Friday, November 25, 2011

RomaEuropa Festival 2011: Peter Brook's 'A Magic Flute' at Teatro Argentina

The 2011 edition of the RomaEuropa Festival, which embraces not only the visual arts, but also dance, film, theatre, music and performance art, is entitled “Try the impossible”. Peter Brook, the British theatre director renowned for thinking outside the box, would certainly seem to fit the bill with his utterly captivating reinvention of Mozart's most magical opera Die Zauberflöte. In Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne's adaptation the title is no longer “The” Magic Flute of the original, but “A” Magic Flute instead – a less-is-more exploration of the opera, reduced to just seven essential singing roles and two actors, accompanied by composer Franck Krawczyk's arrangements on a single piano. Performed barefoot on a virtually bare stage - the scenery is evoked through bamboo poles which are moved as needed to create the idea of prison bars, tree branches, or temple walls – this is a brilliantly simple, yet highly effective production.

The musical numbers are sung in the original German, whilst the spoken dialogue is delivered in French - with subtitles in Italian – and the cast is an international mix of talented young singers and actors, who perform on rotation during the various evenings. On the Thursday evening performance I attended Australian tenor Adrian Strooper and Turkish-Dutch soprano Aylin Sezer were just perfect as the innocent lovers Tamino and Pamina, coloratura soprano Malia Bendi-Merad was a wonderfully restrained Queen of the Night, whilst bass Vincent Pavesi was an imposing Sarastro.

Without doubt, however, it was Thomas Dolié as Papageno, a fine baritone and great comic actor, and Dima Bawab as Papagena, who delighted the audience most, eliciting a round of spontaneous applause after their duet.

A final mention should also go to the charismatic actor Abdou Ouologuem – his sleight-of-hand “magic” opens and closes A Magic Flute and his elegant presence gently guides the players from one scene to the next.


Un Flauto Magico (A Magic Flute) continues at Teatro Argentina until 27 November, 2011.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Richard Gere presents 'Days of Heaven' at the International Rome Film Festival 2011

Richard Gere introduces 'Days of Heaven' in Rome
No stranger to the International Rome Film Festival having attended two earlier editions of the fledgling kermesse, Richard Gere was back at the Auditorium Parco della Musica on Thursday to attend a special screening of the newly restored print of Terrence Malick's 1978 masterpiece Days of Heaven. Crowds lining the red carpet at this year's festival have been noticeably thinner than in previous years, but the charismatic appeal of a huge Hollywood star had worked its magic and Richard Gere's arrival was accompanied by hundreds of fans clamouring for a glimpse of the actor as he strolled the length of the red carpet, shaking hands and signing only the occasional autograph. The welcome in Sala Sinopoli was no less enthusiastic, and he was greeted with cheers and rapturous applause when he appeared on stage to introduce the movie.

After the film, it was a contemplative Richard Gere who returned to the stage to discuss the film with Claudio Masenza. Explaining that he hadn't seen Days of Heaven himself for over thirty years, he confessed that he found it difficult to relate to the man he had just seen on screen and that his memories of making the movie, and that period of his life, felt rather dreamlike now. Thanks to Masenza's pertinent questions about the technical aspects behind the making of Days of Heaven, however, this turned into a brief, but fascinating conversation, full of revealing insights into what it was like for the young actor to work with the sometimes exasperating director Terence Malick in what was his first lead movie role. Commenting on Malick's obsessive reediting of Days of Heaven, Gere joked: If they hadn't taken it away from him, he'd still be editing it today!

On the following evening Richard Gere was back at the festival once more for the closing awards ceremony, where he was presented with the 2011 Marc'Aurelio lifetime achievement acting award, joining the ranks of previous winners Sean Connery, Sophia Loren, Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, and the 2010 winner Julianne Moore.

To get a taste of the atmosphere at the Days Heaven screening watch the video of Richard Gere on the red carpet and in Sala Sinopoli below (or click here to watch on YouTube).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Zhang Ziyi presents 'Love for Life' at the International Rome Film Festival

Zhang Ziyi and Gu Changwei at Rome Film Festival
The undisputed queen of the sixth edition of the International Rome Film Festival yesterday evening was Chinese superstar Zhang Ziyi who shared the red carpet with director Gu Changwei and screenwriter Yang Weiwei at the presentation of the in-competition film Love for Life. I'm an enormous fan of Chinese cinema and the chance to see Zhang Ziyi in person was an absolute thrill – Ms Zhang even graciously signed my DVD copy of House of Flying Daggers, so I'm feeling rather starstruck today!

Love for Life, the first fiction film from mainland China to explore the taboo issue of AIDS in the country, starring Zhang Ziyi alongside Hong Kong pop star and actor Aaron Kwok, is a devastatingly beautiful film, with two heartbreaking performances by both leads. It was warmly appreciated by the audience in Sala Sinopoli yesterday evening, and was greeted with long and rapturous applause and a standing ovation as the credits rolled.

To get a taste of the event watch the video of Zhang Ziyi on the red carpet and in Sala Sinopoli below (or click here to watch on YouTube).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bill Nighy and David Hare present 'Page Eight' at the International Rome Film Festival

Bill Nighy on the red carpet at Rome Film Festival
This year's edition of the International Rome Film Festival has dedicated its Focus section to British cinema showing a series of new-release British productions such as David Hare's Page Eight, as well as classics selected by British actors, screenwriters and directors divided into 'Punks' or 'Patriots'. To celebrate this event the red carpet has been designed by floral artist to the Royal family Simon J. Lycett. Fresh from arranging the flowers for the wedding of Prince William and Kate earlier this year, he has decked the film festival red carpet with highly unusual Union flags made out of red apples and cabbages!

Page Eight was originally created as a television movie for the BBC, but this impeccably written and beautifully acted film has recently been shown on the big screen too at film festivals in Toronto and Warsaw. Page Eight stars several leading British names - Rachel Weisz, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes - and one of my personal favourite actors, Bill Nighy, who joined the writer and director David Hare on the red carpet signing dozens of autographs and posing for photographs for fans. Later, as an unexpected surprise, they both appeared on stage in a packed Sala Sinopoli yesterday afternoon at the special screening of the film. After David Hare had explained a little about the production of the movie, Bill Nighy appeared to huge cheers and delighted the audience with a story of an Italian girl he had fallen in love with back in 1968 and making a plea as to whether she was in the audience! Unmissable!

To get a taste of the event watch the video of David Hare and Bill Nighy on the red carpet and in Sala Sinopoli below (or click here to watch on YouTube).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Noomi Rapace presents 'Babycall' at Rome Film Festival

Pål Sletaune, Noomi Rapace and Kristoffer Joner in Rome
Swedish actress Noomi Rapace, best known internationally for the Swedish/Danish film adaptations of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy novels - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest – in which she so perfectly nailed the part of Lisbeth Salander, was at the Rome Film Festival yesterday evening to present the in-competition movie Babycall by Norwegian director Pål Sletaune.

To the delight of festival-goers who lined the route of the red carpet, the stunningly beautiful actress broke from her entourage and came over to sign numerous autographs for her waiting fans. She was joined in the Sala Sinopoli by the director, co-star Kristoffer Joner, producer Turid Øversveen and composer Fernando Velázquez.

With its powerfully understated, yet highly effective performances by Rapace and Joner, and Sletaune's slow-burning direction which allows the film to really get under your skin, Babycall is a hauntingly atmospheric psychological thriller, and it received well-deserved warm applause in Rome yesterday as the credits rolled.

To get a taste of the event watch the video of Noomi Rapace on the red carpet and in Sala Sinopoli below (or click here to watch on YouTube).

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