Friday, May 29, 2009

Morricone promises "most beautiful music"

By Nancy T. Lu

"Fifty percent of a moviegoer’s experience consists of looking while another 50 percent consists of listening,” pointed out visiting film music composer Ennio Morricone. “This Sunday, however, the concert program will be 100 percent music without images to explain the scores.”

Morricone – whom Mario Palma, director of Italian Economic, Trade and Cultural Promotion Office, Italian Trade Section, called “Italy’s art ambassador” – will personally conduct his repertoire of movie soundtracks during his first Taiwan concert at the Taipei Arena on May 31. He promised to treat his listeners to only “the most beautiful music.”

The 81-year-old Italian musician said during the press conference at the Landis Taipei Hotel that he would get the Gyoer Philharmonic Orchestra to play all his important film music, including soundtracks for movies directed by Serge Leone (“A Fistful of Dollars,” “For a Few Dollars More” and “Once Upon a Time in America”), Brian de Palma (“The Untouchables”) and Giuseppe Tornatore (“The Legend of 1900").

Even music written for a very violent film banned in Italy will be played. Roberto Faenza’s movie "H2S" can no longer be found in the market. Only the music remains in existence. Morricone claimed to have used “a light but sarcastic approach” in writing the music. “Tick, tock, tick, tock….” could be heard in the end.

The program this Sunday will highlight, for example, the composer’s attempt to bring in the “animal feeling,” using music. Special sound effect introduced in “For a Few Dollars More” and well-remembered by his fans, clearly a departure from traditional music, will be heard. Music with social commentary and cultural significance like the score from “Battle of Algiers” will be played.

Morricone has collaborated with many famous international directors with great success over the years. But the road has been paved with difficulties because “not all of the directors showed a good and legitimate background in music.”

“I am compelled to come up with something under constraints posed by the movie and the director,” remarked Morricone yesterday. “Communication is a continuing process. I tend to initiate something though and not simply react, arriving at a satisfactory result while keeping my dignity intact during an unnecessarily ideal communication.”

Morricone revealed: “I may look angry often but deep inside, I am happy.” Indeed he must be to be able to keep churning out such beautiful and touching music of different genres.

Morricone’s son was said to have co-signed the music for “Nuovo Cinema Paradiso.” The older Morricone clarified that Andrea Morricone could be credited only for the love theme.

“My son had just graduated from the music conservatory and I wanted to help him get started in his career,” Morricone recalled. “And so I submitted the music I wrote along with my son’s work, which was inserted without Tornatore’s knowledge. Tornatore chose some of my music and even a bit of my son’s music for the final soundtrack. But I must say I took charge of the whole movie score.”

Asked if he still remembers all of his rather prodigious output, over 400 works in all, he replied: “I have been through many stages of development. I would rather forget my past works and just keep moving forward.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Taipei Philharmonic Chamber Chorus to sing Cayabyab church music "St. Michael's Mass"

By Nancy T. Lu
Do you know that the Taipei Philharmonic Chamber Chorus will be performing Ryan Cayabyab’s “St. Michael’s Mass” on June 1 at the National Concert Hall in Taipei? The “Joy and Peace” concert program will also feature the music of J.S. Bach and R.V. Williams.

The Taipei concert will serve as a preview of a performance in Vancouver, Canada, by Taiwan’s best-known choral group in August. The chorus led by Dirk Duhei has collaborated previously with the extremely gifted composer from the Philippines.

Cayabyab originally wrote the upbeat religious music for the now-defunct San Miguel Master Chorale. Score sheets can be bought at Ryan Cayabyab’s Music Studio in the basement of Robinson’s Galleria in Metro Manila.

The music has reportedly been written in a style still likely to be considered liturgical by churches in the United States. The Filipino musician previously composed “Mass for Peace,” also available commercially. He likewise wrote “Blessed Trinity Mass.” “English Mass” (Mass Series 4) was created last.

For tickets to the concert, call tel. (02)2773-3691.

Taipei Film Festival to screen “Wheat Harvest”

Xu Tong, the director of “Wheat Harvest,” has requested the organizers of the 11th Taipei Film Festival to refrain from giving the movie’s two screenings on July 9 and 11 any publicity. Xu also asked that tickets not be openly sold.

The movie about a country girl who secretly works as a prostitute in Beijing to support her family in Hebei became very controversial when it was screened in China and Hong Kong.

Cheng Yu-chieh’s “Yang Yang” and “Germany 09” by 13 top German directors will open the 11th Taipei Film Festival on June 26. The closing films on July 12 will be Claudia Llosa’s “The Milk of Sorrow” and Chang Tso-chi’s “How Are You, Dad?”

Tickets to screenings at the Shin Kong Cineplex and the Taipei Zhongshan Hall have gone on sale since May 23.

Leading at the box office so far are: Stephan Komandarev’s “The World Is Big and Salvation is Around the Corner,” Caroline Link’s “Beyond Silence,” Claudia Llosa’s “The Milk of Sorrow,” “Germany 09” (which brings together 13 most acclaimed directors of Germany), Sebastian Silva’s “The Maid,” Wong Kar-wai’s “Ashes of the Redux,” Cheng Yu-chieh’s “Yang Yang,” Atom Egoyan’s “Adoration,”
Ryosuke Hashiguchi’s “All Around Us,” and Emilio Portes’ “Meet the Head of Juan Perez.”

The film festival will highlight German films and German directors under the “City Vision,” “Vintage Berlin” and “Modern Germany” sections. The “Voices from Latin America” will feature works by directors from Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Peru.

The competition section will be devoted to the search for new talent as well as winner of the Taipei Award.

Visit website for more information.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Keep special tryst with film music composer Ennio Morricone at Taipei Arena on May 31

By Nancy T. Lu

A big concert this coming Sunday will be a chance to meet the Mozart of film music. Film music composer Ennio Morricone will present his works on May 31 at the Taipei Arena. The famous Italian musician at 81 will personally conduct the Gyoer Philharmonic Orchestra from Hungary along with a 120-member chorus.

Morricone’s father was a trumpeter who played in the opera house. Thus, he grew up in a music environment. At the age of 13, he was already an opera musician. This paved the way for his interest in a music career.

Over the years, he was exposed to a wide and enriching range of composition genres. He went from absolute music to applied music, wearing hats of orchestrator and conductor in the recording field. He composed for theater, radio and cinema.

Born in 1928, Morricone got his trumpet diploma in 1946 and his composition diploma in 1954. His film music composition career began when he was only 27. Since then, he has not stopped writing music.

Morricone first drew worldwide notice collaborating with Sergio Leone in the Italian director’s “spaghetti western” series. He used special musical instruments in his creative movie soundtracks to fan the imagination of the moviegoers. Morricone, in fact, introduced whistling with remarkable impact. He turned to the violin and the cello. Meanwhile the panflute stood out in “Once Upon a Time in America.”

Morricone worked closely with Sergio Leone in westerns like :”A Fistful of Dollars” (1964), “For a Few Dollars More” (1965), “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” (1966), “Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968) and “A Fistful of Dynamite” (1971).

From 1980 to 1990, Morricone composed memorable music for “The Mission,” “Once Upon a Time in America,” “Nuovo Cinema Paradiso” and “The Legend of 1900,” among others.

He was said to base his music composition on the script. He also discussed the music lengthily with the director each time.

The international directors who have worked with Morricone have included Sergio Leone, Gillo Pontecorvo, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bernardo Bertolucci, Giuliano Montaldo, Lina Wertmuller, Giuseppe Tornatore, Brian de Palma, Roman Polanski, Warren Beatty, Adrian Lyne, Oliver Stone, Margarethe Von Trotta, Henry Verneuil, Pedro Almodovar and Roland Joffe.

Tickets to the concert to start at 7:45 p.m. on May 31 cost from NT$800 to NT$600. Call tel. (02)2577-2568 or (02)2341-9898. Photo reproduced here is courtesy of New Aspect.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Missing food tasting at Swiss cooking demo

By Nancy T. Lu

Chef Willi Isler took a crowd gathered at the increasingly popular Cooking Studio of Eslite Bookstore in Taipei’s Xinyi District on a tour of the culinary map of Switzerland last week.

The recipes which he introduced on this occasion, as explained by Hans Peter Fritze, deputy director of the Trade Office of Swiss Industries in Taipei, highlighted the French, German and Italian influences in the Swiss food culture.

The chef from the Switzerland Culinary Arts Academy demonstrated first a breakfast recipe, tapping oatmeal, milk, yoghurt, honey, lemon juice, apples, hazelnuts as well as seasonal fruits. Birchermuesli was described as German in origin. Apples had to be washed but not peeled, he pointed out. Drops of lemon kept the apples from changing color. Oats and hazelnuts were soaked overnight or at least for six hours. In the food preparation, fresh banana was added only at the very end.

Malakoff did not sound French at all but the chef said the food preparation originated from the French-speaking part of Confederation Helvetica like Geneva. He demonstrated the recipe regarded as an appetizer or even main course for his second dish.

Swiss cheeses like Gruyere (best known of all Swiss cheeses) and Emmental (Swiss cheese with large holes but minus the mouse peeping out) came to be listed as imported ingredients of Malakoff. So were rye bread and kirsch or cherry brandy along with white wine. Garlic clove, cayenne, nutmeg, gherkins ,and pickled onions were all in the picture. Cheese had to be spread on the bread and then put into the oven.

Risotto al funghi e asparagi sounded Italian. Rice – specifically the round grain kind called Arborio – must be cooked “al dente” or slightly crunchy, emphasized Isler. Bouillon gave it a tasty flavor. The rice preparation often compared with the paella and the pilaf must be served in a soup bowl, according to the chef. Finish it off, singing “O Sole Mio,” suggested Isler.

The carrot cake – the best way to enjoy the edible root – should be done the day before for it to taste really good. But at least chef Isler went to great lengths to explain details about the recipe like getting the moisture right. It should taste better on the second or even on the third day, he told his listeners. (Chef Isler is shown glazing the carrot cake in the picture.)

I recall going gaga over carrot cake in the past. I never got to taste it at the Cooking Studio though.

I had arrived too late to grab a seat at the Cooking Studio. When the food trays were brought around, only those seated were served. Not a single dish demonstrated by chef Isler reached me, patiently standing on one side of the room and watching the proceedings. And so I left the cooking session, imagining how all those Swiss dishes tasted and feeling kind of disappointed.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lan Ling family fetes 30 years of Taiwan theater

By Nancy T. Lu

The Lan Ling Theater Workshop, a pioneering group in the history of Taiwan’s contemporary and modern theater, turns 30 this year. Many of Lan Ling’s drama talents have moved on to carve careers as shining lights in the theatrical world.

Li Kuo-hsiu of Pin-Fong Acting Troupe put it so well during “Lan Ling Night” at the Huashan Art District recently: “Lan Ling never officially disbanded. ‘Lan Ling at 30’ is proof.”

And so the show goes on for Lan Ling. Those who grew up with Lan Ling and all the younger talents whom they are nurturing in the performing arts world are contributing annually to a creative industry worth NT$5 billion.

For the men and women – it’s a Who’s Who list - once active in the Lan Ling Theater Workshop, a 30-year milestone celebration makes it very difficult to keep precious nuggets of memories locked away.

Old and sometimes fading photographs from scrapbooks readily open the floodgates of memories about a “crazy era.” Pictures taken of a very young, eager and idealistic group during drama training and rehearsal serve as reminders of anecdotes worth retelling with nostalgia even for the nth time.

Wu Ching-chi’s leadership

Ever-swelling enthusiasm kept these young men and women experimenting, groping for direction but finally staying right on the theater track in those days. Wu Ching-chi, Dr. Wu to most of them, was the mentor who encouraged such passion for the dramatic art over the years. He, in fact, became the founder and artistic director of the Lan Ling Theater Workshop. Through all these years, he has been an inspiration through his encouragement to many members of the Lan Ling family.

Wu had received postgraduate education in psychology abroad. But at the same time, he was into theater, having been a director at the off-Broadway Playhouse La MaMa when he was much younger. He struck the younger generation of thespians as the perfect adviser. And “Lan Ling Night” became also an occasion to fete him as he turned 70 for his inspiring and meaningful leadership.

No less than President Ma Ying-jeou in his capacity as head of the Cultural Association of the Republic of China turned up on “Lan Ling Night” at Huashan recently to award him in recognition of his significant contribution to the development of Taiwan theater. Wu responded, saying the honor was not for him alone to claim. He simply represented a group deserving it, said Wu.

The “Lan Ling at 30” program of activities has been the outcome of brainstorms involving many big names from the Taiwan theater scene. Graduates of Lan Ling like Li Kuo-hsiu of the Pin-Fong Acting Troupe, Li Yung-feng of the Paper Windmill Theater and Liu Ruo-yu (Liu Ching-min) of U Theater have gone on to organize their own companies of great renown after leaving Lan Ling. A number made their dramatic Lan Ling comeback this year, appearing in a revival of a successful production, “The Romance of Ho Chu.”

Chin Shih-chieh, acclaimed veteran actor and director, was the former Lan Ling member who personally rounded up the talents for the play. Three pairs representing three generations of actors and actresses were cast in the roles of Ho Chu and Chao Wang: Liu Ruo-yu and Li Kuo-hsiu, Ma Ting-ni and Ku Pao-ming as well as Lang Chu-chun and Chao Chih-chiang. The posturings required by the role of Chao Wang, for example, finally proved rather challenging to the much older but very professional Li Kuo-hsiu.

“The Romance of Ho Chu,” a modern theater adaptation of a Chinese opera with hilarious result, was restaged on May 9 and 10 at the National Theater in Taipei.

Chin as the director called some of the old theater talents to a casting session. Everyone whom he approached did not even bat an eyelash before agreeing to appear in the comedy and spoof on bourgeois society. This was despite their busy schedules.

“When I arrived, I was told to audition – yes, audition! -- for the role of Chao Wang,” said Chao Chih-chiang, whose professional track record has been established in children’s theater. “Chin Shih-chieh told me to audition for the part. I could not believe my ears.”

Down Memory Lane

“Lan Ling Night” recently saw Chin Shih-chieh and Chuo Ming recalling the smell of body sweat and even the stink of a pile of dirty shoes left at the door of a Taipei apartment during the founding days of the Lan Ling Theater Workshop. But such vividly remembered details made even more interesting the opening page in the history of Taiwan’s modern theater.

Chuo Ming wrote the script of “Cats’ Paradise” many years ago. This Chinese adaptation of a work by Emile Zola was restaged at the Novel Hall for Performing Arts in late April this year to kick off the series of events in celebration of Lan Ling’s 30th anniversary.

As the roles in the play required a lot of energy, only young actors could tackle them. The original cast could not do it. But the choice of the play, a critique of the times, could probably be explained by Wu Ching-chi’s facial resemblance to a feline, suggested the naughty Chao Chih-chiang.

Something new was introduced during the recent restaging of “Cats’ Paradise” in Taipei. A narrator was added in the 2009 version of the social commentary on the middle class.

Meanwhile Li Kuo-Hsiu and the Pin-Fong Acting Troupe brought back a spoof on a Shakespearean play “Shamlet” on May 5 and 6 at the National Theater. This hilarious production left the audience rolling in the aisle.

Performances of other productions kicked off at the Red Playhouse in Hsimending, too. The Uhan Shii Theater presented “Cats Wake Up” on May 15 to 17. The Fireflies Theater staged “Count to Three…Cockroaches Will Pile up into a Hill” on May 22 and 23. The Comrades Theater will bring to life “Come to Daddy” from May 29 to 31.

In these days of global economic downturn and swine flu scare, everyone wants to have a good laugh. Waxing nostalgic over “Lan Ling at 30” gives those closely associated with Lan Ling a good excuse to go into funny details. Talking about “The Romance of Ho Chu” did leave Chin Shih-chieh and Chao Chih-chiang chuckling uncontrollably on a radio program.

Chao remembered working with the more senior Chin many years ago. He described Chin: “Chin Shih-chieh was a stickler to discipline. He did not tolerate tardiness at rehearsals. But one day a television taping session resulted in his arriving late for a rehearsal at Cloud Gate’s studio on Nanjing East Road. He was very upset and angry with himself. He, in fact, went to one corner and cried.”

As for bringing Liu Ruo-yu and Ma Ting-ni back to the drama stage limelight, Chin Shih-chieh said with amusement: “The two have not worn high-heeled shoes for maybe 30 years. Liu Ruo-yu, the original Ho Chu, has over the years become more like a farmer’s wife, running barefoot up in the mountain of Mucha. So can you imagine her going back to wearing high-heeled shoes in ‘The Romance of Ho Chu’?”

During “Lan Ling Night,” Liu revealed that Christopher Doyle pulled her into the Lan Ling Theater Workshop. Another former Lan Ling member spoke of how Liu, fondly called Ho Chu and Hsiu Hsiu by her close circle of friends in those days, used to serve everyone food and tea during rehearsals.

As for Doyle, now an internationally-acclaimed cinematographer, he was once the resourceful young man who removed the lamp over the mahjong table to improvise as stage light for use on the Lan Ling actors and actresses.

Shen Hsueh-yung, former chairman of the Council for Cultural Affairs (CCA), said she first got acquainted with the gifted Lan Ling group when she headed the CCA’s third division in charge mainly of promoting the performing arts. For her part, Huang Pi-twan, the incumbent CCA minister, narrated how a friend took her to a performance of “The Romance of Ho Chu” at the venue on Nanhai Road not long after her return from studies in the United States in 1986.

There was no end to the fond reminiscences of the early days of the Lan Ling Theater Workshop. Remembrance of Lan Ling’s past did not stop bringing everyone to a new high.

Li Kuo-hsiu summed up the Lan Ling experience, saying dramatically that while he owes his biological life to his father, he is indebted to Lan Ling for his professional life in theater.
Blogger took the picture of the Lan Ling family with President Ma Ying-jeou during "Lan Ling Night" at Huashan.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Blogger celebrates in Tainan and Kaohsiung

The launching of the blog “Living and Loving Art” called for a celebration cake. The Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza Hotel in Tainan came up with a yummy two-tiered walnut cake. The white chocolate heart was a loving touch. The patisserie department even artistically scribbled the name of the blog on the heart. Big, red strawberries on the cake provided good cheer on this memorable occasion.

The fireworks at the Kaohsiung Main Stadium, the site of the 2009 World Games, on May 20 brought this celebrating blogger to a new high. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra made its Taiwan debut on this night of nights, playing Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” for opening piece.

Toyo Ito’s architecture cut an impressive silhouette against the Kaohsiung sky. The pyrotechnic display, which accompanied the Tchaikovsky selection, ignited the night, exciting this blogger with ideas to create bursts of virtuosity on “Living and Loving Art.”

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pittsburgh Orchestra to make Taiwan debut at World Games site with spectacular fireworks

By Nancy T. Lu

The Kaohsiung Main Stadium designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito for the 2009 World Games to unfold in July will be inaugurated at a special concert to feature world-class musicians and spectacular fireworks on May 20.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under Manfred Honeck will debut on Taiwan soil on this happy occasion, playing a repertoire to include Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92” and “Symphony No. 9 in d minor, Op. 125 ‘Choral’ – Finale ‘Ode to Joy.’”

This will be the only trial run of the newly completed facility with the capacity to accommodate 40,000 people until July 16, when the Kaohsiung World Games will kick off, said Shih Che, director-general of the Bureau of Cultural Affairs under the Kaohsiung City Government.

The “1812 Overture” is famous for its volley of cannon fire. Bursts of creative fireworks will take care of this requirement during the performance in the open-air oval, said to have been built at a cost of NT$5 billion. Giant Show, the company behind the Taipei 101’s New Year’s Eve fireworks in the last five years, will be in charge of the pyrotechnics in Kaohsiung.

The choral section of the program will highlight the 400 voices of the Vienna State Opera Choir, the National Experimental Chorus, the National Sun Yat-sen University Music Department Women’s Chorus and the Kaohsiung Medical University Singers.

All systems will be tested on May 20. In fact, the necessary trial run will cover the traffic control, the ticketing network, the security system and the fireworks display, according to Shih.

The Main Stadium, which promises to be more than just a world-class venue for track-and-field events and soccer games, was constructed in two years’ time after Kaohsiung won the bid to host the coming World Games back in 2006. Its ecologically friendly aspect is notable in the solar panels on the roof capable of converting sunlight into about 1.1 million kilowatts of energy each year.

Tickets to the concert, which will be a historical event, cost from NT$290 to NT$3,000. For more information, go to the ERA website or call tel. 02-23419898.