Sunday, November 09, 2014

Aprons/Mandiles Expo-Venta Baratillo

You can still see some of the 20 aprons, each one different and a tribute to creativity in Gto. Barbara MacPherson and Kate DeLos were the hardworking organizers. Karenia Fernandez and Norma Carmona also took part in the inauguration last Saturday.

I loved the extra dimension the overhanging exhibit brought to the Baratillo. Looking forward to it again next year.
Real autumn leaves from the US used here

Apron made by a friend

Barbara, Kate, Norma & Karenia Fernandez

"Blue Moon" by Mexiguana

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Books Now Organized in English Language Library

Looks topsy-turvy here but it isn't
Open M-Th 10-4, except Wed 11-4. Chances are you'll find something to read. The library even has a few excellent reference books.

Donations of books in good condition, especially fiction and non-fiction 1990 or later, are welcome. Feel free to write your name and the date of your gift at the back of the book.

Because space is tight, there are many free giveaway books for the taking.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Cervantino 2014: Great Ride While It Lasted

I have to admit I was pessimistic beforehand about this one, but I am already full of memories of even more events than I wrote about. One of my favorite FIC junkies feels the same way and so did people who knew the one or two events that would make them happy.

Jorge Volpi, the director of this year's Cervantino, opened the Festival in the presence of the Crown Prince and Princess of Japan, expressing grief about the traagedy of the Normal School students. As director, Volpi made sure that FIC 42 would fertilize culture in Mexico: Not only Proyecto Ruelas, which developed actors and drew large audiences, but the Critics workshop and the Academia orchestra, both providing opportunities for talented Mexicans and others to hone their skills. And, once again, the FIC commissioned an opera and a dance work.

Here's a heartwarming story I heard: A friend took a retarded teenage girl she knows to the Butoh performance at the State Auditorium. The young woman was entranced, responded appropriately according to my friend. Maybe there's a lesson here. Maybe more of us should think of inviting someone we know who says"I'm not going to anything." a common response around here.

Grumbles: The untimely closing of most art exhibits the principal one, especially from people who work. And as always to select photos to download akes a long time because a slideshow is lacking.

Scene from Rasgado's opera Paso del Norte
When the new agenda booklet arrived, Ii found it practical. The sabana made planning easier, though.

An under-the-radar event I found very powerful:: the opera composed by Victor Rasgado of Oaxaca
based on a play that told the true story of twenty Mexicans who died of suffocation when the train car in which they were going clandestinely to the US was shunted onto a siding. Poetic lyrics, powerful acting and singing by Lourdes Ambriz and others. Supertitled even though it was in Spanish.

I kept finding that one FIC event played off another. Just one example, seeing the staging of the soldiers in Coriolanus and then in the scenes I saw in Mexiamora. Once again, I was fascinated by  how much the costume design contributes to the effect a work has. Hats off to the unsung hero(ines) who design and make these clothes.

We were lucky with the weather this year, although the one rainy day almost wiped out the Tea Ceremony.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cervantino 2014: Ballet of Belgrade's Mesmerizing Night of Dance

FIC$@ photo by Claudio Reyes
I watched Alexandro, Alexander the Great's life as imagined by choreographer-librettist. Ronald Savkovic, through my skin -- as sheer dance without a thought about meaning. For the first hour of the 80 minute millennial ballet. I felt I was in the presence of a work of genius, a word I don't use lightly. Words fail me, except for saying that Savovic sees the work as semi-autobiographical. Instead, I''m providing a link with two dozen photos of this contemporary ballet as a reprise if you were there and an up-close look if you were elsewhere.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cervantino 2014: Unhappy Endings

I knew the music but was seeing the ballet
for the first time. FIC42 photos -Claudia Reyes
I have written so enthusiastically about FIC42 that I may be losing credibility with you, dear readers, So, even though this has been an incandescent Festival, I do have some reservations.

First of all, as reporting on each event takes more time than you might think, I skirt writing up theater or dance events that bore me. Think 1.8 of the two dance productions I've seen so far this year at the State Auditorium.

I broaden my perspective as I go to more dance and theater. I thought that although Coriolanus gripped me most of the way through, the end of this modern version let me down when it failed to suggest the noble funeral given the superhero. After seeing how Tiger Lillies staged the aftermath of Ophelia's death, I was even more skeptical of the company's decision.

In this small photo, a closer look would show
Romeo is grimacing  not smiling
At Edipo, I felt unhappy about the staging at the end. As always, Edipo/Oedipus gouged out his eyes, but then suddenly the backdrop shone a brilliant sky blue. I nay have an idea of what the director intended but he didn't knit the themes of the play together as I would have liked.

Again, during the final scene of the nearly perfect Romeo and Juliet ballet, at the end suddenly a great deal happened very fast. I consider the problem to lie with Prokofiev (or some say Stalin), not the choreography or dancing. In fact, the company from Monterrey kept me wide-awake until after eleven when the ballet ended.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cervantino 2014: Shakespeare Two Ways [Proyecto Ruelas; Tiger Lillies/Theatre Republique]

Energetic, costumed actors in scene from HEnry V

I thought I was in heaven or at least in the Old Globe Theater as I watched scenes from Shakespeare performed without a set for the audience on all sides in Plaza Mexicamora. We were watching young actors from the Guanajuato neighborhoods Arboledas, Cupulas, Martires 22 de abril, Lomas del Padre and Cervera, directed by Luis Martin Solis (please forgive the lack of accents) put on scenes from Shakespeare. We saw scenes ranging from tragedy (Lear and Hamlet) to comedy Two Gentlemen from Verona)and the history play (Henry V) shown at the right.

I wish I had a photo of Lear's fool, but the creature in a teddy bear costume moved too fast for me or was facing away at strategic moments. The actors had been trained to act for an audience on two sides, my only quibble with the production. At any rate, I hope I'll be seeing more of this this budding actress.. .

By the way, this was my second time watching stripped-down Shakespeare in a Cervantino. Several years ago a Colombian company put on a colorful Hamlet originally prepared for high school audiences in their own country. At last, I could follow the plot.

FIC Photo, Carlos Juica
Press tickets were limited, so I only entered Teatro Principal during the intermission of Tiger Lillies/Teatro Republique's production of Hamlet, notable in a different way from Proyecto Ruelas, but I soaked in enough to know I won't forget this emotionally complex, theatrically exciting evening at the Principal. .

The theater itself will never look the same to me again. The five person cast used the full depth of the stage with the three musicians in the foreground at either side. Unfortunately the Cervantino photographer focused on the characters instead showing them in front of the visually simple but technically complicated set that heightened the power of the production. I don't have a photo, either, of the projection of huge ocean waves against the back wall for Ophelia's death by water, imaginatively shifted to the open sea instead of the tranquil English Avon familiar to Shakespeare..

The dramatic intensity of the play came from the singing of the pianist-narrator who could have come from 1930s Berlin, from the actors (Hamlet spoke impeccable British English) and the Queen was perfectly cast,and from the musicians pounding out their sometimes punk, sometimes blues music, at the side of the stage.

For me, this Hamlet was a thoroughly satisfying evening in the theater with all facets reinforcing each other. Mercifully, Fortinbras wasn't brought in at the end to mitigate the sight of the corpses littering the stage. While Hamlet was dying, his pause before saying "The rest is silence" was perfect.

Note: by typing Theatre Republique into Youtube you can see a short clip that gives a visual sense of the production. Tiger Lillies Hamlet will take you to Tiger Lillies' whole Hamlet album.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cervantino 2014: Kora player Sona Jobarteh at the Alhondiga

A classically trained musician, Sona Jobarteh is the first Mandinka woman to play the kora, by tradition a man's instrument
Sona Jobarteh, the granddaughter and daughter of kora players, played her melodic 21-stringed instrument in the press room before going onstage at the Alhondiga. There, backed by five male musicians--two drummers and three guitarists-- she played, she danced, she sang--in short, she charmed her audience.

In Gambia, traditionally the kora was played to accompany oral storytelling, epics really, recounting the history of families. Sona explained that in the days of kings, the royal griot (bard) was an important asset to the royal family and continues to be for individual families. Her father, a griot, accompanied himself on the kora. Sona's family is proud of her for maintaining the family's musical heritage.

Foreigners have become interested in the kora but she said Madinkas have an advantage in learning the instrument because they have grown up hearing kora music. "The technique does not take so long to master, but the musical side is much harder."

Sona Jobarteh currently has three women among the students she teaches. She emphasizes that besides their learning to play, she sees a rise in the women's self-esteem.

After listing to Sona Jobarteh, I believe the Wikipedia article on Madinka music understates the importance of kora music to Gambians and others in West Africa. Here's a more reliable link that can lead you to  more about the kora. .

Your comments on this and other Cervantino events please!..

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cervantino 2014: What a Show They Put On!

Director Koryu Nishikawa with two singers and samisen player

The Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo folklore puppet company is a team, depending on more than puppets and puppeteers. The singers, who sit on a platform, give voice to the puppet characters. Meanwhile, the twanging, rhythmic samisen sends signals to the audience.

The main part of the evening was a two-course event: the first a play about a jilted maiden who turns into a giant sea serpent worked by three puppeteers, the other a comic piece with a pair of characters reminiscent of Don Quixote & Sancho Panza.

The puppetmasters are always visible, sitting on rolling boxes behind the puppets
After what seemed like the curtain call, two members of the company walked up the aisles holding yellow butterflies on flexible poles over the heads of the audience while people watched a comical monster ham it up onstage. When the creature finally lumbered off waving a Mexican flag, more laughter and more applause. To top it all off, as the grand finale, Koryu Nishikawa, a fifth generation Kuruma Ningyo ("rolling car" puppetmaster, delighted the audience with his dancing puppet wearing Mexican clothes.

Puppeteering is not for sissies. Years of practice underlay the success of this ninety-minute show. .

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cervantino 2014: New Yorker's Alex Ross on Writing about Music

Alex Ross & interpreter at press conference
With the Cape Verde beat, hiphop, post-Shakespearean choral music, and the complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas already behind us, what a pleasure to listen to a speaker who has considered how so many musical forms meet in this millennium.

Alex Ross, the New Yorker music critic and currently the only one writing full-time for a magazine in the United States, opened the Cervantino’s Training Workshop on Criticism in the Performing Arts and Music. His topic: The Present State of Music Criticism. 

The respected, widely read critic started by saying “Journalism is a declining industry, Critics in general have been disappearing from the printed page, including music critics." 

"My job is to report honestly on unrepeatable events What I listen to represents a great deal of work by the composers and performers. A critic has the responsibility to explain.”

He mentioned that until the beginning of the nineteenth century, performers mostly played the contemporary music of their era. By 1875, however, work by dead composers dominated the scene, as it still does.

Joroge Volpi taking Alex Ross to see the Juarez
A former English major, the speaker advised workshop members to use strong, colorful, precise language, saying they should read great prose and poetry. On his desk beside a style guide, he keeps a book of poems by his writing hero, Wallace Stevens. 

Ross, who started at the New Yorker when he was twenty-eight, gives his editors credit for guiding him in writing well. “From them, I learned a minute change can make a difference.”

He said writing for an audience with varying degrees of musical knowledge is a challenge. Writing a review can take three to four days. “I am fortunate in not having to meet a daily deadline.”

Afterward, an audience member asked Alex Ross about studies on educating children to a broad range of music. “I wish I knew of some,” Ross replied with interest, adding that children often respond well to music by Stockhausen and other contemporary composers.

[For a deeper look, see Ross’s The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (2007) and Listen to This (2011), available in both print and ebook editions].

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cervantino 2014: Two Festival Jewels

Many Cervantino events I remember for years have taken place in the smaller spaces. This year is no exception. I came out of the Cervantes walking on air after watching the dance company Tumakka't DAnza Contemporanea perform Rua de Lavradio, named for a street in Rio de Janeiro. Afterward, everyone I
 knew was smiling except for one sober-faced fellow who turned out to feel the same way as everyone else.

dance photos courtesy of FIC 42, G. Morales
The Festival commissioned the work from choreographer Fernando Melo, born Brazil but who lives in Europe. The dancers in the troupe hail from Mexico, Venezuela, Panama and Cuba and Belize. Mauricio Ascencio of Mexico City working with Melo, created a set of five planks that the dancers used first one way and then another.This multi-talented guy also designed the costumes and the lighting.

Altogether, a lucid, colorful performance, adding up to fifty minutes of pure pleasure and for sure a jewel in this year's Festival crown.

Ohnishi combines an American hairstyle with her habit of bowing.
Photo courtesy of FIC 42, Christa Cowrie

In the Salon de Consejo of the University the audience listened to the Japanese musician Takae Ohnishi play music from France and contemporary pieces by composers of Asian ancestry. She played suites by Louis Couperin (1626-1661), the the uncle of the other Couperin and by Antoine Forqueray (1671-1745), interlaced with a piece by the eminent 20th century Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, whose work is familiar to Salon audiences;  the Cervantino program describes him as one of the authentic sound poets of our time; Rain Dreaming comes from one of his less experimental periods.

After lulling us into a meditative state with the French pieces and the first movement of a work by Lei Liang,
Ohnishi cut loose with the jazzy, contemporary rhythms employed in the rest of Liang's piece and in the short pieces by Machiko Asaoka. I'll never listen to a harpsichord again without forgetting these other possibilities.

Tadae Ohnishi is one of many musical border crossers. Born in Japan, she now lives in San Diego and tours her homeland.