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Showing posts from November, 2009

Sunny Choi - Brush With Beauty

Sunny Choi
Sunny Choi Gallery, Toronto
to December 24

About two years ago, well known fashion designer Sunny Choi decided to give up the world of commercial fashion and devote herself to fine art, opening her own venue on Toronto's artsy-chic Queen Street West right in the gallery district. "Brush With Beauty", her current show, doesn't stray far from those fashion-steeped roots, however. Each of the large canvasses depicts slim fashion-y models in elegant poses, most gazing directly at the camera, (and they were painted from photographs). They wear make-up and stylish dresses.

Choi began her multi-faceted career as a fashion illustrator, actually, and having worked myself with a great many illustrators and illustration students (as a model,) I recognize her deft technique. Most striking is the delicate and nuanced treatment of the model's flesh tones, from translucent washes to opaque shadows. They have fine features and moulded limbs, not completely smoothed over,…

Valu David CD Release Party

Valu David CD Release Party
November 27 at Lula Lounge Toronto
Presented by Batuki Music Society

They were dancing from the very first song played by Valu David in the early show at Lula Lounge Friday night, and by the end of the set both the house and dance floor were full. Backed up by a really solid five piece band consisting of bass, drums, keyboards, congas and trumpet (with Valu himself on guitar,) and lit by David's warm vocals and stage presence, it was nearly impossible not to move to the music.

Born in Angola, David came to Canada in 2000. A self taught musician, his unique style combines jazzy R&B, soul and reggae influences with the music of his homeland, music that has a distinctly Latin flavour from its Portuguese component, anchored by solid, swaying rhythms or faster beats that also echo in the music of Brazil. He sings in Portuguese, English, Spanish, French and Kimbundu, and his lyrics have an overwhelmingly positive message - words that had the ring of sincerit…

Zac Efron stars in Me and Orson Welles

Me and Orson Welles
Directed by Richard Linklater
Screenplay by Holly Gent Palmo after the novel by Robert Kaplow
Starring Zac Efron, Christian McKay, Claire Danes, Ben Chaplin, Eddie Marsan

Zac Efron stars as aspiring young actor Richard in this entertaining film set in 1937, inserted into the real life story of Orson Welles' landmark staging of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. In the space of a mere week before opening night, Richard talks himself into a role in the play, has a budding affair with an older woman (Claire Danes as the production manager,) has his heart bruised and his pride likewise against the sharp edges of unabashed ambition and over sized ego.

Efron's solid as the centre of the film and our way into this story about the fragile magic of theatre and some of the realities behind what transpires on stage. He turns in an entirely convincing performance with just the right range from the kind of bravado that gets him the opportunity - as in this scene in front of th…

Six Messiahs - different flavours of the holiday favourite in Toronto

Six Messiahs

There may be even more flavours of Handel's ubiquitous (and deservedly so) holiday favourite playing in Toronto this year, but here's a good list to start with. Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, if you're a fan of chorale music, why stop at just one - or even just two?

The Elmer Isler Singers, the Amadeus Choir and more team up for an extravagant Messiah early in the season, complete with a big old church organ to add to the mix.
Features: Lydia Adams, conductor, Meredith Hall, soprano, Allyson McHardy, mezzo soprano, Michael Colvin, tenor, Peter McGillivray, bass, Robert Venables & Robert DiVito, trumpets, Patricia Wright, organ, Orchestra
December 4 - Metropolitan United Church (56 Queen St. East at Bond)

If you're north of the city, the George Weston Recital Hall is featuring a one time performance of the oratorio.
Featuring: Kerry Stratton, Conductor, Vocal Horizons, Canada's Gold Medal Choir, Festival Orchestra, Caroline Davidson, Soprano, Deb…

New York, I Love You - a film review

New York, I Love You
Directed by Fatih Akin, Yvan Attal, Allen Hughes, Shunji Iwai, Wen Jiang, Shekhar Kapur, Joshua Marston, Mira Nair, Natalie Portman, Brett Ratner, Randall Balsmeyer
Starring Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha, Andy Garcia, Hayden Christensen, Rachel Bilson, Natalie Portman, Irrfan Khan, Emilie Ohana, Eva Ammuri, Orlando Bloom, Christina Ricci, Maggie Q, Ethan Hawke, Anton Yelchin, James Caan, Olivia Thirlby, Blake Lively, Drea de Matteo, Julie Christie, John Hurt, Shia LaBeouf, Ugur Yucel, Taylor Geare, Carlos Acosta, Jacinda Barrett, Shu Qi, Burt Young, Chris Cooper, Robin Wright Penn, Eli Wallach, and Cloris Leachman

New York, I Love You is the second in a series of "collective films" conceived by producer Emmanuel Benbihy, coming on the heels of Paris je t'aime (2006). “My idea was always to make a collection of movies that would illustrate the universal idea of love around the world,” says Benbihy. “I started with Paris because that is where I am from, b…

Africa NYC - Part II the Performing Arts

Africa in New York
Part II - the Performing Arts

If you're looking for connections between Africa, New York, and the performing arts, then the big story has to be Fela! on Broadway, a show that delves into the music and extravagant lifestyle of one Fela Anikulapo Kuti, known simply as Fela to his legions of fans. A native of Nigeria, he was the pioneer of what we now know as afrobeat, and also a political activist. His mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, who played a very strong role in his life (as is typical in African families,) was a feminist activist and anti-colonialist, and his father was both a Protestant minister and first president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers. While studying in London, Fela formed a band whose music fused African jazz and funk with rhythmic West African styles that features horns and multiple guitars. He went on to return to Nigeria, tour the U.S. (where he was heavily influenced by the Black Panther movement,) and famously married 27 women (many of them…

Africa NYC - Part I The Visual Arts

Africa in New York
Part I - Checking into the Contemporary African Art Gallery & beyond in NYC

The movement of people around the globe is a growing phenomenon, and it's no secret that the people of Africa have spread around the world, to the point where the African diaspora has reached a sort of critical momentum in many areas. Cities like Paris, home to artist like Cheri Samba, and London, home to Yinka Shonibare, among others, have become major centres not only receptive to artists who hail from Africa - and therefore important markets for their work - but also to a thriving ex-pat scene of people who create new works in their new home. To those former colonial powers I'll add the city of New York, a pot that sizzles with a vast and diverse cultural bouillon.

So What is "African Art"?

Naturally, there exists a longstanding tradition of arts produced by African Americans born in the U.S., but for the purposes of this piece, I'll be talking about work that has a …

Sartre's No Exit on Stage

No Exit
Written by Jean-Paul Sartre
Adapted from the French by Paul Bowles
"The Valet" text by Jonathon Young
Directed by Kim Collier
Starring Lucia Frangione, Andy Thompson, Laara Sadiq, Jonathon Young
Set Deisgned by Jay Gower Taylor, produced by Nathan Medd for Electric Company Theatre

Playing at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre - to November 21

Sartre as a fun evening of theatre? If, like me, your main exposure to the French existentialist's work up to now brings back memories of your earnest second year prof trying to explain Being and Nothingness ad nauseum, you'll be surprised at my recommendation. But, director Kim Collier's imaginative staging of No Exit is above all an entertaining theatre experience that fires on all cylinders with intriguing set design and conception, cracking good performances and more than a few laughs too.

"Where are the instruments of torture...the racks and red-hot pincers and all the other paraphernalia?" So asks Garcin (Thompson) …

Oliver Mtukudzi - To give hope and give life to people

Oliver Mtukudzi
Phoenix Concert Theatre - November 15, 2009

"To give hope and give life to people." That's the simple philosophy behind Tuku music, and I swear you can hear the joy right in the notes - it's impossible to listen and not find yourself dancing.

Toronto's become something of a hub for musical acts that hail from the African continent, and this weekend the venerable Phoenix Concert Theatre plays host to one of its true legends, Zimbabwe's Oliver Mtukudzi, called simply "Tuku" by his fans.

His career began in 1977 when he joined Wagon Wheels, a band that featured another legend, Thomas Mapfumo. Their first single went gold, and Tuku followed up on the hype with a four track album of his own. Some of the Wagon Wheels' other musicians came with him to form the Black Spirits, the band he has played with throughout his long career. When Independence was declared in Zimbabwe in 1980, Oliver and the Black Spirits released an album called &quo…

Kandinsky at the Guggenheim

Kandinsky at the Guggenheim
to January 13, 2010

Without ever having set foot in New York, or the U.S. for that matter, Russian born artist Vasily Kandinksy (1866 - 1944) played an inordinate role in the founding of the Guggenheim Museum itself. Introduced to Kandinsky's work via artist Hilla Rebay, Samuel R. Guggenheim not only became one of the foremost collectors of Kandinsky's spiritually infused paintings, but an advocate of non-objective, abstract art itself in the U.S., and in fact it became part of the mission of the Museum.There would seem few more fitting celebrations in this year of the Guggenheim's 50th anniversary than this show that draws on collections from all over the world to present a comprehensive look at Kandinsky's career from the early paintings to his last large canvas, completed in 1942. To view it is really a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The show sprawls all over the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Museum, spiralling up to the top of the snail-like…

Chelsea Potpourri

A Saturday afternoon (November 7) sampling the galleries of Chelsea

Nota Bena: I'm calling in "Chelsea", and while that's correct, it's also correct that the galleries I sampled all found themselves in the building located at 511 West 25th Street (near 10th - the building with the Tesla electric car dealership on the ground floor) due to my taking the lazy route, and they represent a completely random sampling at that, including a couple of openings, free wine and all. Here's a look at what was on display in the hotbed of New York's contemporary art scene.

What Would Mother Say - PPOW Gallery
American artist Dotty Attie is known for work that explores gender politics, and she does so in this show with a sly sense of humour. Consisting of series of small (about 6" x 6") canvasses painted in a kind of grayscale, the images are taken from vintage photographs. They all begin with the horrified mother's visage, the question posed for both the male…

Opera Atelier's Iphigénie en Tauride

Iphigénie en Tauride
Opera Atelier
November 4, 2009

Directed by Marshall Pynkoski
Choreographed by Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg
Original costume design by Dora Rust D'Eye
Tafelmusik Orchestra & Chamber Choir conducted by Andrew Parrott

Performances continue to November 7

Gluck's 1779 opera is often considered his crowning glory, a masterpiece of "reformation" opera that put the drama back into an artform that had become rather static over time. In the 18th century, opera was dominated by the kind of "opera seria" we now most associate with Handel, where recitative and aria are strictly separated. Think Messiah - great music, beautiful singing, but dramatic theatre it's not. Seen in context in Opera Atelier's sumptuous period production, it's a treat for the eyes and ears.

The performance brings together dancers, singers and a chorus in a rich panoply of sight and sound, ably anchored by the formidable talents of soprano Peggy Kriha Dye as Iphigénie and…

Antichrist - a film by Lars von Trier

Written & directed by Lars von Trier
Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg & Willem Dafoe
Opens November 13 in Toronto, Vancouver & Montreal, currently in limited release in the U.S.

Lars von Trier's film Antichrist opens for public consumption having been much discussed and debated in the months since its premiere at Cannes in May. If you've read anything at all about it, you'll know that it tells the story of a couple's attempts to come to terms with their grief after the death of their son. Even the publicity synopsis tells you they do so by retreating to eden, being the name of their cabin in the woods, and that things "go from bad to worse" as indeed they do.

The film is visually beautiful in a way that's quite arresting, both in the earlier interior scenes that are shot very close to the characters and in the mythic quality of the outdoor scenes in the woods. Graphic sex scenes are visceral as well as poetic. Gainsbourg and Dafoe are on sc…

The Shopping Cart of Love

Shopping Cart of Love
part of the Canwest Cabaret Festival
October 31 - Young Centre

It may have been Hallowe'en, but the dressing up I saw yesterday afternoon had more to do with the glitz and glamour of the stage than any celebration of All Soul's Day. Business was brisk at the Young Centre, a great little venue in the Distillery District that was set up into five separate and intimate cabaret clubs for the Canwest Cabaret Festival. There were four shows going at once in the afternoon as I dropped in, in a mad flurry of the performing arts that, I think, underscores the public's obvious hunger for song and dance. The line up was long for the Brent Carver offering, and not a seat was left in the house for the Shopping Cart of Love, the Patti Loach/Patricia Zentilli show I got to myself, (along with Nancy White, who was sitting at the table in front of me!) The photo is by Tracey Nolan.

Classic black staging splashed with coloured lights complemented the duo of talented blonde…