Friday, November 16, 2012

John Hurt Captivates Los Angeles in Krapp's Last Tape

UPDATED: Charles McNulty proclaims Gate Theatre Dublin's Krapp's Last Tape one of the two most memorable productions of 2012, calling the staging "a definitive production of this solo work, thanks to the exquisite tragicomic sensitivity of John Hurt, an actor whose creased face is a poem about time every bit as expressive as Beckett's play."

David Eden Productions applauds John Hurt and Gate Theatre Dublin on their wildly successful engagement at Center Theatre Group's Kirk Douglas Theatre with Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape, directed by Michael Colgan. As was the case when David Eden Productions partnered with the Gate to present this landmark staging at the Shakespeare Theatre and at BAM last winter, audiences and critics were unanimous in their praise for this revelatory production.

Photo: Anthony Woods
“Magnificent…not to be missed.”
Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times

“A dramatic poem of genius…executed by the brilliantly talented John Hurt.”
—Bob Verini, Variety

“Unforgettable. Theater lovers should do everything in their power to get there.”
—Paul Hodgins, The Orange County Register

John Hurt and Anwen Rees-Myers on opening night
Photo: Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

In a virtuoso solo acting turn that is as technically accomplished as it is acutely felt, Hurt channels Beckett’s compassionately rueful comic spirit, delighting in the free intermingling of somber philosophical themes and subtle slapstick.… the distinguished British actor’s magnificent rendition… Verbally precise but equally deft with silence and movement… his soulful eyes registering every fleeting hurt and happiness… This is an actor in vintage form in a play that is as soft as it is stark.

John Hurt is perfect. And he stares forward at us, into the darkness, lips twisted in anguish, eyes brimming with heartache.

The most compelling minutes I’ve ever experienced in a theatre…powerful and unforgettable. This is acting at its finest.... Anyone who values great acting and great theater owes it to themselves to rush to the Kirk Douglas before this limited engagement ends.

John Hurt gives a career-defining performance in Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape…the laughs are contagious…and Hurt makes us feel every pang.

Inspiring…John Hurt holds the audience’s attention and never lets go of it.... A more fully realized character could not have been wished for.  This is a consummate performance given by one of Britain’s finest actors.

David Eden Productions is thrilled to have been able to continue working this autumn with Center Theatre Group, bringing another magnificent Irish theater production to the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, which hosted the 2011 Los Angeles engagement of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan as part of Druid's seventeen-week US tour of that production. These presentations would not be possible without the continued assistance of Culture Ireland.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ensemble Basiani's American Tour a Triumph

Ensemble Basiani has now returned to Tbilisi, having brought to American shores the rare opportunity to experience the power and precision of Georgia's polyphonic musical heritage in a program of secular and sacred music.
Here is a slideshow with highlights from the road, accompanied by the ensemble's recording of the Kakhetian table song, Mravalzhamier

Audiences, music enthusiasts, and critics were all amazed by Basiani's performances, echoing the commentary of James Oestrich and Vivien Schweitzer in The New York Times when the ensemble made their American debut at the 2010 Mostly Mozart Festival. Adding to the chorus of praises were these superlative comments in response to Ensemble Basiani's October 2012 performances:
Former WQXR radio personality and current Sarasota, Florida classical music maven June LeBell wrote for The Observer:
This chorus of a dozen singers sports some of the finest vocal musicians I’ve ever heard. Using little vibrato, they produced impeccable pitches that made perfect fifths and even minor seconds seem like the steppes of Central Asia.... Their antiphonal singing, solo melismas and a couple of eerie but effective yodels on an open fifth — strangely reminiscent of European police sirens — added to their special effects throughout their performances of Georgian folksongs. Would that more vocal ensembles had that kind of control and musicianship.
In Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, John Frayne noted in The News Gazette:

The brilliant and stirring contrapuntal interweaving of these voices left a moving and memorable impression on me. A variety of scale was achieved by varying the number of singers delivering the pieces, from trios to songs involving two singers working against a group of five or six, and occasionally everyone got into the act. The results were sometimes akin to Russian liturgical chants or to Renaissance Flemish polyphony. My favorite number was "Shen Khar Venakhi" ("You are a vineyard,") the Iambus of the Holy Virgin. Here the soft singing of the group wove a magical spell.
In Ann Arbor, Michigan, Clayton Parr remarked on

Basiani’s program captured the essence of the various styles in Georgian folk music in splendid fashion, with the solo voices in particular displaying mastery of these specialized vocal styles.... Their set of six liturgical pieces, all in three parts, demonstrated their mastery of the varied sacred musical traditions.... The spirit, discipline, control and power of tone from Basiani is among the best Georgia has to offer, and the large crowd responded with multiple standing ovations.
David Eden Productions is delighted by this overwhelming response and looks forward to future opportunities to work with Ensemble Basiani and their ever-expanding group of fans in the US.

Major support for Ensemble Basiani's US tour provided by the Trust for Mutual Understanding.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Basiani on the Road: "California or Bust!"

Ensemble Basiani is ready to conquer the US in a 1917 Overland Touring Car, on display at the Henry Ford Museum
Basiani's tour continues and here's what the critics have had to say so far:

"The spirit, discipline, control and power of tone from Basiani is among the best Georgia has to offer, and the large crowd responded with multiple standing ovations."
--Clayton Parr,

"This troupe of 12 men with strong voices and amazing lung capacity launched into a near psychedelic groove of unusual harmonies, rhythmic intensity and sheer beauty. Singing without accompaniment, with the exception of either the panduri or chonguri, both long-necked lutes of ancient Greek origin, Ensemble Basiani flawlessly illustrated the diversity of the rich polyphonic vocal tradition of Georgia."
--Gayle Williams, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
"If you had told me that I would spend a Saturday afternoon listening to Georgian folk songs and chants and end up actually experiencing goose bumps, I would never have believed you." 
--Kay Kipling, Sarasota Magazine

It has been an amazing two weeks for Ensemble Basiani, as their first national tour of America has traced a path from Michigan, where University Musical Society (UMS) hosted their debut concert in Ann Arbor's St. Francis of Assisi Church, to the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts' Foellinger Great Hall, and then a sunny weekend in Florida appearing at Sarasota's Historic Asolo Theater for the Ringling International Arts Festival and at Gainesville's University Auditorium for University of Florida Performing Arts. Audiences have been left awestruck, and it is clear already that this tour is a milestone event that people will be talking about for months, if not years, to come.
Basiani is presently being hosted at Dartmouth College by the Hopkins Center for the Arts, where they are participating in various residency activities and performing tomorrow night, October 17, at the Spaulding Auditorium. From there, the ensemble heads west to California, appearing in Berkeley under the auspices of Cal Performances and to Santa Barbara as part of the UCSB Arts & Lectures season this weekend. Ensemble Basiani's US tour will then conclude on October 27 when they perform as part of the White Light Festival, presented by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in New York City.
Don't miss this rare opportunity to experience Ensemble Basiani before they return home to Tbilisi!

Major support for Ensemble Basiani's US tour provided by the Trust for Mutual Understanding.

Friday, October 12, 2012

"An actor in vintage form in a play that is as soft as it is stark"

Los Angeles Times Review:

John Hurt is magnificent in Beckett's 'Krapp's Last Tape'

John Hurt eloquently stars in Samuel Beckett's 'Krapp's Last Tape' at Kirk Douglas Theatre in a production directed by Michael Colgan.
Photo Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times
Charles McNulty weighs in on Gate Theatre Dublin's production of Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape, starring John Hurt and directed by Michael Colgan, playing at Center Theatre Group's Kirk Douglas Theatre through November 4 only.
With his shock of silver-gray hair, his face etched by time with the lean expressiveness of a Giacometti sculpture and his soulful eyes registering every fleeting hurt and happiness, John Hurt bears a striking resemblance to Samuel Beckett in the distinguished British actor's magnificent rendition of "Krapp's Last Tape" at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.
For anyone needing a reminder that theater can be an art (and not just a scrappy entertainment), this beautifully mounted production of Beckett's play, directed by Michael Colgan of Dublin's Gate Theatre, is not to be missed. Full review here.
 Congratulations to everyone in Los Angeles and Dublin!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Feature Interview with Zurab Tskrialashvili of Basiani

Photo © Levan Chkhartishvili

Ensemble Basiani is preparing to depart for the US tomorrow, kicking off an exciting tour across America that will showcase the unique musical treasury that infuses traditional life in Georgia. This heritage was recently featured when New Sounds, John Schaefer's indispensable broadcast on WNYC New York Public Radio, aired a recording of Ensemble Basiani's performance at Lincoln Center in 2010 of "Tsintsqaro" (cue media player to minute 52:10). In advance of the ensemble's arrival, here is an interview published by offering additional background about the history of Georgian polyphony.

Major support for Ensemble Basiani's US tour provided by the Trust for Mutual Understanding.

Acclaimed Georgian choral group Basiani making Ann Arbor debut

It's a tale with a happy ending: a centuries-old tradition, on the verge of extinction, rescued at the last hour by devotees who would not let it die. That's what happened to choral music from the area we know today as the Republic of Georgia. Declared a "masterpiece of the spiritual treasury of the world's 'non-material' culture" in 2001 by UNESCO, Georgian music-the sacred hymns, the secular songs, all highly polyphonic-almost didn't make it into the 20th century, let alone the 21st.

Among the latest to keep the flame alive are the members of Basiani, the all-male Georgian choral/folk ensemble whose 2010 appearance at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival "stole the main show," according to New York Times critic James Oestreich. Thursday evening, the group makes its Ann Arbor debut at a University Musical Society performance at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.

To find out more about this remarkable group, founded in 2000 as an outgrowth of the Holy Trinity Cathedral Male Choir in Tbilisi, Georgia, we turned to Zurab Tskrialashvili. A member of the cathedral choir since 1999 and of Basiani since 2002, Tskrialashvili took time to answer questions put to him via e-mail.

Q. Could you say a few words about the repertoire the group will perform in Ann Arbor? Is it all folk repertoire? And from all over Georgia? And from when does it date and what makes it distinctive?
A. The repertoire we perform is Georgian traditional sacred and secular music. Those are Georgian folk songs and church hymns. We always do try to choose the program which consists of the songs from different parts of all Georgia, to show to public the diverse music that characterizes each corner of the country Georgia. Quite different and unique harmony, music language and performing style make Georgian traditional music distinctive.

Though the roots are deeply seen in the ancient times, the repertoire we perform now could be considered as coming from the Middle Ages! The first live recordings were done in 1901 by the 90-100-years-old authentic Georgian performers which had been taught by the ancestors and forefathers. So it leads us in deepness of ages. I mention this because the repertoire we perform is directly revived from the recordings I noted. At this the church music to be considered as Old Georgian Professional Music has its own unique development way, which begins alongside with Christianity in Georgia and reaches the peak of development in the 10-12th centuries!

Q. How is the material collected and learned? Do you have someone who arranges it? Is it music of an oral tradition or all written out and notated?
A. Georgian traditional folk songs as well as the church hymns have been passed from generation to generation by the oral tradition during the ages. Since the 10th century Georgian chanters used musical symbols, the so-called "neumes," to help them memorize the melody; this type of written musical language differs from the Byzantine one. Unfortunately the key is not yet found to decipher above-mentioned "neumes"!

From the beginning of the 19th century, when the autocephalous status of the Georgian Church was abolished by Russia, Georgian chant was replaced by Russian so-called Partesnoe Peniye-and Georgian chant was seriously threatened. Georgian public figures-the Karbelashvili brothers, the Dumbadzes, Razhden Khundadze, Pilimon Koridze, Ekvtime Kereselidze and others-took upon themselves the hard task of transcribing over 8,000 examples of Georgian chant. Since this period the notated hymns are the main source of studying them from, alongside the small quantity of old singers' live recordings, made at the period of beginning-to-middle of 20th century.

As for the folk songs, there are a lot of materials, including audio/video tracks and notated songs, which become the main teachers for the group. Also the regions still keep the people who are the successors of oral singing traditions-so we keep the close relationship with them, studying quantity of patterns.

Q. It would be great if you could also say a few words about Georgian polyphony and what makes it distinctive.
A. The unique three-part musical language, different harmony, distinguished performing style, complicated composing structure and high developed polyphonic thought make Georgian polyphony distinctive. The witness of this easily could be the cases such as: increasing interest in Georgian polyphony of the foreign researchers; creating the Georgian singing choirs by the foreigners themselves in France, UK, Canada, Australia etc.; international acknowledgement of Georgian polyphony by UNESCO in 2001; sending of Georgian song "Chakrulo" to the space by the Americans in 1977, as a part of humans' high-music civilization; and the last-performing Georgian polyphony at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival alongside the J.S. Bach's compositions in 2010!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rhinoceros en Californie!

With Théâtre de la Ville making their American premiere on the West Coast, David Eden Productions is delighted to report news of a remarkably warm welcome and a rapturous response from audiences and critics alike for the company's production of Rhinoceros.
With two performances kicking off the inaugural season of the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA (CAP-UCLA), as part of the amazing program Kristy Edmunds has planned in Los Angeles, Ionesco's words demonstrated the potency and poignancy of his dramatic vision. Charles McNulty observed in The Los Angeles Times that this "smart, sleek production," directed by Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, "allows us to connect to Ionesco's deeply human vision," with "Serge Maggiani beautifully captur[ing] Bérenger's bedraggled, unheroic humanity."
The company and crew are now preparing for their three performances in the Bay Area, presented by Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall on the UC Berkeley campus on September 27 (8pm), September 28 (8pm), and September 29 (2pm). Cal Performances' director, Matías Tarnopolsky, recently spoke about their fall season in San Francisco Classical Voice, and the much anticipated engagement has already been highlighted as a "must see" event by the critics and editors of the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, The Examiner, and Theatre Bay Area.

Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota (l) and Serge Maggiani (r) speak with The Honorable Bertrand Delanoë, Mayor of Paris (far left)

Adding to the excitement for this week's performances in Berkeley is the visit to the Bay Area by the Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, who will join the company at their opening night performance.

The production will be hosted by BAM as part of the Next Wave Festival on October 4, 5, and 6. The following week, David Eden Productions will take the touring party to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the final American performances will be presented by University Musical Society (UMS) on October 11, 12, and 13. We very much hope you will have an opportunity to experience this magnificent theatrical accomplishment. Visit YouTube to see video clips from the production and to find footage from archival interviews with Eugene Ionesco.

The US tour of Rhinoceros is made possible by support from Institut Français and City of Paris. Additional help has been provided by Vivendi, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States and the Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ensemble Basiani from Tbilisi, Georgia

Photo © George Demetrashvili
David Eden Productions will present this October a major American tour, bringing the incomparable Ensemble Basiani to eight leading performing arts presenters across the US. This tour is a rare opportunity for American audience to experience the centuries-old tradition of polyphonic singing that remains a defining aspect of secular and spiritual life in Georgia and an important part of the world's musical heritage, as reflected in the 2001 designation by UNESCO of Georgian polyphonic singing as one of ninety Masterpieces of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Basiani's 2010 appearance at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival, led James Oestreich of The New York Times to claim that the Georgians stole the show "against strong competition," with the ensemble "singing in close harmony, presented sacred and folk music displaying polyphonic devices ranging from simple drones to intricately interwoven melodies, which often crossed or combined to produce harmonies pungent to the Western ear." Oestreich's colleague, Vivien Schweitzer, noted in her review that as the "wild and unfamiliar yodeling unfolded over startling harmonies and complex rhythmic patterns," she might have mistaken the work for that of "some new experimental composer."

Ensemble Basiani's tour commences in Ann Arbor, Michigan under the auspices of University Musical Society (UMS), with a public performance scheduled for October 4, before the tour continues to the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Champaign, Illinois, the Ringling International Arts Festival in Sarasota, Florida, University of Florida Performing Arts in Gainesville, Florida, the Hopkins Center for the Arts in Hanover, New Hampshire, Cal Performances in Berkeley, California, UCSB Arts & Lectures in Santa Barbara, California, and finally to New York City where the ensemble will appear as a part of the Lincoln Center White Light Festival on October 27. Full details of scheduled performances are included below; the ensemble will also be participating in various masterclasses, workshops, and classroom visits while on the campuses of these universities and colleges.

Visit Basiani's page on Facebook to see video clips and photographs.

Major support for Ensemble Basiani's US tour provided by the Trust for Mutual Understanding.
Ensemble Basiani
October 2012 US Tour

Thursday, October 04, 2012 at 7:30pm
St. Francis of Assisi Church
University Musical Society (UMS)
Ann Arbor, MI

Tuesday, October 09, 2012 at 7:30pm
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Foellinger Great Hall
Champaign, IL

Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 5:00pm
Friday, October 12, 2012 at 8:00pm
Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 2:00pm
Historic Asolo Theater
Ringling International Arts Festival
Sarasota, FL

Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 2:00pm
University Auditorium
University of Florida Performing Arts
Gainesville, FL

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 7:00pm
Hopkins Center for the Arts, Spaulding Auditorium
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH

Saturday, October 20, 2012 at 8:00pm
First Congregational Church
Cal Performances, University of California
Berkeley, CA

Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 4:00pm and 7:00pm
First United Methodist Church
UCSB Arts & Lectures
Santa Barbara, CA

Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 7:30pm
Church of St. Mary the Virgin
Lincoln Center, White Light Festival
New York, NY