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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


May 2, 2016

Committee of 100 celebrates Chinese-American success and talent

Lola Cristall/13.31




Committee of 100 and BeBe Jacobs

The Committee of 100 (C-100) came together for a celebratory event in Los Angeles to praise Chinese-American achievements in the midst of a society that tends to build bridges of understanding between cultures successfully. The extraordinary committee, founded in 1990, consists of acclaimed personalities including cellist Yo-Yo Ma, YouTube co-founder Steve Chen, NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao and figure-skating champion Michelle Kwan. Co-founded by renowned architect Ieoh Ming Pei (I. M. Pei), known for his structures including his beautifully designed Louvre Pyramid in Paris and the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, the committee intends to unite successful and prominent members of the Chinese-American community, sharing and discussing their endeavours while honouring Chinese culture. As an invitation-only committee, they recruited numerous distinguished faces in various industries to promote leadership and camaraderie between greater China and the United States. Headquartered in New York, they also host eventful gatherings in Washington DC, Los Angeles, Beijing and San Francisco.
   In April, the C-100 2016 annual conference took place at the prestigious Beverly Wilshire. The two-day summit included a number of panel discussions with various speakers such as Congressman Ted Lieu (Democrat, Calif.), Kevin Tsujihara (chair and CEO of Warner Brothers), Ari Emanuel (co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor) and Joe Tsai (CFO of Alibaba) discussing cases including Hollywood, China and the US–China economic and political outlook. Ming Tsai, chef and restaurateur, Joan Chen, actress and director, and Constance Wu, lead actress in Fresh off the Boat, also took centre-stage as they alluded to their Chinese-American journeys. Along with discussions throughout the day, a gala celebrated C-100 award winners for their considerable successes. Bob Chapek, the chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, won the Business Excellence Award. The Philanthropy Excellence Award went to the chairman of Hang Lung Properties, Ronnie Chan, as well as Gerald Chan, the chairman of Morningside Group.—Lola Cristall, Paris editor



May 1, 2016

New fashion retail locations: Swarovski in Covent Garden, and Sills & Co. in Wellington

Lucire staff/13.29

Swarovski will open on May 7 in St Martin’s Courtyard in Covent Garden.
   The new 141 m² store will be situated on Long Acre alongside Barbour, L. K. Bennett and COS, and will stock the company’s jewellery and watches.
   â€˜We are delighted to be opening our Swarovski boutique in St Martin’s Courtyard. By positioning ourselves at the heart of one of London’s key shopping scenes, our unique store concept and beautiful displays will hopefully inspire and introduce a new set of fashionable customers to the Swarovski brand,’ said Hayley Quinn of Swarovski UK and Ireland.
   Meanwhile, last month, Sills & Co. opened its flagship store in Wellington’s Old Bank Arcade, with its labels Caroline Sills, Sills and Isaac & Lulu.
   The newest label of the three, Isaac & Lulu, is a more fashion-forward brand, named for head designer Ange Todd’s daughter Lulu and Caroline Sills’ grandson Isaac, and is described as being feminine and youthful.


April 28, 2016

Wataru Tominaga, Vendula Knopova win top prizes at 31st Hyères fashion and photography festival

Lucire staff/14.21



Villa Noailles

Above: Winners of the two grand jury prizes at Hyères: Vendula Knopova for photography and Wataru Tominaga for fashion.

The 31e Festival International de Mode et de Photographie à Hyères was held from April 21 to 25 at the Villa Noailles, with exhibitions running from April 28 through to May 22.
   The Festival was chaired by Paco Rabanne artistic director Julien Dossena for fashion, and American–French photographer William Klein for photography.
   Founder Jean-Pierre Blanc says, ‘Here we launch a competition, people take part. It’s demanding, it costs money, it takes a lot of energy and people want to come. They want to come more and more. That is what makes it such high quality, as first and foremost we take gifted, interested and interesting people.
   â€˜It’s pretty impressive to see these young people evolving in such a tough world. We think we’ve grown up in a tough world, but for them it’s even harder, and despite it they are energetic, they are happy, they adore colour. I just love this genration.
   â€˜Fashion has to be connected with life, and I hope the Hyères festival is. People say it is anyway, and honestly that is the most rewarding thing for me to hear, and the biggest compliment you could give me.’
   One of the contestants in the photography section, Anaïs Boileau, says they could spend as much time with the jurors, including Klein, as they liked, even up to an hour.
   Dossena says, ‘It’s great to be able to actually select and rank candidates that I believe in for different reasons.’
   The Grand Jury Prize was awarded this year to Wataru Tominaga for the fashion section, for his colourful menswear collection.
   Tominaga says he has been interested in colour in fashion from the 1960s and 1970s. ‘Young people did not care whether it’s women’s or men’s, they make [their own] styles.’
   Vendula Knopova won the photography prize.

Morgan Freeman honoured at 43rd Annual Chaplin Award Gala by Film Society of Lincoln Center

Lucire staff/1.44


Getty Images


Jim Spellman

Morgan Freeman was honoured on Monday night by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, at its 43rd Annual Chaplin Award Gala, sponsored by Jaeger-LeCoultre.
   The Academy Award-winning actor follows other luminaries including Charlie Chaplin, for whom the award is named, and who was the first recipient in 1972, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Laurence Olivier, Federico Fellini, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, James Stewart, Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sidney Poitier, Barbra Streisand, and Robert Redford.
   Chaplin’s granddaughter, actress Kiera Chaplin, was present, representing her family. Daniel Riedo, Jaeger LeCoultre’s CEO, and Laurent Vinay, its communications’ director, represented their company. Other actors present included Robert de Niro and Helen Mirren.
   Freeman told Reuters, ‘I’m from a small town in a small state and when you start thinking about where you came from and looking back the first thing that comes to mind is the word luck.’
   In an earlier statement, Ann Tenenbaum, chair of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s board, said of Freeman, ‘He is one of the most gifted actors of our time and his body of work has changed the film landscape. He is universally loved as an actor and as a humanitarian, and we are thrilled to add the Chaplin to the long list of distinguished awards he has already received.’
   â€˜Morgan Freeman is one of most highly regarded and beloved actors of his generation and we are excited to honour all of his achievements with the Chaplin Award, our biggest fundraiser of the year, which recognizes those whose mastery of their craft has made an impact on the art of film,’ said the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s executive director Lesli Klainberg. ‘Whether in a leading or supporting role, he brings a quiet gravitas to each of his memorable performances in such films as Lean on Me and Driving Miss Daisy to Street Smart, The Shawshank Redemption, Seven, Million Dollar Baby, and Invictus.’
   Freeman began his acting career in off-Broadway stage productions of The Niggerlovers and an all African-American production of Hello Dolly. Early TV appearances in The Electric Company followed, before he moved into film. He also has an extensive filmography in narration (The Long Way Home and March of the Penguins among it). In 2005, he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Million Dollar Baby, and received nominations for Street Smart, The Shawshank Redemption, and Invictus. He won a Golden Globe for Best Actor for Driving Miss Daisy in 1990. He received the Cecil B. de Mille Award at the 2011 Golden Globes and the 39th AFI Lifetime Achievement Award.
   Freeman is executive producer of Madam Secretary and host and executive producer of Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. He will soon be seen in The Story of God with Morgan Freeman on the National Geographic Channel.
   Upcoming films include London Has Fallen, Going in Style, Now You See Me 2 and Ben-Hur.
   Freeman co-founded the Frank Silvera Writers’ Workshop, which serves successful playwrights, is a member of the board of directors of Earth Biofuels, and a supporter of Artists for a New South Africa and the Campaign for Female Education.


Jim Spellman

April 26, 2016

Panos Emporio revolutionizes men’s swimwear with Meander, launched in Stockholm today

Lucire staff/8.00



The swimwear designer Panos Papadopoulos, whose Panos Emporio label celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, is breaking new ground once again, this time in relation to men’s swimwear.
   Panos Emporio, which is known in many countries for giving women the perfect fit, addresses the needs of the modern man, with a new design, Meander.
   The launch today at NK in Stockholm is one which Panos Emporio has put a great deal of energy into: the new design is set to do for men’s swimwear what Panos’s earlier design, the highly adaptable Paillot, did for women’s swimwear in its markets.
   However, Meander is set to reach more than Panos Emporio’s traditional markets in the Nordic countries and Thailand, and there has already been interest from beyond these nations.
   Again it was Panos’s own sociological background—it is the area he formally trained in—that kicked in, allowing him to observe something other designers missed. He also credits his Greek background—he was born in Greece before emigrating to Sweden in the 1980s—and notes that the ancient Greeks had records of early swimwear.
   He observed a few trends: the long trunks in men’s swimwear as surf fashion began influencing the genre in the 1990s, yet such styles restricted men’s movement in sports and swimming. Anatomically, Panos notes that men found current swimming trunks to be uncomfortable. There was an unhygienic trend also emerging, with some men preferring to swim with their underwear on, while there were more beaches banning the practice of men swimming in their underwear in lieu of proper swimming shorts.
   Finally, and perhaps most critically, men were rolling up the legs of their swimming trunks, for either movement, practicality, fashion or more complete tanning—he saw not only everyday men do this, but Giorgio Armani, and footballers Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Zlatan Ibrahimović.
   Meander addresses all these needs with a number of features. For starters, wearers can roll up the legs on the Meander design, and fasten them. Inside, there’s a mesh lined inner brief that’s extra soft and comfortable, so there are no more anatomic issues. Finally, the fabric is quick-dry.
   Panos has improved the design to make it more stylish, and the resulting first style for Meander recalls his Greek heritage.
   â€˜Meander is a revolution, giving freedom for men to decide for themselves how their swimming shorts should fit them. They’re suitable for showing off well trained thighs, and those who want to avoid zebra stripes [when they tan]. Who wants to walk around with different shades on their thighs?’ he notes.



April 23, 2016

Prince cremated in private ceremony

Lucire staff/18.45


Above: The artwork for Prince’s 1987 album, Sign ‘O’ the Times.

The late music idol Prince has been cremated in accordance with his Jehovah’s Witness faith. The private ceremony took place on Friday afternoon, said his publicist, Anna Meacham.
   She said, ‘A few hours ago, Prince was celebrated by a small group of his most beloved: family, friends and his musicians, in a private, beautiful ceremony to say a loving goodbye.’ Sheila E and Larry Graham were among those attending the service.
   Tributes continue coming in the wake of the death of Prince, who was found dead in a lift at his Paisley Park estate near Minneapolis on Thursday, aged 57.
   Filmmaker Spike Lee hosted a block party in Prince’s honour.
   Police say they have no reason to suspect foul play in Prince’s death. No cause of death has been released, though he had been suffering from ’flu in recent weeks.
   Born Prince Rogers Nelson, he was particularly talented, playing nearly all the instruments on his first five albums, and produced since he first signed with Warner Bros. Born into a musical family in Mineapolis, he started playing the piano at age seven. His very prolific professional output began in 1978, with his first album, For You. Upping the eroticism in his work, Prince’s work became more widely known in the 1980s, with more hits from each of his albums, and his 1999 (1982) went platinum, featuring the song ‘Little Red Corvette’ and ‘Delirious’, as well as the title track.
   His 1984 film, Purple Rain, was a hit, spawning a very successful soundtrack album, on which further hits came: ‘When Doves Cry’, ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, ‘I Would Die 4 U’, ‘Take Me with U’, and the title track.
   Further hits included ‘Sign “O” the Times’ in 1987, and ‘U Got the Look’ with Sheena Easton the same year. His soundtrack album for the 1989 film Batman was another high-profile success.
   In the 1990s, Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, and on radio was usually announced as ‘The Artist formerly known as Prince’, or even ‘The Artist’. He eventually returned to using the name Prince in 2000, and converted to the Jehovah’s Witness faith in 2001.
   In all, Prince sold 100 million albums, won seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Oscar, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.


Euronews


Celebritywire

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

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