Monday, January 28, 2013

Opera Outing: Turandot at the Met

TD and I recently took our nephew Aaron on his first trip to the Metropolitan Opera to see Turandot by Puccini. You know Turandot – the Pekingese princess who had her suitors executed if they did not answer three riddles correctly. What a fun date she must have been...

This was the last opera by Puccini, who had already completed some of the most popular in the repertoire including La Boheme, Tosca, and Madame Butterfly. In fact Turandot was unfinished in 1924 when Puccini died suddenly of a heart attack.

The last bit of Turandot was completed by Franco Alfano in 1926, and the opera premiered in Milan that same year. The production at the Met was designed by Franco Zeffirelli in 1987 and is renowned for its sparkle, extravagance and golden glitter. In fact, the intermission between the first and second acts was almost one hour long in order to complete the set change for Princess Turandot's fantastic Chinese palace (pictured at the top of this post) which featured bridges, ponds, columns and roofed turrets. The glorious music, lavish costumes and ornate set created a spectacular and satisfying feast for the senses.

It's always exciting to cross the plaza at Lincoln Center and approach the Metropolitan Opera House in anticipation.

The house seats 3,800 people each night, and it looked like every seat was taken.
3,800 going in the front door –

We settled into cozy seats at the front of the balcony for a wonderful view.

I realized at intermission that part of the great pleasure of going to the Met is that everything is covered in red velvet. The seats, the railings, the stairs, the walls. It's like you're inside a jewel box, or on one long red carpet.

No photos allowed, but I did capture the cast at the curtain call. Irene Theorin played Turandot and Walter Fraccaro was Calaf, the successful suitor. The entire cast was wonderful.

Then down the red velvet stairs –

3,800 people going out - 

It's always such a treat to go the Met, and I am enjoying learning more about opera, one production at a time. What's next? Maybe Aida, another strong princess from the ancient world, courtesy of Verdi.
Blog bonus: watch the finale of Turandot at the Met –

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Movie Outing: Anna Karenina

I recently took myself over to the Chelsea Cinema to see Anna Karenina, the movie based on Tolstoy's tragic novel from 1877, and which stars Keira Knightley and is directed by Joe Wright. I have been a big fan of these two since they made Pride & Prejudice together which is one of my very favorite movies.

The movie opened at Thanksgiving so I thought by now the theater would be fairly empty so I arrived a little late to find in the dark a completely packed house. I spotted one seat in the last row and asked two old ladies sitting on the aisle if I could kindly pass. One lady tried to stand up once, twice, and on the third attempt she got half-way up and said to me, "You better go by while the going is good!" I squeezed past and settled into a cozy, comfy seat perfectly situated in the middle of the row where the splendors of Russia unfolded before me.

This novel has been made into movies before, most famously starring Greta Garbo, but for this version Joe Wright decided to film the production mostly within an old theater instead of on location in Russia. It's a risky approach but I thought the movie was very beautiful and I recommend it, especially if you are looking for a luxurious eyeful during these dark dreary days of January. The screenplay was written by the English playwright Sir Tom Stoppard. The production design including the clothes and the sets is wonderful, and it inspires you to take home some of the elegance with you. I won't summarize the 900-page novel here, but you do know that for Anna, who is trying to escape the confines of a deadly dull marriage, it does not end well.

Wrapped in silks and jewels and furs, Keira Knightley is jaw-droppingly gorgeous in the title role, and thankfully the camera does linger on her lovely face. (Photos are movie stills from Focus Features and from Vogue magazine; click on photos to enlarge.)


A recent issue of Vogue magazine featured the stars of the movie – here is Keira in Vogue:

The English actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays Count Alexi Vronksy, the rich calvary officer who the unhappily married Anna falls for.
Here is Taylor-Johnson photographed in Vogue, not blonde.

Jude Law plays Anna's long suffering diplomat husband.

In Vogue he wears a dramatic coat by Prada.

Konstantin Levin, who shares a parallel plot with Anna's story, is played by the striking Irish actor Domnhnall Gleason.

The clothes in the movie were designed by Jacqueline Durran, who worked with Joe Wright on Pride & Prejudice, for which she received an Academy Award, and on Atonement; do you remember Keira Knightley's sinuously elegant emerald green evening gown in that movie? Durran was this week nominated for an Oscar for Anna Karenina, and I hope she wins. Eric Wilson at The New York Times wrote a very interesting piece about how Durran combined 1870's shapes with 1950's couture by Balenciaga to create gowns which looked historical but also modern for Anna Karenina.

To add to the modern note, jewelry in the movie is from Chanel; Keira Knightley is the spokesperson for Chanel fragrance.

I really enjoyed the movie which, I understand, is quite faithful to the novel (I haven't read it!). Afterwards I had visions of tsarist Russia dancing in my head. I'd like to return to it again.
Blog bonus: movie trailer

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ivy Style at F.I.T.

I am a big fan of the exhibits at the Museum at F.I.T. and so I thought it would be fun to organize a guided tour through the current exhibition for my department at work. In the fashion marketing department, we are always looking for creative inspiration so what better place to visit than the Museum at F.I.T.  I contacted some friends there and soon enough we had a tour arranged with Patricia Mears, the deputy director of the museum and the curator of the current exhibit called "Ivy Style" which celebrates the handsome, timeless, Ivy League college menswear look.

"Ivy Style” explores this uniquely American invention from its beginnings at the turn of the last century up until today with the designs of Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. The show’s impressive installation includes settings that recreate a college quad, classrooms and a retail university shop. On the insightful tour for the marketing department, Patricia noted that Ivy League style is a signature American creation that mixes up a wealthy, moneyed look with a sporty, casual attitude – for example wearing a bow tie with madras shorts or a tuxedo with no socks. Ivy style takes dressy men's clothes down a notch with a relaxed nonchalance. She also pointed out that although the Ivy League look is now thought of as classic and conservative, it was considered leading edge in the 1920’s and 30’s when magazines eagerly reported on the latest fashion trends that young college men were wearing.

“Ivy Style” is up until January 5th at the Museum at the corner of 7th Avenue and 27th Street, and admission is free. Check it out if you can, and learn more about American men's style and the themes that shaped it. Thank you to F.I.T. and Patricia Mears for the great tour!