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was sold to gypsies as a small child for half a tank of gas and a kitten. She was quickly, if not easily, retrieved by her mother after the kitten was revealed to be an Eldrich horror looking for a ride into the nearest metropolitan area to begin wreaking havoc. It's been a bone of contention between Maria and her family ever since, whether the Horror-kitten would've been more or less trouble than she grew up to be.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Live Review: Cendrillon

The Baltimore Vocal Arts Foundation debuted this past weekend with a little known operetta, Cendrillon by Pauline Viardot.

Cendrillon is a French re-imaging of the classic Cinderella story. Written by Pauline Viardot and performed in Paris in 1904, Cendrillon has fallen by the wayside over a century. But recently, it's been enjoying a bit of a renaissance with productions on both coasts of the United States occurring over the past ten years. Baltimore Vocal Arts Foundation performed the work with a brand new (and in my opinion), hilarious English translation by founder and Garcia scholar, Dr. Robyn Stevens. This new organization aims to give students and inexperienced performers the opportunity to develop their talents and get working experience in a transitional environment: not quite as safe as a school production, but not as hard core as a professional opera company.

Viardots' Cendrillon takes the original Cinderella story and turns it on its head. Marie, better known as Cendrillon(Cinderella), is not the stepdaughter of a wicked stepmother, but the illegitimate daughter of Baron Pictordu, a former grocer who lied about being aristocracy to marry money. He scorns Cendrillon as evidence of his less than pristine past. Instead of evil step sisters, Marie has half sisters who use their father's disregard for Cendrillon as an excuse to abuse her and treat her as a servant. The Prince is not some fop who's throwing a ball just to find a wife and get it over with; but as a master of disguise, Prince Charming has been casing the neighborhoods of the blue bloods, finding out which girls are sincere and which are social climbers. Barigoule, the Prince's royal chamberlain, has history with the supposed Baron Pictordu, which may or may not interfere with his ability to help the Prince with his charade of exchanged identities. And rounding out the cast, Le Feé, the fairy Godmother, is not only a fashion maven, but also has a way with animals and gourds.

In the Sunday performance at Baltimore Theatre Project, Taleesha Scott was Cendrillon. Her sweet, soulful voice was paired with expressive and convincing acting – nervous and frenetic around her abusive family, excited and jittery upon the arrival of her fairy godmother, and jubilant as she finally gets to be with the Prince. This is an extraordinary vocal talent, and I deeply hope I get to hear more from this truly unique musician. Playing Prince Charming was Andrew Spady, who hit a nice balance between aloof, annoyed, and love struck depending on who he was interacting with. He and Ms. Scott worked and sang well together. Spady had a pleasant, if somewhat typical, tenor voice. He sounded good, he looked good, he was worth the ticket.

Nearly stealing the show were Michael Rainbow and Juliana Marin. Michael Rainbow made the most of his role as the Prince's chamberlain, Barigoule, sporting a hilarious fake French accent, reminiscent of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and shooting wise cracks and one liners at every opportunity, as if his arias weren't chuckle-worthy enough. Juliana Marin played the sweet, kooky fairy godmother, La Feé. Her acting was a little unsure at times, but her singing ranked a close second to Cendrillon's in my book. Marin's voice is lovely, even though her technique is not entirely solid.

The one sour-ish note came in the form of the step sisters, played by Dwan Hayes and Tyson Upham. Lethargy and apathy were the orders of the day, contrasting strangely with the frenetic staging in some of their scenes. Even worse, they were vocally the weakest of their cast-mates. Tyson Upham as Maguelone, was hard to hear, while Dwan Hayes as Armelinde, tended to belt. The result was a rough, often flat sound that jarred with otherwise vocally seamless ensembles. In what I've dubbed "The Quack Heard 'Round the World," Miss Hayes hit a very loud and jarringly flat note in the second act ensemble. Both singers seemed distracted throughout their performance, giving a flat delivery of what may have been very funny roles. To say I was underwhelmed is an understatement.

Daniel Gorham seemed to follow the lead of the sisters when it came to acting - a little lazy, a little unmotivated - but he got better as the show went on. Regardless of the acting, he'd still get a pass for his gorgeous singing. A full, resonant baritone voice held its own in his solo's, while blending beautifully in the chorus'. His best scenes were the ones where he and Barigoule got to play off one another, culminating in a fabulous moment where they dueled with their canes while discussing their shared past and the quality of gingerbread the Baron used to sell.

The unsung hero of the performance was pianist Michael Angelucci who kept playing despite sweltering heat. (If the venue had air-conditioning it was well hidden or perhaps prehistoric – like a pile of ice blown by a fan.) Did I like this opera? Hmmm. A little part of me would like to hear the music performed with a small orchestra – but no. Viardot wrote it for piano and I think in the end, piano is what works best. It's a small, charming opera, meant for small, charming spaces to be performed in. And I really doubt an orchestra could've been fit into Baltimore Theatre Project while still leaving space for the actors to, well, act.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

On My iPod 6/17/10 - La Roux

A new feature here on the Meep. I've actually been wanting to do this for a while but haven't had the time/internet connection to explore new music. Let's hear it for NOT living in the god forsaken mountains of West Virgina anymore!

To Break in my new little featurette, I'm talking about my new nostalgia trip, La Roux.

La Roux is an electropop and synthpop duo out of England, made up of singer and co-producer Eleanor Jackson (pictured right) and co-producer Ben Langmaid. To learn more about the duo, check out their myspace page,  http://www.myspace.com/larouxuk, - wow, myspace pages, amazing that people still have those - or you could do what I did: Google them and randomly click links until you find something interesting.

The first song I heard was Bulletproof, catching a rare moment of radio play. On first listen, I wasn't entirely sure whether I liked it or not. But it was catchy and I wanted to hear it again so I could at least say definitively that I loved/hated it. On to the Youtube!

Bulletproof Video (oooh shiny!)

Where I found some of her other videos:

I'm Not Your Toy (Hurray for androgyny!)

In For The Kill (The 80's called; they want their car back)

Tigerlily (My new stalker theme song)

IMO: I love La Roux with the understanding that this is not music everyone will enjoy. Hell, I was surprised when I realized I liked it. But why do I like it?

La Roux is a complete nostalgia trip for me. It hearkens back to the days of my childhood, in those distant years of the early 90's, when my brother and I would watch awesome/terrible/hilarious movies from the even more distant years of the 80's and I'd rewind the credits over and over and over again to listen to the ending song. The music is bouncy with a bite and the lyrics are a little more clever than most of what I find from young female musicians - not good, but clever.

Eleanor Jackson's voice isn't my favorite, but it suits her songs, and in the meanwhile, she's crafted an image that's a refreshing change from the over sexed themes of sexy rocker chick, sexy R&B singer, sexy poptart, etc. that I see everywhere. Instead, she showcases an unconventional look, making androgyny more appealing than it's ever been since David Bowie started cross-dressing.*

Overall: I like the music, I like the front-woman, I get that it's not something the whole family may enjoy. Give it a shot and see how you feel. Honestly, you're bombarded with enough crappy music on the radio, in movie and TV soundtracks, in elevators: what are one or two more songs on Youtube in the grand scheme of things? And how knows, you might even find something you like.

*No, I don't count Marilyn Mason's woman suit as attractive androgyny. You do? That's very nice for you. I'm going to be sitting way over here now, kthxbai.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

TBR 6/8/10 - The Emperor of All Maladies

Among the books I go at BEA a few weeks ago (have I blogged about BEA yet? I haven't, have I? Bad Maria. I'll fix that. Promise) is The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Normally, I stay away from nonfiction. With some notable exceptions, I find most of the popular stuff dry and uninteresting. Give me ghosts and bloodshed with my internal turmoils, please and thank you.
 But The Emperor of All Maladies really caught my attention at BEA. The book is presented as a narrative of the history of cancer, with cancer treated as a character and antagonist, not just a disease, an unfortunate side effect of life. Mukherjee gathered the questions about cancer which he's been presented with as a doctor and asked as a student, and tried to answer as many as he could in this novel.

The Emperor of All Maladies interested me on two levels. First, there's a history of cancer in my family - two grandparents were claimed by it - , and judging from the pitch the editor gave a the BEA panel, this book may have some of the answers to questions I was too young to ask when my grandparents died. Second, it has history. I love history. I love history so much, I plan on being a history major. History is awesome and the only form on nonfiction you can give me with a guarantee that at some point I will read it. Also, history.

I have no clue when I'll get around to reading this - sooooo many books from BEA to read - but my interest in it will boost it higher in the pile after I finish Juliet*.

 -Maria D

*Yes I'm still reading Juliet no my mom won't give it back she hides it when she's not reading it and THIS IS WHY I CAN'T BRING NICE THINGS HOME