored the unusual music of Charles Ives. Both conductors went to great lengths to dispel the traditional stuffiness of classical music concerts, by introducing funny anecdotes with the music to be played and demonstrating how the music works. Given these educational elements, the concerts were particularly engaging for the audience, constituting the perfect antidote to the gloomy, incessant rain that plagued the whole weekend.
Sherlock Holmes reinvented: shorter, darker and a lot feistier ★★★★✩
This is Holmes as you have never seen him. Director Guy Ritchie took Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s celebated detective (Robert Downey Jr.) and warped him so much he very well could have been a brand new character. Nevertheless, Sherlock Holmes the movie is a brilliant production that will take you on a dark captivating adventure, with lots of relentless action, veiled mysteries and satisfying surprises.
MOVIE REVIEW ★★★ A Cataclysmic Production Devoid of Emotion
It is the year 2012. The end of the world as we know is fast approaching. Due to a rare planetary alignment, an unprecedented solar flare is heating up the Earth’s core to the point that the crust will destabilize. The ensuing seismic and volcanic activity followed by gigantic tsunamis are bound to wipe out all life from Earth. There is no way to stop the cataclysm. But there may be a way to weather it out. Or is there?
MOVIE REVIEW ★★ Guinea Pigs on the Loose; Funny but too Predictable
Recent years have seen a surge of rodents on the big screen, in the most unusual and diverse roles. Thanks to Disney’s Mickey Mouse legacy, mice have always had an easier time being featured; the newest fad focuses on another type of rodents. Movies like <i>Ratatouille </i>and <i>Alvin and the Chipmunks </i>have been extremely successful at introducing to the public endearing new rodent species. Disney’s newest rodent adventure, <i>G-Force,</i> attempts to do the same for guinea pigs, yet it falls a bit short on substance. Nevertheless, the movie is extremely funny and the fluffy protagonists are quite delightful, especially for the very young audiences.
MOVIE REVIEW ★★★ In Spite of Anachronisms, Ice Age 3 Exceeds Expectations
The new installment of the Ice Age franchise is a wonderful surprise for kids and adults alike, successfully overcoming the dilution effect that commonly plagues many sequels. Although the anachronistic premise — mammoths facing off dinosaurs — is quite hard to forgive, the movie is imbued with delicious humor, snappy dialogue, and a freshness of ideas that is bound to satisfy even the pickiest audiences.
Decidedly Entertaining Forestal Adventure
While the age of fairy tales is all but a distant memory for most of us, the lure of the “happily ever-after” lands is all too strong to resist, irrespective of age. Add in some exquisitely crafted music and a few moralizing twists, and there is no wonder why Stephen Sondheim’s highly acclaimed musical “Into the Woods” never fails to deliver unforgettable experiences for audiences of all ages. After spending most of the summer working on this exciting yet challenging musical, MTG is ready bedazzle you with a journey “Into the Woods” that will surely meet all expectations.
THEATER REVIEW Something for Everyone
A couple of months ago, I was excited to find out that MIT Musical Theatre Guild would produce “Pippin,” and I have been eagerly awaiting the premiere ever since. This musical is particularly endearing, not only because of its catchy music but also because of its remarkably powerful symbolism. The story is an allegory of life itself, unwinding as a journey of self-discovery. It offers a little bit of everything and has something for everyone.
CONCERT REVIEW MITSO Performance Shines With Exuberance
During my time at MIT, I have learned that the best thing to do on a Friday night is to grab some friends and go to a MITSO concert, which is possible about twice a term. When I got to Kresge last Friday, I was delighted to see a large audience that apparently felt the same way despite the surprisingly inclement weather. Under the baton of conductor Paul M. Biss, MITSO again delivered an uplifting performance, featuring the all-time favorites Grieg's "Peer Gynt Suite" and Stravinsky's "Firebird." The program also included Beethoven's "Symphony No. 1" and Mozart's early masterpiece, the cantata "Exsultate, Jubilate", with soprano Elisabeth Hon G, winner of the MITSO concerto competition.
Concert Review Mesmerizing Mozart, Spellbinding Shostakovich
Last Friday, MIT chamber music enthusiasts had the special opportunity to hear the highly acclaimed Audubon String Quartet perform in Kresge Auditorium. In addition to Mozart's string quintet K.515, the program also included two string quartets by Mozart (K.458) and Shostakovich (No.5). The captivating performances, the intimate music, the large and enthusiastic audience, all contributed to a decidedly worthwhile musical experience.