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October 30, 2014

The Royal New Zealand Ballet performs A Christmas Carol, the feel-good ballet of the season

Jack Yan/14.03

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Ross Brown/RNZB

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s final season for 2014, sponsored by Vodafone, sees Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol brought to life. Created for the Northern Ballet, it’s a true crowd-pleaser and the perfect family outing.
   The RNZB’s Christmas performance has often been a spectacular that audiences of all ages can enjoy, and A Christmas Carol is no exception. The familiar Yuletide tunes and original music by American-born composer Carl Davis, CBE make A Christmas Carol musically accessible. Davis’s work will be familiar to television and film audiences (he scored The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the 1995 TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and, most recently, an episode of the 2012 continuation of Upstairs, Downstairs), and he brings a similar lyrical, orchestral style to the ballet.
   The familiarity of Dickens’ novel also helps: the characters are well known, especially to children, and this version, created for the Northern Ballet, stays close to the original Victorian setting. The humour is distinctly English: the second act’s dance between Mr and Mrs Fezziwig (played by Rory Fairweather-Neylan and BrontĂ« Kelly on opening night) is Carry on in nature, while the Ghost of Christmas Present’s (MacLean Hopper) tendency to throw glitter made him the least frightening of the trio that visit Ebenezer Scrooge.
   Paul Mathews, in the lead, exuded energy and still yielded surprises despite the well known storyline, but it was the flashback scene with a pas de deux between Young Scrooge (Shane Urton) and Belle Fezziwig (Lucy Green) that was the most touching and graceful in the ballet.
   Belle, knowing the relationship had come to an end, expressed a lifelessness as she moved en pointe away from Young Scrooge, ever focused on finance.
   The loss of love between the two was poignant, and the point at which Scrooge became the miserable character at the beginning of the story. It gave an extra element, almost a humanity, to Scrooge, that was seen in the novel.
   Bob Cratchit, played by Kohei Iwamoto, was perfectly cast.
   Each set was lovingly created, with production design by Lez Brotherston, the backdrops faithful to the emerging industrialization of the Victorian era, and the lighting by Jon Buswell (presumably following the original design by Paul Pyant) was used to eerie effect on two occasions: the emergence of Scrooge’s business partner’s ghost (light streamed up in a ghostly form before the dancer playing Marley appeared) and the Ghost of Christmas Past (who appeared to float as he visited Scrooge). Transitions between sets were cleverly handled, particularly Scrooge’s grave in the last act.
   This is the first performance Lucire attended where the company sings, and young Wilson Jack, as Tiny Tim Cratchit, performs a touching solo of ‘How Far Is It to Bethlehem?’ (and never mind that it was composed outside the Victorian era). Nigel Gaynor, conducting Orchestra Wellington, excelled handling this extra dimension.
   It was the finalĂ© that was the most upbeat of any recent Royal New Zealand Ballet season, something that could be seen not just with the lengthy applause but the smiles on the audience’s faces as members began departing the St James Theatre.
   The Wellington performances began October 30 and run till November 8 inclusive; Dunedin is from November 15 to 16; Christchurch from November 20 to 22. A Christmas Carol then returns to the North Island, in Palmerston North on November 26, Napier on November 29 and 30, Auckland on December 3 to 7, and Takapuna from December 13 to 14. Full details of dates and venues can be found on the Royal New Zealand Ballet website.
   The late Christopher Gable directed the original production for the Northern Ballet, with choreography by Massimo Moricone; Daniel de Andrade serves as producer. It is the first ballet by the RNZB performed after the appointment of its new artistic director, Francesco Ventriglia, who takes up his new position during the run.—Jack Yan, Publisher


Bill Cooper

Above An image from the Northern Ballet’s production of A Christmas Carol.

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October 11, 2014

Photos: HM the Queen bestows honorary award on Angelina Jolie

Lucire staff/10.08

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Actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie can now add the letters GCMG after her name, after receiving an honour at Buckingham Palace from HM Queen Elizabeth II.
   During her audience with the Queen, Jolie was presented with the insignia of an Honorary Dame Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George.
   The Queen awarded Jolie the honour from the 1844 room at the palace, for her work fighting sexual violence and for services to UK foreign policy.
   Jolie cannot be addressed as Dame, being a US citizen.
   Jolie chose to wear Ralph & Russo to the Palace. She wore a dove grey, wool crepe peplum jacket and pencil skirt with cinching belt and silk chiffon bow neck tie, inspired by a tailored piece from their spring–summer 2014 couture collection.
   She was recognized in the Diplomatic Service and Overseas Birthday 2014 honours’ list.
   Jolie’s husband Brad Pitt and their six children were present. Buckingham Palace said Jolie spent 20 minutes with the Queen.


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September 29, 2014

The Royal New Zealand Ballet to perform A Christmas Carol for its ïŹnal 2014 season

Lucire staff/13.15

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Ross Brown/RNZB

The Royal New Zealand Ballet will perform A Christmas Carol for its final season in 2014, in a version created for Northern Ballet in the UK. Northern Ballet’s master, Daniel de Andrade, is in New Zealand to stage the production.
   Based on the Charles Dickens story, the ballet is expected to surprise, with large sets, 650 costume elements, 75 characters and music by television composer Carl Davis that incorporates well known Christmas carols.
   De Andrade said in a release, ‘This evocative production has been a hit in the UK for over 20 years and such was its success that the BBC televised the production. The stunning sets and costumes transport audiences to Victorian England where Dickens’ classic characters are beautifully brought to life by talented dancers who not only dance but sing and act. It’s a narrative masterpiece and you couldn’t find a truer Christmas ballet.’
   Christopher Gable directed the original Northern Ballet version, with choreography by Massimo Moricone, production design by Lez Brotherston, and original lighting by Paul Pyant.
   Nigel Gaynor conducts the New Zealand performances.
   The ballet opens at the St James Theatre in Wellington on October 30 and tours the country, finishing in Takapuna on December 14. Notably, the company will perform at the newly restored Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch for the first time, on November 20.
   The dates are: Wellington, October 30 and 31, and November 1, 2, 6–8; Dunedin, November 15 and 16; Christchurch, November 20–2; Palmerston North, November 26; Napier, November 29 and 30; Auckland, December 3–7; and Takapuna, December 13 and 14. Full details can be found on the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s website.

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September 9, 2014

Jaguar launches XE in London, with David Gandy, Stella McCartney, Eva Herzigova, Laura Whitmore

Lucire staff/1.28

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Jaguar has launched its most important car in years with the brand-new XE, a saloon that sees the Indian-owned company tackle a segment dominated by the BMW 3er and Audi A4. The XE also marks a new generation of Jaguars powered by the company’s new series of Ingenium engines, and features a first-in-segment aluminium-intensive monocoque structure for lightness and strength.
   Jaguar Land Rover, which has seen its profits soar in recent years, spared no expense with the XE’s launch in London, bringing celebrities including Stella McCartney, David Gandy, Eva Herzigova, Sir Stirling Moss, JosĂ© Mourinho, Laura Whitmore, Damian Lewis, Ruben Cortada, David Blakeley, Sam Riley, Sienna Guillory, Steve Redgrave, Brian Johnson and Gary Lineker together at an event that saw Emeli SandĂ©, the Kaiser Chiefs, Eliza Doolittle, the Royal Ballet, Max Milner (The Voice), and members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra perform, and John Hannah narrating.
   While many saw the helicopter delivery of the red XE into London on Monday, Jaguar formally kicked off the launch event that evening at Earls Court with its VIP audience, with the performances evoking models from the company’s past, including the SS100 of 1935.
   SandĂ© composed a ‘Feels Like’ track for the event that had been inspired by the public via social media and the hashtag #FeelXE. The song received its premiĂšre live on a floating stage on the Thames in a 45-minute set later in the evening, with the London Eye and County Hall as a backdrop.
   The performance was complemented with a projection-mapping show on London’s County Hall, showing the public’s messages that inspired the composition. Red flares lit up the London skyline in red to match the hero colour of the new car.
   McCartney will reveal her Parisian Feel XE experience later this month, while Idris Elba will reveal his Feel XE project afterwards.
   Earlier in the day, employees at Jaguar’s Solihull plant—where 1,700 jobs are expected to be created—formed an XE shape as the Red Arrows flew past, and the car was airlifted by helicopter toward London. It was placed on a high-speed landing craft on the Thames to Chelsea Harbour.
   In another nod to its past, Jaguar then had the new XE escorted by two 1960s Mk II police cars from Battersea Bridge to Earls Court.
   The “delivery” was intentional: Jaguar wanted to signal that the XE is the spiritual successor to the Mk II, still considered by many fans to be the quintessential Jaguar close-coupled sporting saloon, and the car that arguably pioneered the segment in which the new model now competes.
   One car from Jaguar’s past that was not mentioned was the X-type, the company’s turn-of-the-century attempt to tap into the compact executive market. Younger buyers rejected that model partly because of its unadventurous styling, overseen by Jaguar’s then-parent company Ford. The X-type was also hampered by its front-wheel-drive transmission on cheaper models, something that Jaguar has avoided repeating by giving the XE rear-wheel drive. It is also the most aerodynamic Jaguar made, with a drag coefficient of 0,26.
   The cab-backward fastback look of the XE takes styling themes established by the XJ and XF, and features a short front overhang and a low driving position. The car looks more aggressive and taut than the larger models, which should appeal to buyers in the segment.
   â€˜Our mission was to create an exciting and dynamic design clearly reflecting the XE’s positioning as a serious driver’s car. The cab-rearward proportions and tight packaging achieve that and give the XE the appearance of movement even when it’s standing still. It bears a strong family resemblance to the F-type and will stand apart in the crowd,’ says Jaguar’s director of design, Ian Callum.
   The aluminium components also mean more effective recycling, and in a world first for cars, Jaguar has specified RC5754, an aluminium alloy made from recycled material.
   The high-tech features extend to Jaguar’s new electric power steering, which is more efficient than a traditional hydraulic system, and what the company calls All Surface Progress Control (ASPC), which works as a low-speed cruise control that can control the brake system and powertrain for the best traction in slippery conditions. The XE also features a laser head-up display, nearly a third lighter than existing systems. Jaguar also dĂ©buts a new InControl infotainment system, which is claimed to be more intuitive, especially with a pioneering plain-speech voice control. The car is also a wifi hotspot for internet-enabled devices, and both Apple Iphone and Android users can control various functions remotely.
   Full details of the XE range will be released at the Salon de Paris on October 2. The range will be topped by a supercharged V6 delivering 340 PS, while the two-litre Ingenium diesel is claimed to deliver 75 mpg (Imperial) with carbon dioxide emissions of 99 g/km. Prices are set to begin at ÂŁ27,000.















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September 3, 2014

Sponsored video: La Redoute wants you to convey the language of love

Lucire staff/11.10

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A Lucire special promotion

The French way of life has always seemed more appealing to Britons. Publicis took this tack in introducing us to Nicole and Papa for the Renault Clio over 20 years ago, with sunny imagery and a sense of joie de vivre. It goes beyond “the grass is greener”, and it’s that Frenchness that retailer La Redoute has taken for its latest campaign.
   It’s not sunny scenery this time, but the French language, which, to most Anglophone ears sounds more appealing. Maybe it’s the way the French have marketed themselves as romantics, and that the ideal language of love is theirs. And with Mr La Redoute (or is Monsieur?), the Francophone character in its latest spot played by Florent Thevenot, things certainly sound smooth.
   Britons are arguably more reserved, partly for cultural reasons and the notion of the “stiff upper lip”, and La Redoute believes the French can help us lighten up and express ourselves.
   In fact, we seem to need Valentine’s Day, birthdays or Christmas to show people we love them—in fact, 22 per cent of people in the UK haven’t said ‘I love you’ in over a year, and only 30 per cent say it daily—but 82 per cent of us wish to hear it. Eighty-three per cent of Brits believe that ‘I love you’ sounds better in a Continental tongue, with 20 per cent preferring to hear it in French. Fifty-five per cent of women admit they have a penchant for French poetry.
   While the spot won’t be lost on Francophones, Mr La Redoute tells unsuspecting Brits charming words of endearment—and without spoiling it, let’s say the participants are not only impressed by the language of love, but he has one more surprise left up his sleeve.
   La Redoute continues to sell French style—its fashion website is number one in fashion and homewares in its home country, and has partnerships with Viktor & Rolf, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Jenzo, Paco Robanne, Yves Saint-Laurent, Isabel Marant and others.
   And it wants to encourage readers to get their messages of love out there, too. Share it with the #languageoflove hashtag on Twitter and Facebook, and get some extra tips from Mr La Redoute via the website.


Post sponsored by La Redoute




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Filed under: culture, fashion, London, TV
September 2, 2014

Land Rover Discovery Sport revealed—claimed to be most versatile, capable premium compact SUV

Jack Yan/23.22

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Tata’s Jaguar Land Rover unit has released the Land Rover Discovery Sport, the successor to the Freelander.
   Land Rover has abandoned the Freelander name, which mainly had support from the UK market, but was less known elsewhere. By using the Discovery name, the new model can trade off the larger, more established SUV’s goodwill in more international markets.
   The compact SUV sector continues to be strong, especially in markets such as China, which has seen many launches over recent years.
   The Discovery Sport is the company’s most versatile entry in the compact sector, rivalling the Audi Q5—yet is shorter than that model while managing to have three rows of seats as standard (in the UK).
   BMW’s X3 and Volvo’s XC60 will also be in the Discovery Sport’s crosshairs.
   The styling combines elements of the existing Freelander’s design language with its clamshell bonnet—which can trace its origins to the Range Rover—and the thick C-pillar, but expressed in sleeker terms. Land Rover’s exterior design challenge was to give the Discovery Sport its sporting appearance—putting the S into SUV—while maximizing interior space.
   Land Rover says it has tried hard to ensure that the Discovery Sport is comfortable for urban use, while maintaining the sort of off-road abilities people have come to expect from its brand. It claims that the vehicle is more suited off-road than its immediate rivals in the compact premium SUV sector, aided by improvements in its Terrain Response software. The Discovery Sport has approach, departure, and breakover angles of 25, 31 and 21 degrees respectively, says the company, and can wade to 600 mm.
   Revised multi-link suspension at the rear has allowed greater space, while making the third row a reality.
   The bodyshell uses steel and aluminium, the latter to reduce weight.
   The interior features high-quality materials, an eight-inch touch-screen system, four 12 V power points, and the option of six USB charging ports for all three rows.
   The launch engine is Land Rover’s 2·2-litre turbodiesel with stop–start, developing 190 PS, with both nine-speed automatic and six-speed manual transmissions. A two-wheel-drive turbodiesel with carbon dioxide emissions of a targeted 119 g/km will be released in 2015.
   The digital reveal of the Sport was at Spaceport America, alongside a Galactic Discovery competition, which will see four winners head to space with Virgin Galactic.—Jack Yan, Publisher










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August 20, 2014

Lindex will open London store for spring 2015

Lucire staff/13.45

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Above An image from Lindex’s autumn 2014 campaign.

Lindex, the Swedish brand now part of the Finnish Stockmann group, will open a store in London in spring 2015.
   The company has been gradually raising its profile over the last few years, including hiring actress PenĂ©lope Cruz to model one of its collections.
   This latest move sees Lindex open at Westfield Stratford City, along with a UK distribution centre. UK customers can already purchase online at lindex.com.
   The store promises to reflect Lindex’s Scandinavian heritage with its dĂ©cor and service.
   â€˜This is a great day in our history. We have longed to offer our affordable and inspiring fashion in an exciting city like London, one of the world’s most attractive shopping destinations,’ said Lindex CEO Ingvar Larsson in a release.
   Lindex notes that London has more global fashion brands than any other city.

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Filed under: fashion, London, Lucire, Sweden
August 6, 2014

Aston Martin announces 2015 Vanquish and Rapide S, with eight-speed Touchtronic gearbox

Lucire staff/12.21

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One concern observers have for Aston Martin, one of the few specialist car makers without a major parent (though Daimler now owns 5 per cent), is the ageing model range. There have been some newer models lately at the top end—the Vanquish and Rapide S—both on advanced adaptations of the VH platform, and the announcement by Aston Martin Lagonda today of improvements to these ranges should bring some solace to its fans.
   The 2015 model year improvements see a new Touchtronic III eight-speed automatic gearbox, which has been integrated, with the help of ZF, to the ranges. The 0–100 km/h times have improved, with the Vanquish reaching the mark in 3·8 s, and the four-door Rapide S hitting it in 4·4 s. Maximum power is now 576 PS for the Vanquish and 560 PS for the Rapide S, with torque up to 630 Nm at 5,500 rpm for both lines. Carbon dioxide emissions have dropped 10 per cent, to 298 g/km for the Vanquish and 300 g/km for the Rapide S; while fuel economy is now a claimed 31 mpg (9·1 l/100 km) for both lines, an 11 per cent improvement, on the EU’s extra-urban cycle.
   Ratio changes and a revised final drive see the top speed at over 320 km/h.
   The revised software has Drive and Drive Sport modes as well as Paddle Shift and Paddle Shift Sport options, and the shifts are quicker (130 ms) with the new gearbox.
   The dampers have also been uprated on the Vanquish (15 per cent stiffer at front and 35 per cent at rear), aiding dynamics. The Rapide S gets larger front brakes. Rear suspension bushes are 20 per cent stiffer.
   Visually, there are new alloy wheel designs and colour options, including the Diavalo Red that was previously only available on the V12 Zagato. There are also new leather trim options inside.
   While Aston Martin has not said that the improvements will filter to the rest of the range, recent history suggests that upgrades are eventually shared.
   Deliveries commence in the third quarter.






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