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May 4, 2016

Royal New Zealand Ballet’s The Wizard of Oz: a family-friendly feast

Jack Yan/14.29



Ross Brown

I truly hope Francesco Ventriglia’s The Wizard of Oz will be performed all over the world, because this family-friendly ballet has all the ingredients for first-time and seasoned watchers alike. What we saw at the world première tonight in Wellington were skilful dancing, moments of contemplation, beautiful staging and design, and a masterful matching to the music of Francis Poulenc.
   Based on the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, rather than the 1939 MGM film, The Wizard of Oz, audiences are helped by the familiar storyline, which is common to both. Ventriglia keeps the basic idea but takes some different parts from the book compared to the well known film, and in the adaptation to a ballet enhances certain scenes. The structure is of a classical ballet, as are many of the dance moves, including some neatly executed lifts and catches in two pas de deux in Act II, between the Prince and Princess of Porcelain (William Fitzgerald and Laura Jones on opening night), and the Wizard (Fitzgerald again) and Dorothy (Lucy Green).
   Ventriglia forgoes the cyclone in favour of a simpler Dorothy in hospital with a coma, watched over by her Uncle Henry (Sir Jon Trimmer), but once she is deposited in the land of the Munchkins, you know that the action has started. The use of this device is very personal to Ventriglia, and can be traced back to when he was five years old in Genova, when he noticed that a girl in isolation in a children’s hospital had gone from her bed one day. His mother told him that she had gone to the Emerald City in the Land of Oz.
   A blue sky backdrop links each scene with Dorothy, and on its first appearance in Act I, lights up one’s mood. Gianluca Falaschi, The Wizard of Oz’s designer, approaches the set with both creativity and sensibility. Doors open up revealing different scenes behind the sky set, depending on the context, but it works well, giving the stage additional depth. Watch out for both the Emerald City, which borders on a bright discothèque—and no, there are no shades of 1974’s film The Wiz here—and the Kingdom of Porcelain, which is revealed in the second act. There is one beautiful touch near the close of the second act where the Wizard offers to take Dorothy away, but the fear of revealing spoilers prevent me from telling you just what Falaschi has created.
   The costumes deserve extra mention. Glinda, the Witch of the North, danced by Abigail Boyle with plenty of movements en pointe, sparkled with a bright white costume that featured 1,000 sequinned butterflies, giving her an other-worldliness; this contrasted Dorothy’s simpler farm dress that Falaschi says took its cue from the film. Dorothy’s multiple costume changes—her "saucer tutu" for the Porcelain scene, for instance—hint at the chequered pattern of her original dress, so audiences are clear that Green is dancing in the same role. The Witch of the West (Mayu Tanigaito) only has the Flying Monkeys for her allies in this version, but she enters the stage looking sinister, her outfit having connections to more adult themes but considerably toned down for a family audience. The Flying Monkeys, meanwhile, are bare-chested but masked while they are under her spell, wearing large, black skirts. Elaborate, dominating movements convey their evil intent, while the chandeliers and prison cage on the set contrast with the simplicity of the blue sky of Dorothy’s world.
   Scarecrow (Loughlan Prior) deserves additional mention since he is the first character to follow Dorothy and, therefore, has a greater role on stage; Prior’s floppy, soft movements convey his character’s construction neatly. Tin Man (Massimo Margaria)’s metallic detailing on his outfit wasn’t as easily seen and almost looked as though he was wearing a body colour, but thankfully this newer interpretation allowed the ballerino much freer movement. Jacob Chown got into his Lion character from his first moment on stage, right through to when he took a bow.
   Felipe Domingos, as the Guardian of the Emerald City cut a distinctive figure with his flowing movements, and shone in his first scene; Harry Skinner’s Yellow Cat, chasing after the mice played by Linda Messina and Tonia Looker, was a particularly likeable comedic performance (though one wonders why the cat is bigger than the dog: Toto is a stuffed toy in this version). Watch out, too, for a tap-dancing scene as Green dons red shoes instead of the Silver Shoes from the book.
   Falaschi is inspired by 1930s bathing costumes, flapper dresses and cloches, and a bellhop’s uniform for the Guardian, all of which he works in to give The Wizard of Oz, a visual feel that is its own. In all, 37 new costumes were created for the production.
   Jason Morphett’s lighting was particularly clever, as Falaschi’s box set forced him to use lights in the corner. He based his concepts on Poulenc’s music, which lent itself well to visuals thanks to its lyrical nature. I tend to find lyrical scores can paint a scene better than those founded on sound effects, and the compilation of various Poulenc compositions, compiled by RNZB pianist Michael Pansters from two dozen recordings, worked well as a complete ballet. Ventriglia calls the score ‘very cinematic,’ and that seems a very apt description.
   As detailed in our preview, the ballet began life as an unperformed, single-act ballet, which Ventriglia first conceived when artistic director of Maggio Danze in Firenze. There is an additional meaning here, as Ventriglia, who hails from Italy, has had to ask himself just what ‘home’ means, as Dorothy had to discover: ‘My conclusion is that home is where you feel grounded and comfortable within yourself,’ he writes in the programme. ‘For me that place is the dance studio.’
   The work, he writes, has been adapted to the dancing style of the company and the new inspirations he has found in New Zealand since his arrival a year and a half ago.
   The Wizard of Oz achieves its aim of being a big-story ballet that appeals to everyone, and audiences will be delighted at this latest production.
   The Ryman Healthcare Season of The Wizard of Oz kicks off in Wellington on May 4, and will visit nine centres around New Zealand: Christchurch, Invercargill, Dunedin, Blenheim, Rotorua, Auckland, Palmerston North, and Napier. Further information can be found at the Royal New Zealand Ballet website, www.rnzb.org.nz.—Jack Yan, Publisher


April 26, 2016

The big reveal for HTC’s 10 smartphone in New York

Lola Cristall/10.59


New York rolled out the red carpet for the big reveal of HTC’s newly and much awaited 2016 flagship smartphone earlier in April. Weeks before, the industry were enthusiastically anticipating the state-of-the-art HTC 10. Its sleek look, elegant structure and slightly oblique curves radiate with sophistication.
   The aluminium unibody Android stores up to 27 hours of power, thanks to the company’s PowerBotics component that enhances battery life. The up-to-date Qualcomm Snapdragon processor accelerates speed and connectivity with impressive graphics. Other innovations include their BoomSound Hi-Fi edition for stunning sound quality. Additional features include a rough textured power button, a concealed SIM card slot and volume control. A dual-tone LED flash, a laser autofocus, a back-illuminated sensor (BSI), front and back UltraPixel cameras with optical image stabilization (OIS) for pictures and selfies, permitting the photographer to evade the unwanted blur. The 12 Mpixel camera can capture moments in a flash (literally) in a speed of 0·6 seconds. Other features also include face detection and a self-timer. The scratch and damage-resistant glass covers a high-resolution 5·2-inch screen with 2,560 by 1,440 pixels, a whopping pixel density of 564 ppi. The metal body and rigorous glass front beautifully complement each other to provide a robust handset that can withstand scratches and scrapes.
   It is a delicate, elegant gadget with a fingerprint sensor, which can speedily detect the user unlocking the device in 0·2 seconds, and an easy-to-navigate touch-screen, all in the comfort of one’s hand. HTC 10 will officially be released in May and will be available in two shades, including grey and silver.—Lola Cristall, Paris editor


April 21, 2016

Renault releases first details of Koleos II, its most upscale SUV yet

Jack Yan/13.11

We had anticipated this announcement since Salvatore Marti, operations’ manager of Renault New Zealand, told us to wait till April 21 to see photographs of the Koleos II, the company’s latest SUV.
   He never said Renault Maxthon, which was the name bandied about by the media for part of 2016. There’s a logic to having another name with a hard k sound at the start, tying in to Captur and Kadjar, Renault’s other own-brand SUVs.
   We had been concerned that the new Koleos wouldn’t match the Kadjar in looks, since the current model was conceived by Samsung of Korea, one of Renault’s subsidiaries, and never had the flair of some of its rivals.
   Marti assured us that we shouldn’t worry, and he was right: Koleos, which has the same 2,705 mm wheelbase as the Nissan X-Trail, is arguably better looking than the Kadjar. It’s also slightly bigger, in the same way the X-Trail is bigger than its sister car, the Nissan Qashqai, by the same amount. Both sets of Renault’s and Nissan’s SUVs are on Renault’s CMF–C/D platform.
   However, the Koleos will only be a five-seater, with Renault design boss Laurens van den Acker saying that the company was already catering to the seven-seat market with its Scénic IV and Espace V.
   The grille is similar to that of the international (as opposed to the Chinese-market) Renault Talisman, which had been fêted as the Most Beautiful Car of the Year by the Festival Automobile International in Paris. It also ties in to the look of the Renault Mégane IV. It appears that Renault is looking to target more upscale buyers with the Koleos.
   The Koleos II is one of the débutantes at the Beijing Motor Show next week, with CEO Carlos Ghosn officially unveiling it on the 25th. It will be built in Wuhan for the Chinese market, but no announcement has been made on where other countries’ Koleoses will be sourced from. Chinese buyers will get 2·0- and 2·5-litre petrol models, with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive.
   The Koleos II will be sold in New Zealand, but the Kadjar will not, said Marti.—Jack Yan, Publisher

April 16, 2016

Kasia Smutniak launches Mya special edition of Lancia’s last car, the Ypsilon, at Spazio Arôme in Milano

Jack Yan/12.09



We might as well enjoy it while it lasts, because this is the last Lancia.
   With the demise of the Delta—one of our favourites—in 2014, there’s a single model line left for the fabled Italian brand: the Ypsilon. After that, Lancias will be no more, the 110-year-old brand being consigned to history as Fiat kills it off.
   The Ypsilon is effectively the successor to the old Autobianchi superminis such as the A112 and Y10, a marque which had also disappeared, after once being the brand where Fiat tried out new concepts such as hatchbacks and front-wheel drive.
   Not even a brand that has had cars such as the Aurelia, Fulvia and Gamma coupés, Stratos and Beta Montecarlo can survive a lack of attention, and the Mya is one of the last editions of Ypsilon that will wear the Lancia badge.
   Fiat’s now busy, of course, with profitable Jeeps and the renaissance of Alfa Romeo, although it still pumped some money into an event in Milano for the Lancia Ypsilon Mya at the Spazio Arôme.
   This special edition sees Polish actress Kasia Smutniak (known to Anglophone audiences for the actioner From Paris with Love) as its spokeswoman, succeeding other Lancia faces such as Carla Bruni.
   The launch used video mapping imaging techniques behind Smutniak, projecting graphics on to real surfaces. Lancia says it sees the Ypsilon Mya as a ‘second home’, with Antonella Bruno, head of Lancia for EMEA even interviewing Debora Conti, a life coach, on the relationship between space and emotion, and Fire Cars’ Annacarla Giusti confirming that the car has style and elegance.
   Admittedly, the tipo 846 Ypsilon, which has been around since 2011, has aged remarkably well, and the shape still has a certain elegance to it. The interior features Alcantara and a denim-look fabric. The exterior sees the addition of two shades—though they are both grey. Ardesia Grey is standard, and a three-layer Lunare Grey comes as an option. Neve White, Vulcano Black and Blu di Blu are also available from the regular Ypsilon line, which sees a palette of 12 colours.
   To give it a subtle lift, there is a satin finish on the front bumper, the lower grille inserts, door mirrors, door handles, the Ypsilon badge on the tailgate, and the Mya logo on the wheel arches.
   The Ypsilon features at the Spazio Arôme this weekend, and that of April 23–4.—Jack Yan, Publisher






April 12, 2016

Aston Martin brand now on exclusive powerboat, Quintessence Yachts’ AM37

Lucire staff/10.51




Quintessence

Aston Martin’s riding a high: from showing off its next-generation car, the DB11, which puts the company back into a competitive position for grand tourers, to releasing the new AM37 powerboat with Quintessence Yachts during Salone del Mobile, the Milanese design week.
   Salone del Mobile will see over 400,000 guests across Milano, and the AM37 will be showcased at the Larusmiani Concept Boutique on via Monte Napoleone from April 12 to 18. On April 13, Quintessence Yachts will hold the worldwide preview of the powerboat.
   â€˜The AM37 is the result of years of research and development, challenging the status quo of the nautical world. Fusing the maritime and automotive worlds with the universal characteristics of style and elegance, the core of the AM37 offers the perfect balance of design and engineering, performance and comfort, luxury and functionality,’ said Aston Martin Lagonda in a release.
   The powerboat essentially takes Aston Martin’s design hallmarks and translates them into a cutting-edge nautical form, and is part of the company’s licensing programme, the Art of Living portfolio.
   The company had realized it had built up extensive brand equity, and has a list of licensees or strategic partners.
   Marek Reichman, Aston Martin’s chief creative officer, said, ‘It is true that a beautiful, simple shape is critical to a product’s success but it must also have drama, which is provided by surface language, proportions, and through the choice of exciting materials. The most important attribute for Aston Martin is the language of design and we have transferred this language into AM37. The new powerboat represents the ideal combination of luxurious and technical materials, generating a powerful yet understated finished product.’
   Quintessence Yachts’ CEO, Mariella Mengozzi, said, ‘At Quintessence Yachts we translate design in functionality and technology to enhance the customer experience. We’re proud to present elements of the AM37 at Milan Design Week, a boat that represents an entirely new concept for the yachting world.’





Quintessence

April 5, 2016

Royal New Zealand Ballet announces world première of The Wizard of Oz

Lucire staff/12.08


Ross Brown

The Royal New Zealand Ballet released more news about its much-anticipated première this year of The Wizard of Oz, conceived by its artistic director Francesco Ventriglia.
   Based on the 1900 novel by L. Frank Baum, the ballet will be in two acts and will stay true to the source material.
   It began its life in Firenze in 2013 as a one-act ballet but was never performed. Ventriglia took the opportunity to re-create it for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, with the music of French pianist and composer Francis Poulenc. Poulenc’s style is melodical, with the production using the music from his jazz age, earlier in his career. Ventriglia says the score is ‘a greatest hits of Poulenc,’ compiled by RNZB pianist Michael Pansters.
   Said Ventriglia in a release, ‘This story is very close to my heart. I loved it as a child and feel that it holds many truths that are too easily forgotten or overlooked in adulthood. I’m delighted to choreograph this ballet for my New Zealand dancers and to have its world première in New Zealand—my new home.’
   He added, ‘Each character has their own dance vocabulary—classical pointe work, barefooted contemporary ballet, and even some ruby slipper tap dancing.’
   Sets and costumes were designed by Gianluca Falaschi in Italy. Ventriglia said, ‘There’s tutus for the porcelain world, Munchkins in 1930s-style bathing suits, bare-chested flying monkeys, butterfly-gowned Good Witch, exaggerated bustle and black corset for the Wicked Witch and of course loads of green sequins, red glitter and gingham.’
   The Ryman Healthcare Season of The Wizard of Oz kicks off in Wellington on May 4, and will visit nine centres around New Zealand: Christchurch, Invercargill, Dunedin, Blenheim, Rotorua, Auckland, Palmerston North, and Napier. Further information can be found at the Royal New Zealand Ballet website, www.rnzb.org.nz.

March 15, 2016

News in brief: Fossil shows new smartwatches at Baselworld; Acorelle creates its extraits d’émotion

Lucire staff/21.04


Fossil has announced slimmer Android Wear smartwatches (Q Marshal and Q Wander) as well as new activity trackers and smarter analogue watches at Baselworld. The new smartwatches have a silicone strap option, and cases measuring 44 mm and 46 mm. The Q Wander comes with an interchangeable leather strap, while the Q Marshal has a rugged case and vintage-inspired leather straps. The displays are always on, and allow wearers to track their commutes, flights and appointments with Google Now cards. They work through tapping or voice commands, and their faces can be customized. Prices start at US$275.
   The analogue watches alert wearers to incoming calls and notifications through the turn of the watch hands, and are capable of tracking calories, sleep, time zones, and can connect to an Android smartphone or Iphone via Bluetooth.
   Acorelle, the modern French fragrance house founded in 2005, has released its new extraits d’émotion, fragrances that have been certified by Ecocert and NSF as all-natural and organic. It’s a rare honour, yet Acorelle has managed to create fragrances with no synthetic scent compounds, aartificial preservatives, parabens or phthalates.
   Bottled in Agen, France, with ingredients grown in Grasse, Acorelle takes pride in creating its scents, and this latest line uses a palette of c. 200 all-natural plant and flower extracts and oils.
   Master perfumer Philippe Collet and aromatherapist Patty Canac have created three collections in the new line, Energizing (Tea Garden, Pure Patchouli and Land of Cedar), Balancing (Silken Rose, Absolu Tiare, and Vanilla Blossom), and Soothing (Divine Orchid, Citrus Infusion and Lotus Dream). They are available as eaux de parfum, eaux fraîches, and a roll-on.



March 14, 2016

Jaguar launches XF in style in New Zealand with Murray Crane and Crane Brothers event

Lucire staff/0.56



Arguably, Jaguar launches with more style in New Zealand than in other countries, thanks to its collaboration with its ambassador Murray Crane, and his menswear label Crane Brothers.
   The second-generation XF launch last Thursday saw not just drinks and canapés, but the release of Crane Brothers’ autumn–winter 2016 collection.
   Held at Crane Brothers’ Auckland central store on High Street, the launch event included the release of a limited-edition Jaguar × Crane Brothers tie collection and an XF chauffeur–test drive service for Crane Brothers customers.
   The tie collection features seven styles in wool, silk and cashmere, featuring British tweed and Donegal tweed, tying in to the Britishness and modernity of the Jaguar brand.
   The chauffeur and test drive service will take Crane Brothers customers from their door (limited to Auckland inner-city locations) to the High Street store, running from today (Monday, March 14) to Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, where they can get a taste of the new XF.
   Jaguar has enjoyed a record-breaking sales’ month at the beginning of 2016 in New Zealand, and the XF is expected to build on the success the company has found with its new XE, F-type and XJ.
   The new XF X251 series is a departure from its predecessor, using an aluminium-intensive architecture inspired by the larger XJ. As noted in Lucire last year, Jaguar cites carbon dioxide emissions of 104 g/km for its most economical XF in the UK. The weight saving means that the new XF is cleaner, and Jaguar claims it is 80 kg lighter than the competition, using the base model for comparison. In terms of environmental impact, Jaguar Land Rover uses a form of aluminium alloy called RC5754, which is predominantly made from recycled material, for its pressings.







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