Fathom events, January – The world-famous Bolshoi Ballet presented the equally noteworthy Sleeping Beauty ballet to cinema audiences around the world for a one-day-only viewing on Sunday, 22 January 2017. Originally choreographed by the inimitable French Ballet Master Marius Petipa in 1890. Petipa (1818-1910) is recognized as the most influential choreographer in ballet history. This current Bolshoi offering is based on the 2011 version by Yuri Grigorovich.
The dancers, of course, were exquisite. Yulia Stepanova played the Lilac Fairy with a gentle authority. Semyon Chudin danced Prince Désiré with impeccable classical lines but seemed to lack the requisite emotional depth necessary to the role. Olga Smirnova danced the role of Princess Aurora. The technical aspect of her performance was flawless, being both elegant and precise, as one would expect. Like Semyon Chudin, however, Ms Smirnova seemed to lack a deep connection to the role which prevented her from effectively communicating its nuanced emotions beyond the footlights.
The Bolshoi’s soloists and the corps de ballet danced with their trademark enthusiasm and precision. Especially charming were the eight little “evergreen trees,” amusingly portrayed by students from the Moscow State Academy of Choreography.
Maestro Pavel Clinichev conducted and the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra played Tchaikovsky’s wonderful score with great sensitivity and grandeur.
The Bolshoi Ballet is always a delight, and in spite of several challenges, this production was no exception.
Fathom events, January – Charles Gounod”s (1818-1893) passionate and lush adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragic star-crossed lovers, Roméo et Juliette, was presented Live in High Definition cinema on Saturday, 21 January 2017 to hundreds of delighted audiences in movie theatres throughout the world. It was a one-night only performance broadcast live from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. It’s world premiere was at the Théatre Lyrique de Paris in 1867 where it was enthusiastically received. It has remained a favorite operatic staple ever since.
Gounod’s opera is an outstanding example of French Romanticism, a tradition that values subtle sensuality and finely crafted, gracefully nuanced musical expression without the “push” of a Puccini. This production has already achieved international acclaim for its outstanding production values during its recent runs at La Scala and the Salzburg Festival.
The press has been overwhelmingly laudatory, praising every aspect of this extraordinary operatic work. The New York Observer cites the “Thrilling star team” of soprano Diana Damrau as Juliette and tenor Vittorio Grigolo as Roméo. And, not to be upstaged, The New York Times claims the production is charged with “white-hot sensuality and impassioned lyricism!” The Huffington Post adds to its laurels, praising Director Bartlett Sher’s work as “a brilliant and inspired new production” and “a revelation.”
Set Designer Michael Yeargan and Costume Designer Catherine Zuber have brilliantly succeeded in creating a stunning 18th century milieu with performances led by the “richly textured and Vibrant conducting” (New York Times) of Maestro Gianandrea Noseda.
Once again, Fathom Events in cooperation with the Metropolitan Opera, has offered appreciative audiences world-wide an incomparable opera experience for which we are all grateful.
December, Fathom events – L’Amour de Loin (Love from Afar), an opera in five acts, received its world premiere performance at the Salzburg Festival on August 15, 2000.
The current Met Production is distinguished for two historic reasons. First, composed by the Finnish Kaija Saariahoit , it is only the second opera composed by a woman performed by the Met since 1903. In addition, the brilliant conducting is masterfully handled by another Finn, Susanna Malkki, who enjoys the distinction of being the very first woman to grace the Met’s orchestral podium in it’s entire 137 year history. One might conservatively say, “It’s about time.”
The vocals for the evening were ably handled by Susanna Phillips as Clémence Tamara Mumford as the Pilgrim, and a powerful Eric Owens as Jaufré, all meeting and surpassing the challenges of the complex score.
Production credits go to Robert Lepage whose controversial Ring Cycle is remembered by Met opera goers. In this production, the entire Met stage is taken up with no less than 28,000 LED lights in parallel rows representing the sea. Except for the chorus occasionally popping up from between the rows, the principal vocalists are restricted to an odd, mechanical contraption in a cage at the end of a protruding arm.
The giant mechanism moves (carefully) between the rows of the distracting blinding lights. The set then becomes the forced focal point of the production, upstaging the vocalists in every scene.
On balance, the set stands as one of the more unfortunate expressions of scenic design in recent Met memory. Planning to attend? Don’t forget your sunglasses, the score is worth your time.
Fathom events, October – Offered for a single-evening engagement at select US theaters on Wednesday, October 5, 2016, Fathom Events presented Mel Brooks’ 1974 horror movie parody Young Frankenstein, starring Gene Wilder in the title role. The wonderful supporting cast included Teri Garr as the doctor’s fetching (very) personal Inga, Cloris Leachman as the evil Frau Blucher (at the very mention of her name, horses become hysterical), Marty Feldman as the devious bug-eyed hunchback, Peter Boyle as the Creature (IT’S ALIVE!!), Madeline Kahn as the horny up-tight socialite, and Kenneth Mars as the one-eyed, one-armed police inspector. Gene Hackman makes a brief cameo appearance as Harold, the blind old recluse.
This delightful film is a hilarious parody of the flood of classic horror film adaptations of Mary Shelly’s novel Frankenstein that were produced by Universal in the 1930’s. Shot in black and white to evoke the proper atmosphere, Brooks even employs the original lab equipment props used in the 1931 Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff and features 1930’s style opening credits and period scene transitions such as iris outs, wipes, and fades to black. Young Frankenstein was a box-office smash and critically considered be one of the greatest film comedies of all time, ranking number 13 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 funniest American movies.
The story involves the respectable Dr. Frankenstein, a physician played by Wilder, who inherits his infamous mad-scientist great-grandfather’s castle in Transylvania and of course that’s where the fun begins. Dr. Frankenstein decides to follow in his mad great-grandfather’s footsteps and re-animate the dead. He ultimately succeeds. “IT’S ALIVE!!”
Arriving at the Transylvania train station, Dr. Frankenstein is met by a hunchbacked, bug-eyed servant named Igor (Marty Feldman). Frankenstein insists his name be pronounced “Fronken-steen,” so Igor insists his name be pronounced “Eye-gor.” A beautiful young assistant by the name of Inga (Teri Garr) is assigned to Frankenstein and when they arrive at the castle, the doctor comments favorably about the size of the door knockers and Inga thanks him, thinking he’s complimenting her anatomy. The movie is full of visual and word gags like this. When Igor asks the Doctor to follow him, he says “Walk this way,” and Frankenstein obediently limps along behind him. The doctor at one point suggests to Igor he can do something about his hump to which Igor replies “What hump.” And much to the doctor’s astonishment, Igor’s hump also seems to inexplicably switch from one side of back to the other. More hilarious moments include the top hat and tails song and dance routine performed to “Puttin on the Ritz” reminiscent of Fred Astaire with Dr. Frankenstein and the Creature singing and dancing in perfectly synchronized vaudeville style.
“Dressed up like a million dollar trouper
Trying hard to look like Gary Cooper
Mel Brooks addressed the Fathom Event audience at the conclusion of the screening and it was a delight to listen to him share aspects of his professional career with us. He considered Young Frankenstein to be his finest (though not his funniest) film as a writer-director. Interestingly, he felt his funniest film was Blazing Saddles (1974), followed by The Producers (1968) and then Young Frankenstein. However, as far as most audiences are concerned, they are all equally hilarious and our lives are richer because of them. We may have personal favorites, but thankfully we have a rich comic heritage from which to choose.
Aristotle wrote much in an attempt to define tragedy, but claimed he didn’t write about comedy because no one took it seriously. (Drum roll please: da da bum). Without realizing it, he was our first stand-up comic!
If someone tells us they don’t take us seriously, we should consider it a compliment. Mel Brooks would.
by Lidia Paulinska and Hugh McMahon
September, Fathom events – On Wednesday, September 14, Fathom Events presented “Snowden,” an expertly directed docu-drama by the incomparable Oliver Stone followed by a Live conversation with Edward Snowden (via the internet) and Oliver Stone and the two main actors: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley (live from NYC).
“Snowden” is the story of an idealistic young man by the name of Edward J. Snowden, probably the world’s most famous, or infamous, depending on your point of view, whistle-blower, who worked for National Security Agency and the C.I.A. as a data analyst, and whose experiences with those organizations lead him to question some accepted truths about patriotism, one’s responsibility to one’s country, and to ultimately challenge the very essence of authority.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Snowden does a remarkably empathetic representation of a shy, intelligent idealist, drawn to government intelligence work out of a sincere desire to serve his country and the gradual and cinemagraphically nuanced transition he experiences at those agencies from an unquestioning data analyst to either a patriotic whistle-blower or traitor depending on one’s point of view. Stone’s interpretation of the events clearly supports the former.
In contrast to many of Stone’s earlier efforts, “Snowden” is a remarkably restrained and intelligent film in both cinematic and political terms…no rage against the system or beating the drum of justified revolution. Snowden is represented as a sincere and thoroughly rational idealist whom Stone frames within a world of divided loyalties, secrecy, and indications of astonishing world-altering power. We witness his ethical angst within a very effective restrained cinematic context. It’s a world of data, codes, and algorithms, a context within which Stone may in fact not be able to choose a course of unrestrained anger and leftist polemic as is typical in many of his earlier works.
Stone makes his case uncharacteristically a-political case with enormous skill, discretion, and restraint without the need to dazzle or enrage his audience. “Snowden” is a clear and honest dramatization of one of the more outstanding news events of the past several years and worthy of our attention.
September, Fathom events – Picture Home Entertainment and Fathom Events bring “Labyrinth 30th Anniversary” to the big screen on September 11 at hundreds of theaters throughout the country to celebrate Jim Henson’s imaginative adventure.
“Labyrinth,” a children’s fantasy complete with extraordinary Muppet-type puppets, was produced by George Lucas in 1991 and featured David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly. It was initially a critical and box office failure, costing $25 million to produce and grossing $12.5 million. Over the years, however, it became something of a cult favorite, enjoying a new audience ten years and beyond. In fact, the Fathom presentation enjoyed an enthusiastic standing-room-only screening on the evening of it’s presentation.
It was directed by Jim Henson who was the creator of the Muppets of TV’s groundbreaking “Sesame Street “ which first aired on PBS November 10, 1969 and is currently enjoying it’s 46th successful season and continues to feature many of Henson’s original Muppets, including Elmo and Oscar the Grouch.The film features a rather menacing and demonic-looking singing Wizard played by David Bowie who seems rather uncomfortable in the role, perhaps he had to share top billing with a bunch of puppets. The plot is a simple one dealing with the mis-adventures of 15-year-old Sarah in search of her baby brother Toby. Needless to say, it has a happy end.