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November 14, 1996 - Image 11

Resource type:
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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-11-14

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Freedom Orchestra
Local musicians dedicated to social change are getting together for
this Avalon Housing Benefit. The group will perform their blend of jazz,
folk and originals at 8 p.m. at the First Congressional Church, 608 E.
William. There is a suggested donation of $5-$15. For more informa-
tion, call 662-7413.

Thursday
November 14, 1996

11A

School of Music prescribes romantic 'Elixir'

By i. David Berry
For the Daily
With the opening of the new opera theater
in downtown Detroit, it is clear that there is a
renaissance currently taking place in the
operatic community. New, younger talent
continues to grace the major opera stage,
while the stereotypical image of the stuffy
evening at the opera is slowly being changed
vith the help of new directors who put inven-
tive spins on old classics.
One such director is School of Music fac-
fty member Joshua Major. Following the
.uccess of the two comic one acts presented
tt spring, Major has chosen to open the
University's 1996-1997 "Power Series" with
Italian composer Donizetti's light-hearted
romance "UElisir d'Amore" ("The Elixir of
Love"). The show runs this weekend at Power
Center.
0 "L'Elisir d'Amore's" story is a recogniz-
able one. Nemorino, the handsome peasant,
falls in love with Adina, the owner of the
local vineyard. However, feeling that

Nemorino is beneath her, Adina throws her
affections on Belcore, a vain and arrogant
military sergeant who loves only himself.
This love triangle is complicated further
when a fraudulent doctor sells the peasant
Nemorino a phony
love potion, which in
actuality is a cheap PR.
bottle of wine. From
this point on, the L'E
evening is filled with T
drunkenness and Powe
comic confusion while Call 7640
the tangled triangle
attempts to straighten itself out.
Major has chosen to take the story out of the
18th century and, instead, place it in an Italian
vineyard during the 1950s. By placing the
story in the '50s, Majors gives the contempo-
rary audience a tangible point of reference by
recalling a time period that is easier to recog-
nize. "The spirit of the work is important, and,
by setting our opera in the 1950s, we can make
that spirit come alive," Major said in a recent

interview with The Michigan Daily. "The '50s
were a period of innocence, and there is an
aura of innocence in this opera's story."
. Donizetti's opera has an abundance of
beautiful melodies and memorable arias.

EVIE W
:Iisir d'Amore
onight through Sunday at
er Center. Student tix $7.
450 for more information.
School of Music

Also, there are several;
more upbeat patter
songs that will keep the
light and fun feeling
going.
Helping the vocal
performance students
master Donizetti's style
is a new addition to the
faculty. Kenneth Kiesler

intuitively. I couldn't be more pleased."
Tackling a difficult theatrical form like
opera is never easy. But the University has
been fortunate these past few seasons.
With the addition of Major as director of
the Music School's Opera Workshop
Program five seasons ago, as well as the
growing reputation of the Music School, the
University community has been blessed with
some very fine operatic productions in recent
years. Major seems to understand students,
and "L'Elisir d'Amore" was chosen with the
students in mind. "(This Opera) is good for
the students," Major said. "It allows a lot of
people to get on stage, as it's a very chorus-
involved show."
There is a remarkable amount of respect,
admiration and enthusiasm that Major and
the opera's actors seem to have for the project
and for each other. If even a little of that
bleeds through into the actual performance,
this production of "Elisir d'Amore" ought
to be stunning testimony to why there is an
opera renaissance occurring.

comes to the University as the new director
of University Orchestras. Brought in to fill
the shows of the retiring Gustav Meier,
Kiesler has already begun creating his own
legacy. Major spoke glowingly of Kiesler's
work with the vocalists, and also his under-
standing of opera: "(Kiesler) couldn't be bet-
ter. He's so musical. The music and the the-
ater are inseparable, and he understands that

Kathryn Hart, Allen Schrott and Jane Leibel star In "L'Ellsr
d'Amore" this weekend at Power Center.

Former political editor comes to 'U'

By Mary Trombley
For the Daily
Andrew Sullivan, former editor of
The New Republic, has created some
controversy in his time, but those
expecting to find side-show style hype
in his first book, "Virtually Normal: A
Politics of Homosexuality," (Vintage
Books) will be sorely disappointed.
Sullivan, the youngest editor ever of
the venerable political journal, doesn't
shy away from publicity. He appears on
national news programs such as
"Crossfire, posed for a Gap ad and his
dismissal / resignation (choose one)
from The New Republic caused com-
motion earlier this year. Sullivan's argu-
ments in favor of gay rights, however,
are anything but sensationalistic.
"Virtually Normal" ignores polemics
and coolly analyzes the political argu-
ments surrounding the debate over gay
rights. Sullivan distinguishes himself
from other writers on the subject by
refraining the traditional arguments into
distinct categories - prohibitionist, lib-
erationist, conservative and liberal.
Sullivan takes on each position and
finds them all lacking. In their stead, he
creates his own model of legal compro-

1. ennis Franz and Dustin Hoffman star in "American Buffalo."

Buffalo' stampedes into theaters
Hloffman, Franz unite for unimpressive, disappointing film

misce, in which the government grants
gays and lesbians the right to serve in
the military and marry, but doesn't
force the private sector to do business
with them. Are Sullivan's theories sen-
sible? Decide for yourself when he
speaks at Borders tomorrow night at
7:30.
A central strength of "Virtually
Normal" is its
judicious tone.
Sullivan's argu- PR
ments are
thoughtful and Ani
well-researched,'R(
particularly those Books & M
on the Catholic
church's policy
and natural law. Both sides of the
debate over gay marriage are meticu-
lously represented in "Virtually
Normal." Andrew Sullivan hopes that
this respect may be the key to real dia-
logue on the issue. "The book is, I hope,
very self-consciously reasonable,"
Sullivan said -in an interview with The
Michigan Daily last week. Sullivan
hopes his status as a gay advocate and
political conservative will give his
words added weight. "I'm not very
politically cor-
rect, in many
ways, and yet I've
always been very
openly gay, so I
think I have a cer-
tain amount of
credibility on
both sides."
Sullivan's own
image has been a
focal point of
media ,attention.
Since he is both
Catholic and gay,
as well as a
British conserva-
tive that once
edited a tradition-
ally liberal
American politi-
cal journal, the
press has some-
rs. times emphasized

E
idr
Rea

Andrew Sullivan's identity more than
his journalistic ability. He isn't bothered
by the fuss: "I think that when someone
comes along who doesn't quite fit into
existing categories ... people need to
find a place for them, so they stick
labels on the person before they listen
to him or her.... I hope, over the ;fast
few years ... the labels have become
less important. I
don't want to be
VIE W merely a gay
writer. On the
rew Sullivan other hand, I vant
ding today at Borders to be somepne
sic at 7:30 p.m. Free. who's proud and
completely can-
did abut the fact
that he is homosexual."
Though the Defense of Marriage
Act is now law, Andrew Sullivan has
high hopes for state-authorized gay
marriage in the near future. "I think
it's quite likely in the next 18months,
somewhere in America, there will be
legal same-sex marriage," Sullivan
said. He warns that it will take time,
however, for Americans to accept;the
changes. "Ten years ago, the notion of
openly gay people in the military or
legal same sex marriage were regarded
as unthinkable. ... We have really
redescribed who gay people are from
being people who are alleged radicals
interested in sex, we have become
increasingly in the public mind, main-
stream people interested in love and
serving our country and affirming
such values as responsibility and com-
mitment."
Sullivan stresses that gay rights will
not be achieved automatically with a sin-
gle president or election. "This is a civil
rights movement. It's going to take a
generation or two generations. We have
to keep our eyes on the prize" he said.
On a similar note, Sullivan enjoys
dialogue with audiences during his
public appearances: "I hope that we
can have a really good debate. I hope
people of all opinions show up ... gen-
erally these things turn into town meet-
ings, but I hope they also buy the
book."

y Prashant Tamaskar
aily Arts Writer
Based on David Mamet's critically acclaimed work of the
same title, "American Buffalo" plays very much like a stage
production on screen. Its emphasis is on dialogue and it relies
on the skills of the lead actors - in lieu of an action-laden
plot -- to move the story along. Unfortunately, this clumsy
adaptation features a stagnant script and an inappropriate cast
that prevents the film from ever getting off the ground.
Don (Dennis Franz) and Walt (Dustin Hoffman) are a cou-
pT of small-time hustlers who spend
most of their days sitting around Don's
awn shop gossiping, playing cards and
scheming. Enlisted in their service is
Bobby (Sean Nelson), a precocious Am
teen-ager learning street smarts from
the two old pros. Together, the three
con artists devise a plan to steal some

street smarts of the con man. Instead., Hoffman's Steve
Buscemi-like Walt seems to be more of a whiny runt than a
cIecr crook.
Meanwhile. Franz's Don is meant to be relaxed and laid
back - sort of a straight man to the erratic Walt. While the
"NYPD Blue" star is a bit more convincing than Hoffman, he
is also not very effective in his role. Franz works too hard at
being restrained, so that he is almost indifferent. Even in
scenes where he is supposed to be angry, he maintains an
underlying sense of calm that seems to conflict with what the

EV IE W
erican Buffalo
At the M chigan Theater

script asks for.
Along similar lines, the dynamics
between Don and Walt, who spend
nearly the whole movie on screen
together, are not successful. Meant to
balance each other out, their relation-
ship is portrayed as a testy friendship.
'This does not fit into the overall tone of
the film as a more guarded, but warmer

rare coins from a collector who stops
by the store occasionally. The rest of the film deals with the
execution of this scheme.
From its inception, the movie is burdened by a choppy
screenplay, which ironically, was penned by Mamet himself.
ihe dialogue lacks fluidity, as all of the characters seem to be
in their own little worlds. The witty banter between the crooks
- which should fuel the film - consists of contrived, exple-
tive-filled soliloquies about business and life (which are only
interrupted by more soliloquies). Because of this, the atmos-
phere created feels artificial, preventing the viewer from real-
ly believing the story.
Adding to the mess are the poor choices of Hoffman and
Franz in the lead roles. Walt is a neurotic, self absorbed, inse-
cure, but deceptively tough hustler who understands the rules
of the game. His greatest weakness is his intense emotion,
*hich at times gets the best of him. Although Hoffman
valiantly attempts to capture all of the complexities of Walt's
persona, he is unable to accurately portray the character. The
veteran actor fails to exhibit the necessary toughness and

interaction would.
Finally, Michael Corrente's uninspired direction does very
little to compensate for other weaknesses. His reliance on
standard camera shots does not help create the tense mood
required in later scenes of the film. Rather, he chooses to uti-
lize dark lighting and rain to create the atmosphere and to
emphasize the central themes of trickery and deceit. These
overused techniques end up contributing very little to the
movie.
"American Buffalo" pales in comparison to the 1992 film
adaptation of Mamet's "Glengarry Glenn Ross," which
although similar in nature, surpasses the current movie in
every way. Both feature talented actors. Both are loquacious-
ly cynical visions of how money, business and greed aid in
corrupting humanity. But despite the parallels, appropriate
casting, strong dialogue and seamless direction make all the
difference in separating one of the most underappreciated
movies of the last few years from a truly mediocre produc-
tion.

Andrew Sullivan will read tonight at Border

T.

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