Monday, February 27, 2023
Friday, February 24, 2023
Monday, February 20, 2023
Tuesday, February 14, 2023
Nothing stirs soothing feelings of tragedy so much as a live stage production. Ballet Arizona's Giselle promised just such a pleasing concoction of ethereal sorrow with its description of a scorned almost bride who returns to haunt her lover in the graveyard. But I'm left wondering whether the ballet entirely met my Gothic expectations.
First, though, a note on the venue. This was the first time I had attended the Madison Center for the Arts, so I was curious about the venue itself, in addition to the ballet. There is benefit to being off of the 51 and away from busy downtown, especially on Super Bowl weekend. It's also a plus that the center has its own free parking; parking is always something to factor in when planning to go to Symphony Hall or another downtown venue. No worries about safety, either, especially if you're going alone, as I often do. This venue is much smaller than Symphony Hall, and so also has quite a small lobby. The design is simple but elegant enough for the more well-dressed ballet crowd.
Seating is all on one level; while the rows are tiered, it isn't by much. At Symphony Hall, there are a few seats that can get even those of us shorter folks with lower sight-lines a clear view--but there didn't seem to be much avoiding all the heads in the way, unless you are all the way in the front rows. This may seem like nitpicking, but it really is an annoyance when you can't see the dancers' feet in a ballet--and when your view often cuts off at their waists. (I realize that I took a last minute, less-than-perfect seat. But being a few rows in wouldn't have made much difference.) Add to this the fact that the music was played from speakers instead of by a live orchestra and, well, I'm not sure that this venue is good enough for Ballet Arizona (especially at normal pricing).
Venue comments aside, what I most enjoyed about this production was the set design. Act I opened with a Snow White scene: physical, peasant cottage in the foreground and dreamy, royal castle in the background. Absolutely exquisite. And the pastoral setting perfectly conveys that feeling of innocence that we have in Giselle's early moments, when she believes in the love of Loys/Albrecht. Equally stunning was the cemetery backdrop for Act II, in which the moon glows with that ethereal beauty for which we were all hoping.
What was odd to me was that, without reading the synopsis, I don't think I would have at all realized what was going on in the cemetery. That in itself isn't entirely odd: it's because you need a synopsis that one is included in the program when you go see a ballet. But what I mean is that I wouldn't have understood not just the plot but also the emotions of the scenes. The Willis are supposed to be these "malevolent spirits" set on bringing the male characters to their deaths--but when they're all dancing together, it just looks pretty. I don't feel the characters' fear. There is a little darkness when the set of spirits come out with their wedding veils on; it's reminiscent of the bride in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. But I was expecting more of a push-pull type of dance when it came to their interaction with Hilarion and Albrecht. Something more deeply disturbing like what you get in Swan Lake (although perhaps I didn't feel like I got that because Giselle isn't quite as famous as Swan Lake and Swan Lake is famous for good reason). Still, it had its moments. The pretty music had its moments of becoming achingly tragic. I do love the achingly tragic.
So while I had mixed feelings about this ballet, ultimately I'm left with images of the gorgeous sets and the emotional expression it all conveyed. And perhaps that was the ethereal that I craved to find.
Tuesday, February 7, 2023
We are accustomed to the moon waxing and waning. Now is your chance to see it; now it is hidden. Of a similar nature is the latest exhibit at the Desert Botanical Garden. Museum of the Moon by Luke Jerram is only here for one week, starting today. The garden is open a little later to give visitors more of a chance to see it at night (though I'd imagine it's also a daytime novelty).
You'll first catch a glimpse of the giant, 23-foot diameter moon while driving to the parking lot. The moon's surface is taken from NASA imagery and it is lit from within, so it truly does look like a giant moon. Your mind does a little excited double-take because it looks real except that you know the size is too big to be real.
Though you can get up close to the moon in the Desert Terrace area, you can also play a bit of hide and seek from the surrounding areas. Off to the side, halfway towards the Wildflower trail. Or from the Desert Portal, to see the moon peaking out from behind the plants. The view is nice and clear from the Herb Garden. It's almost more fun to see the moon from these areas because it plays with your sense of reality a bit.
But the main viewing area is right next to or even under the moon itself. There are a few seats and beanbag-like-cushions to sit or lounge on while looking at the moon. It truly is huge, so the encouragement to take your time looking at it is welcome. Lying directly under it gave me more awe about having something so big perched above my head and not falling on me than awe about the moon's beauty: this was a little too close, close enough that I could see the fakeness of the printed photos on the surface. But walking around the moon and viewing all of its sides is fun: we usually don't get to check out all the angles of the moon.
The accompanying soundtrack by Dan Jones is quiet--or at least it was when I was there. I much prefer this more subtle approach to sound. I think everyone else did, too. That is, people seemed to be enjoying lounging, taking a few pictures but mainly just sitting and contemplating and quietly talking. There were also telescopes on this night to look at some real views in space. There is a whole schedule of events for the week, with music and yoga and crafts and photography.
The setup is like a modern art installation--but it has "museum" in the title and is more about photorealism than art, so I enjoyed it in a casual way, a way I don't generally enjoy modern art. But because I found myself enjoying looking at this moon for its realism, I wondered why I was going to a real live, natural garden in order to look at a fake moon. (And I realize that this is a traveling exhibit that will be in many different places, probably not all botanical gardens.) Maybe the answer came with sitting around this group of people surrounding said fake moon.
While gazing up at this moon, we got to have the same type of feeling of awe that we get in looking at the real moon. The lighting in it was great. But because it was bigger and closer to us, we still got to look more closely at the details of all the craters on that familiar surface. We got the chance to study a little more. And in staring up at the fake moon, we got to see glimpses of the real, skimpy stars visible from inside the city. We had a shared appreciation for taking a moment to enjoy the idea of nature.
And then, while driving home, I saw the real moon. It was golden, the color of glowing sunflower petals. And I asked myself again why I had just been staring at a fake moon when there is a real moon in the sky tonight. But you know, that might just be the answer, too. Of course Man's fake moon pales in comparison to the real moon. Man's creation can't match God's creation. But we do love to create just like our Creator did, don't we? We see the moon that gets us excited for reasons scientific and aesthetic, and we make our own version, and then in turn we are inspired to go back to that original source. If having a giant, fake moon travel around to different exhibits gets people to renew their awe for the real moon, then that's rather nice. I wouldn't go out of my way to see this exhibit, but if you fancy a garden visit this week, it makes a pretty complement to the naturescape.