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August 20, 2015

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: where talent surpasses itself

Jack Yan/16.19

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Stephen A’Court

Top Dancers Tonia Looker and MacLean Hopper in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Above Tonia Looker and Harry Skinner.

If you ever wish to see the Royal New Zealand Ballet when everyone has reached beyond what you knew was their peak, then A Midsummer Night’s Dream presents that very opportunity: a ballet where the quality is jaw-droppingly magnificent, where choreographer, designer, lighting designer, and musical director have surpassed themselves, and where the dancers have revelled in bringing a production to life.
   In tonight’s (August 20) world première, Tracy Grant Lord’s designs are the first thing you notice, a galactic image of the night sky projected on to the curtain before the action is revealed, then a set that can only be described as her best work reviewed by Lucire to date. Set in a fairy dell in the wood, Lord’s imagination takes us into a world of cabanas and fungi, with electric blue shades offsetting the dark, night sky. It is the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s largest set, complete with bridges, multiple staircases, even a pole from which Puck slides down. Lord notes that her design ‘includes particular structural, decorative and technical elements that exist only for this production, and have all been developed and manufactured in the company workshops.’ This is a unique interpretation, a master-class in ballet set design, all the more impressive when one considers that Lord had a budget to work to. She envelopes us with her world even before the dancers take their first step.
   Kendall Smith’s lighting design comes into its own with Lord’s set, keeping the cabanas’ interiors dark when unused and lighting them subtly when dancers appear. His moon, in Act II, appears as a round, fluorescent ring, emerging from behind the mesh. With Lord employing a single set for the entire ballet, Smith’s lighting gave the production a sense of variety and change throughout. We noted earlier that Smith employed 4,000 LEDs and 2,000 m of fibreoptic cable, and we can certainly say they were put to excellent use. Smith, whose résumé includes lighting for Andrea Boccelli and Luciano Pavarotti, and some of the most respected companies in the US, was flown out with the support of the US Embassy, giving another world-class aspect to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
   Lord also stretched her imagination with the costumes, giving the initial illusion that the fairies were petite; it was only when Oberon and Titania appeared that you began realizing their true scale. Oberon’s and Puck’s costumes had a more cinematic, modern bent than seen in other interpretations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with the former having a plunging neckline and a science-fiction feel to it. The fairies’ wings and headgear had metallic detailing, again taking us beyond the typical dell and going past the usual, traditional elements that earlier productions tend to rely on.
   Rising star Liam Scarlett did not disappoint, either, with choreography that expresses a witty yet respectful take on the Shakespeare play. Whether it was transforming Bottom into a donkey, and his subsequent comical pas de deux with Titania, having Puck swing down à la the cinematic Tarzan to commence his antics in the second act, or the strongly romantic pas de deux between Oberon and Titania, Scarlett’s interpretation brought the Mendelssohn score to life, matching movement masterfully to music.
   The music, too, saw RNZB musical director Nigel Gaynor go further than he typically has. Mendelssohn’s score was insufficient for a full-length ballet. Gaynor and Scarlett collaborated, choosing additional Mendelssohn pieces to give the characters greater depth and the story more completeness. Various opuses have been added along with incidental music, and Mendelssohn fans will recognize them and marvel at just how well they have been incorporated, not least how fittingly the choreography has been applied. It’s this characterization which marks out Scarlett’s work. The interactions between the characters—Oberon and Puck, Titania and Bottom, Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, and the comical pursuit by both Lysander and Demetrius toward Helena—gives the RNZB’s production exceptional entertainment value. Like its The Nutcracker of 2010, the dance techniques are rich enough for the adult ballet-goer to appreciate, while the structure and comical elements give children plenty to enjoy.
   Adding incidental music from Mendelssohn is not new—Balanchine did the same in his version—but the level of dedication is apparent.
   And all this before commenting on the dancing itself, which was exquisite.
   MacLean Hopper had the commanding nature of Oberon on opening night. Tonia Looker’s Titania had a beauty and elegance that never diminished even when dancing with a donkey, thanks to her control. However, Kohei Iwamoto arguably stole the show as Puck, with an irreverence that the audience loved. Harry Skinner’s Bottom may have had a relatively minor role but his transformation, complete with tail, ensured he was remembered. Lori Gilchrist (Hermia), Joseph Skelton (Lysander), Abigail Boyle (Helena) and Demetrius (Paul Mathews) contrasted each other’s emotions through simple movements; when both men are entranced by Helena, Boyle’s movements conveyed her shock at the energetic pursuit—accompanied by an equally energetic rejection of Hermia. Scarlett was never too clever for his own good: he kept to the story and the score, and delivered through the characters in subtle ways, a sign of a choreographer who works in close collaboration with his dancers.
   It was a privilege to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Wellington as a world première; after its New Zealand tour (which runs till September 20), it will next be performed by the Queensland Ballet, with whom the RNZB co-produced, in 2016.
   The Vodafone season of A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs through August 23 in Wellington; Christchurch sees the ballet from August 27 to 29; it opens in Auckland on September 2, running to September 6. It reaches Rotorua for a single performance on September 10, Palmerston North on September 16, and Napier on September 19 and 20. Full details can be found at www.rnzb.org.nz.—Jack Yan, Publisher



Top Promotional image for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Above Forget retro: the sketch for Oberon’s costume.

August 19, 2015

Johnny Depp models Dior Sauvage men’s fragrance, with Australian and NZ release on August 24

Lucire staff/23.59

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News that Johnny Depp is modelling Dior’s new men’s fragrance, Sauvage, has been making the rounds this month, and now the company has announced August 24 as its on-sale date for Australia and New Zealand.
   Unlike his colleague Brad Pitt, who was the rare male face for Chanel No. 5, Depp is targeting his message and good looks at other men—and was chosen to align with the fragrance’s positioning as powerful, fresh, masculine and confident.
   It is Depp’s first time fronting a fragrance campaign.
   The campaign film is directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino, and expresses the idea of a man leaving the stress of urban life to the beauty of the wilderness and desert, and trusting in the road that takes him there. While there, he encounters a ‘surreal beast’.
   Ry Cooder, playing his slide guitar, provides the soundtrack, accompanied by native American drums.
   François Demachy, Dior’s perfumer, wanted a scent that matched the name, which means wild in French. However, he also had to inject a ‘noble quality’ to the fragrance.
   ‘To create Sauvage, I used man as my starting point. A strong and unmistakable masculinity. Like the image of a man who transcends time and fashion,’ he said. ‘Sauvage immediately spoke to me. I had the idea of a clear direction, strong statements. It was a stone in the rough that I chiselled and shaped.’
   The scent brings together elemi, frankincense, Sichaun and pink peppers, geranium, vetiver, Vaucluse and Drôme lavender, and patchouli.
   Dior says the new Sauvage is not related to its earlier Eau Sauvage, and is more contemporary; Eau Sauvage, it says, is a ‘timeless classic’. It has a simple, elegant, and dense, dark bottle with a black lacquer cap.
   New Zealand prices are NZ$118 for 60 ml; NZ$165 for 100 ml; Australian customers will pay A$99 and A$140 respectively. Green Cross Health pharmacies, Farmers, Smith & Caughey, Kirkcaldie & Stains, Ballantynes and selected pharmacies will carry the new scent in New Zealand; Dior Perfume and Beauty Boutiques, David Jones, Myer and selected pharmacies will carry it in Australia. It is also available online to Australian customers at David Jones’s and Myer’s websites.

August 18, 2015

Fan Phenomena: James Bond gives 007 fans more; while Sugoi invites you to the world of Bill Murray

Jack Yan/12.09

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In the year of a new James Bond movie, many books emerge. Invariably, there’ll be one on the films themselves, taking readers through the 50-plus years of the Eon Productions’ series, and, if it’s very comprehensive, the 1950s CBS TV version of Casino Royale, the 1967 spoof of the same name, and Never Say Never Again will rate more than a mention. There’ll be something about Ian Fleming, and another book on one aspect of the Bond world (gadgets, stunts, music, or something else). Seasoned Bond fans will think the circus is in town again, because the new book about the films adds little to their existing knowledge.
   Claire Hines’s Fan Phenomena: James Bond, from Intellect Books (£15·50, US$22, releasing November 15), is something different altogether: Bond from an academic and completely cultural viewpoint. Intellect is famous for its titles on popular culture and creative practice, with a rigorous academic bent, and Fan Phenomena: James Bond continues the series but takes the reader into the world of Ian Fleming’s super-spy.
   Hines serves as editor, and there are 11 very distinct contributions to her volume, dealing with everything from canonicity to 007’s appearance as ‘Ladykiller Jimmy’ in Alan Moore’s comics; Bond as a cult brand and cultural phenomenon to the clothes he wears; from the James Bond films through a feminist viewpoint to analyses of his masculinity and identity. Interspersed between these are four ‘Fan Appreciation’ sections, featuring an interview with über-fan and former Bond novel continuation author Raymond Benson, artist and collector Peter Lorenz, 007 Museum owner James Bond (who had his name legally changed by deed poll) and cross-players CousinCecily and Winter.
   Even the most seasoned Bond fan might not have considered the impact of the character, books and films, and the book fulfils a very important role: it gives them something new. William Proctor’s analysis of continuity gets the book off to a healthy start after Hines’s introduction, though typographically it suffers: the type is inexplicably small, though the layout is modern and the visuals help lift things. Getting Raymond Benson in there early on also helps position Fan Phenomena: James Bond as a book for the cognoscenti as well as those who want an academic examination, and Benson reveals a little more behind the scenes of his years as the official continuation author.
   Matthew Freeman, in considering the many media in which Bond occupies, including the gaming world, shows just how the phenomenon breaks the established rules and succeeds, while Jesús Jiménez-Varea and Antonio Pineda’s chapter on Moore’s comics is bound to take many fans into uncharted territory. Joshua Wille’s chapter on fan edits does the same: while many know about ABC-TV’s cutting of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service when it aired on US TV, but there are numerous fan edits made in the digital era that had this author hunting the forums.
   Artist Peter Lorenz’s Bond film posters are stunning and present a nice visual break before Lucy Bolton’s chapter analysing the phenomenology of Bond. Bolton’s piece is perhaps closest to those Bond “collectable” books that come out with the films as she analysed the films from Dr No to Skyfall, and fans may have their own interpretations of their cultural significance through the years. Editor Hines’s own chapter looks at Bond as cult brand, and is fascinating in her study of the 1960s Eon films. Hines reconciles how cult and mainstream come together with the Bond series, successfully. Lisa Funnell gives Bond a feminist slant and the enjoyment she derives as an assistant professor teaching women’s studies.
   Stephanie Jones looks at the Bond lifestyle but primarily through the analysis of one work, The Complete James Bond Lifestyle Seminar, which she reveals is relatively light on Bond references, leading to a less satisfying chapter—though it could hardly be blamed on Jones. Llewella Burton’s chapter on Bond and fashion, and how it became a style through the rise of merchandising as the movies became blockbusters with Goldfinger is punctuated by photos from Galeries Lafayette as it opened a James Bond boutique in 1965, again gold dust for Bond fans. Karen Brooks’s and Lisa Hill’s chapter analyses the new and old masculinities through the three Daniel Craig films of 2006, 2008 and 2012.
   Crossplayers CousinCecily and Winter talk about their love of James Bond and Q, leading neatly on the final chapter by Elizabeth J. Nielsen, which deals with Bond’s homoerotic moments and subtexts. She traces them to Fleming himself in the torture scene in Casino Royale, before covering the flirting between Bond and the new Q in Skyfall, which itself has a phenomenon, attracting both women and the LGBTQ community.
   This is a volume for the intelligent Bond fan, someone who appreciates learning about the impact of Ian Fleming’s creation. Of course the films are covered more, as it was through them that Bond became a global phenomenon. The reader walks away having been better informed: this is not a Bond book for the light reader who wants reassurance of the facts they already know, but one which gives them something more satisfying to consider.




Top A scene from What About Bob?, by Jon Boam. Centre Lost in Translation, by Grace Danico. Above Lost in Translation, by Henry Kaye.

On a briefer note, but still tied with film, Sugoi Books has released an A5 book called Cook Your Own Food: a Bill Murray Scratch and Sniff, retailing at £6. There are 20 pp., with 10 smells, with some stunning illustrations, with artists reinterpreting key moments from Murray’s films, focusing on his culinary habits. ‘Scratch the smelly pads at the top right and enter the world of Bill Murray,’ the publisher asks, and you are spoiled with scenes from Lost in Translation, Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, What About Bob?, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and others. For £6, the illustrations are so good it doesn’t even matter if you have a poor sense of smell.—Jack Yan, Publisher

August 15, 2015

Jennifer López and her collection headline Endless Jewelry’s entry into New Zealand

Lucire staff/0.39

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Michael Becker/Fox


Jennifer López has collaborated with Endless Jewelry, and fronts the campaign for the Danish jewellery brand as it launches into New Zealand this month.
   The actress and singer has created her own range of charms and bracelets, to be sold in New Zealand under the Jennifer López Collection.
   She had worn items from the range during the most recent season of American Idol.
   The Endless range features a wide selection of leather bracelets in single, double and triple wraps, and over 600 charms in silver-, rose gold- and gold-plated finishes. Customers will be able to express their own unique style, with charms retailing from NZ$40. New charms and bracelet colours are released regularly.
   Endless is now available in 24 markets and 3,500 stores worldwide. New Zealand stockists can be found by calling 64 9 294-8692.





August 14, 2015

Rihanna launches RiRi by Rihanna eaux de parfum, a more ‘flirty’ scent

Lucire staff/15.54

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Rihanna has launched a new scent through Parlux Fragrances, called RiRi by Rihanna.
   The new fragrance is meant to show a more playful side to the international music artist, with top notes of passionfruit extract, rum absolute, cassis and Italian mandarin; mid-notes of Japanese honeysuckle, orange blossom, jasmine and pink freesia, and basenotes of Madagascar vanilla, warm skin musk, and Indonesian sandalwood.
   ‘Each fragrance we create brings something new and different. This is a flirty, more feminine scent. I love that we can use interesting combinations that reflect a new overall feel,’ said Rihanna in a release.
   The eau de parfum sprays are priced at US$36, US$50 and US$60 for 1 oz, 1·7 oz and 3·4 oz respectively. A rollerball is available for US$20.
   The packaging has been designed by Rihanna herself, with a pink finish, a black neck and a gold sphere. The box is meant to evoke nail-scratched metal.
   RiRi bu Rihanna goes on sale at macys.com from August 14, and at Macy’s, Stage and Perfumania.com in September.

August 12, 2015

Norell New York launches, with Riley Keough fronting Michael Avedon-shot campaign

Lucire staff/15.13

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Norell New York, named for the famed American fashion designer Norman Norell, will be hitting Bergdorf Goodman in New York and Neiman-Marcus throughout the US this month with a range headlined by a limited-edition parfum with a hand-crafted bottle by Baccarat priced at US$1,500.
   The 50 ml parfum is joined by a 100 ml eau de parfum at US$150, a 189 g body cream at US$95, and a 240 ml body oil at US$80.
   Riley Keough fronts the campaign, created by Parlux Fragrances with ad agency Lloyd & Co., and photographed by Michael Avedoon.
   The choices of Keough and Avedon—the grandchildren of Elvis Presley and Richard Avedon respectively—are meant to celebrate both the legacy of Norell and the next generation of American influencers, says the company.
   ‘We wanted to unite Norell’s strong brand heritage with an elegance that is resolutely modern. Riley Keough and Michael Avedon … [are] both born from enduring legacies and both in command of unique talents for current times,’ said Doug Lloyd, founder and creative director for Lloyd & Co., in a release.
   The new floral fragrance has been created by IFF perfumer Céline Barel, with top notes of galbanum, bergamot, pear and mandarin, mid-notes of jasmine petals, peony, orchid and gardenia, and basenotes of the expensive orris butter, vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla and musk.
   Norell, whose career extended back to silent films, had dressed Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy and Lauren Bacall, and First Lady Michelle Obama donned a vintage dress of his design in 2010.

August 9, 2015

Footnote New Zealand Dance celebrates its 30th anniversary this August with première and events

Lucire staff/14.02

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Above Footnote at its home at 125 Cuba Street.

Footnote New Zealand Dance celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and on August 28–9, it will première 30Forward at the Wellington Opera House to mark the anniversary.
   The première will take place in Wellington, before heading to the Christchurch Arts Festival, Auckland’s Tempo Dance Festival, then to Gisborne, the Kokomai Creative Festival in Carterton, and the Tauranga Arts Festival.
   The production features highlights from past works, as curated by founding director Deirdre Tarrant, and a new commission from choreographer Malia Johnston.
   Footnote will begin its celebrations on August 21 with The Art of Footnote, at a venue on Cuba Street to be announced during August. This exhibition shows posters, programmes and concept designs from Footnote over the last three decades, and runs till August 30.
   A Pecha Kucha event at the Wellington City Gallery, focusing on the culture of movement (covering dance, music, visual art and performance) takes place on August 27. The Tarrant Dance Studios at 125 Cuba Street, Wellington welcomes visitors on August 29 to an open house, while the August 29 performance of 30Forward will be followed by a function.
   The Christchurch dates are August 31–September 1; Auckland on October 15 and 17; Gisborne on October 21; Carterton on October 24; and Tauranga on October 30.
   Tickets are on sale now—visit footnote.org.nz for ticketing information.


Above Rehearsing in 2012.

July 31, 2015

News in brief: Manfred Baumann shows in NYC in ’16; Derma Rescue’s new look; Carrera y Carrera celebrates 130 years

Lucire staff/14.55

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Manfred Baumann

International photographer Manfred Baumann (left) will have an exhibition of his celebrity portraits in New York in 2016, featuring Kristanna Loken, David Hasselhoff and his daughter Hayley, John Carpenter, Mark Hamill, Alison Eastwood, Evander Holyfield, Jorja Fox, Fran Drescher, Molly Parker, JoBeth Williams, Harry Hamlin, Trevor Donovan, Carlos Bernard and Annie Wersching.
   He will also release a “best of” book covering the last few years of his work at the exhibition.
   Kinderma has announced that Derma Rescue, its high-end, luxurious skin moisturizer, has a new look.
   Derma Rescue has a higher concentration and quality of ceramides and antioxidants than competing products, according to Kinderma. It has been helping those suffering from eczema and psoriasis, and a trial with the National Psoriasis Foundation has shown ‘significant results.’
   Finally, Spanish luxury jewellery brand Carrera y Carrera commemorates its 130th anniversary this year. It has launched a book, downloadable as a PDF, as well as a video (below), covering its history.


Carrera y Carrera history from Carrera y Carrera on Vimeo












Manfred Baumann

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