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January 14, 2011 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, January 14, 2011 - 7

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Friday, January 14, 2011 - 7

Fleming graces Hill

In "Casino Jack," Jon Lovitz plays Jack Abramoff's fall guy.
Lovitz talks Jack

By JOE CADAGIN
Daily Fine Arts Editor
Soprano Rende Fleming is a bit
of an overachiever: She has nearly
60 roles under her belt, over 40
CD and DVD
recordings to Rende
her name and
a mountain of Flerniig
awards and
honors that Sundayat 4p.m.
include three Hill Auditorium
Grammys. This From $10
Sunday, the
operatic super-
star will add yet another prize
to the pile when the University
Musical Society presents her with
the 2011 Distinguished Artist
Award before her recital at Hill
Auditorium.
Despite her myriad accom-
plishments, there's something
overwhelmingly magnetic about
Fleming. Since her Metropoli-
tan Opera debut in the early '90s,
Fleming has won over thousands
of fans to opera with her engaging
smile and down-to-earth persona.
"She seems to have everything
all together," said Naomi Andr,
an associate professor of musicol-
ogy and women's studies at the
University. "She has this beautiful
silky voice. She's very compelling
on stage - a good actress. And
there's something about her per-
sonality where she seems to
be everybody's sweetheart."
Andre went on to praise
Fleming's voice and f
technique, which she
described as "almost
too perfect" -
another mark
of the soprano's
overachieve-
ment.
"Nobody
thinks it's not
beautiful,"
Andre said.
"But some
people

'Cas
on h
fil

Just
mer lo
release
ing tit
cal and
multi-b
and e
tion th
things
so, it on
Abramo
is bein
near-my
one of
individu
Washin
greed a
"Cas
today
details,
Abramo
"Ameri
ing a sit
in over
mately
this is
it's told
Jon
Abram(
mention
explain
with th
of deve
a pote
evolved
"(Dir
er ... ha

ino Jack' co-star Abramoff about five times and
he found him to be very charm-
onest making of ing and very funny," Lovitz said.
"One time, Kevin Spacey went to
lm about fraud meet Jack Abramoffinprisonwith
George, and that changed Kevin's
By DAVID RIVA opinion a lot. And they decided
Daily Arts Writer to put a lot of the humor into the
script."
over a month ago, for- Despite the comical undertones
bbyist Jack Abramoff was of "Casino Jack," Hickenlooper
d from prison after serv- had no intention of making a
ne for fraudulent politi- movie that lacked substance.
d business practices. His "This was the biggest scandal
illion dollar transactions since Watergate and (Hickenloop-
xtensive FBI investiga- er) was really political himself,"
at ensued are the kinds of Lovitz explained, adding that one
only seen in movies. And of the main motivations of the
ly seems fitting that just as movie was to tell this unbelievable
off re-enters society, a film story as a way to educate people on
g released recounting his the corruption that exists in gov-
ythical rise and fall from ernment and politics.
America's most influential Lovitz described the produc-
uals to the epitome of why tion of the movie as an especially
gton is synonymous with positive experience, because the
nd corruption. relationships forged between
ino Jack," which premieres actors and filmmakers was unusu-
at the Michigan, initially ally strong. More specifically,
the extravagant lifestyle of Lovitz held his director,,as well as,
sff (played by Kevin Spacey, lead actor Spacey, in the highest
can Beauty") before reveal- regard.
uation that found Abramoff "(Hickenlooper) made inde-
his head and would ulti- pendent movies ... and he was just
lead to his demise. Though starting to get hired for main-
an intensely serious story, stream films," Lovitz explained.
in a subtly humorous way. Tragically, however, Hicken-
Lovitz ("Rat Race") plays looper passed away in late October
off's partner in the afore- before "Casino Jack" was released.
ned deal gone wrong and "Instead of ("Casino Jack")
ed in a phone interview becoming the start of a new career
re Daily how this process in mainstream films for him, it's
loping the "bad guy" as become his swan song," Lovitz
ntially likable character said.
*over time. However, the film did allow
ector) George Hickenloop- Lovitz and Spacey - friends of 25
d gone and met with Jack years - to grow closer on set.

"(Spacey)'s a very giving actor,"
Lovitz said. "When he's doing his
part, he's really looking at you
right in the eyes, and making you
feel like you're supposed to feel
with what's going on in the scene."
Lovitz particularly appreci-
ated Spacey's attention to detail,
because it's something that he
himself values in his variety of
creative endeavors. Whether it's
acting in a movie, a TV show or on
Broadway; recording voiceovers or
singing; or performing stand-up
comedy, Lovitz is always keeping
busy.
"I enjoy the variety," he
explained. "I've had training in
all these different areas: I was a
drama major at the University of
California-Irvine.
"I took a class with Tony Barr
called Film Actor's Workshop, for
film for a year and a half, and I was
in the Groundlings, which is an
improv group. I trained myself so
that I could know how to do drama
and comedy and theater and mov-
ies,,ad everything, so thatJcould-
be working all the time."
One endeavor that Lovitz has
never undertaken is directing a
movie. He leaves that to individu-
als like Hickenlooper who he con-
siders to be immensely gifted.
"I said to George when I saw
him in Austin ... 'Thanks for let-
ting me be in a great movie and
believing in all my scenes,"' Lovitz
said. "I would just say the movie is
really a tribute to the talent of the
filmmaker."
"(Hickenlooper) would say, 'I
really think it's 95-percent the
actors,' but you know it's a col-
laboration."

wish that it were a little more dis-
tinctive, that it had a little more of
an 'edgy' character."
Andre also compared Fleming
to the late great soprano Beverly
"Bubbles" Sills. Like Sills, Flem-
ing has demystified the bewilder-
ing world of opera for a new era of
classical music audiences.
"She's well known internation-
ally, but particularly in America
because she's in this generation
where it seems like she's trying
hard to make opera accessible to
people," Andre said. "I think the
most visible way is with her host-
ing the HD Metropolitan (Opera)
broadcasts, where she's been one
of the main hosts to introduce (the
productions) and interview the
singers.
"She kind of seems like the face
of America - bringing opera to
the people."
Staying true to her nick-
name, "the people's diva," Flem-
ing increasingly finds new ways
to reach audiences. Earlier last
month, she was given the invented
position of "Creative Consultant"
at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Andre compared Fleming's new
role to that of Plicido Domingo,
who serves as General Director
of the LA Opera and continues to
perform lead tenor roles.
"We've got great examples with
Domingo," Andre said.
"He does a lot of dif-
ferent things with
the LA Opera ...
And he's such
an intelligent
singer to still
be singing
and mov-
ing into
different
repertory.
S I would.
love to see
that trans-
late to a
female
singer
and to
Renee."
"She
does
seem to
be reaching a
point of omni-
presence," Andret
added.
Indeed,
Fleming's
work and
influ-
ence

have permeated American soci-
ety far beyond the operatic stage.
Fans of "The Lord of the Rings"
will recognize her voice from the
soundtrack of "The Return of the
King." Guests at the New York City
restaurant DANIEL can order a
desert called "La Diva Renee,"
named for you-know-who. There
is even a Fleming fragrance (La
Voce by Renee Fleming) and a
Fleming flower (the Renee Flem-
ing Iris).
The soprano has also recently
made an uncharacteristic - yet
critically applauded - move with
her recent foray into indie rock.
In her newest album, Dark Hope,
she covers songs by Death Cab For
Cutie, Muse and Arcade Fire.
At Sunday's concert, however,
Flemingwill returnto heroperatic
roots, performing a program that
includes works by Schoenberg,
Korngold and Richard Strauss -
Fleming covers
popular indie
artists besides
singing opera.
a composer whose work she has
championed over the years.
Fleming will also perform
works from her 2009 album Veris-
mo, which showcased the music
of Italian turn-of-the-century
composers like Giacomo Puccini,
who pioneered a gritty and true-
to-life style of opera. In addition
to an aria from Puccini's beloved
"La Boheme," the soprano will
present selections from Ruggero
Leoncavallo's rarely heard opera
of the same name and based onthe
same story.
While Fleming is no stranger to
Ann Arbor - Sunday will mark her
fourth UMS concert - her visits
have become less frequent over the
past two decades. Her last-appear-
ance was a performance of Rich-
ard Strauss's "Daphne" in 2005
- just over five years ago. Sunday's
concert will therefore be a rare
opportunity for Ann Arbor to hear
Fleming's highly theatrical style of
singing in a local setting.
"She has a very dramatic pres-
ence onstage," Andre said. "And
when the drama and the voice
come together - that's what's
really amazing."

Restaurant Week a boon
for Main St. dining scene

By LUCY PERKINS
For the Daily
The cold night air echoes with
the scratches and clicks of shoes on
pavement, creating a rushed per-
cussion beneath
choruses of res- Ann Arbor
taurant-bound
Ann Arborites. ReStaUralt
Inside, waiters WE
pronounce the
evening's courses Jan.16
to packed tables. through 21
Full glasses and Various locations
steaming plates around Ann Arbor
warm up diners
amid clinking $12 lunch,
silverware and $25 dinner
conversation. It's
Restaurant Week in Ann Arbor.
"It's one week of one priced
dining," said Maura Thomson,
the executive director of the Main
Street Area Association. Begin-
ning Jan. 16, the biannual event
will showcase 41 restaurants,
each offering a menu that includes
a fixed lunch price of $12 and a
three-course dinner menu for $25.
Sava's, The Chop House and The
Blue Nile are among the partici-
pating restaurants offering spe-
cialized menus.
Although it's well established,
the event has been around for
less than two years. According
to Thomson, the first Restaurant
Week was held in June 2009 when
a local restaurateur who had vis-
ited San Diego during its own Res-
taurant Week wanted to use the
concept in Ann Arbor.

"It was sortof a grassroots effort
- no budget," Thomson said. "The
first time around we had every-
thing donated - printing services,
graphic design services ... We got
22 restaurants to participate.
"The point of Restaurant Week,
for us, was using it as a vehicle
to give people another reason to
come downtown," Thomson con-
tinued. "And as it turns out, it was
a win-win, because not only did
it bring people downtown - we
filled tables."
For some, the event serves as a
first impression of what local res-
taurants have to offer. According
to Hope Mleczko, a manager at
Seva, the fixed price menu attracts
people who may not otherwise
dine at Ann Arbor restaurants.
"Sometimes people decide they
really like it here and come back
quite a bit," she said.
But Thomson also sees Restau-
rant Week as something impor-
tant for those who frequent the
area.
"In a way it's like saying thank
you to those regular, local down-
town supporters," she said. "We
want the people who are always
coming to these restaurants to
come in and say, 'Hey, this is a
great deal and I appreciate this."'
As eager foodies swarm down-
town Ann Arbor next week, res-
taurants plan to carefully maintain
a worthwhile dining experience.
"We just want to make sure that
the dishes are delicious and repre-
sentative of the food we usually
serve, but also things that don't

take a lot of effort on the spot,"
Mleczko said.
To create this experience,
there is an artful balance between
upholding quality service while
still infusing dishes with flavor
one can relish. The focus on this
equilibrium is what makes Res-
taurant Week successful.
"It's not just about coming
down and having dinner or com-
ing down and purchasing some-
thing," Thomson said. "It's about
coming downtown, walking on
our sidewalks, under the lights,
amongst other people ... it's all
about this entire experience ver-
sus just one interaction."
The only time
you'll ever get a
$25 dinner on
Main Street.
In the future, Thomson would
like Restaurant Week to be simi-
larly attractive to participants on
a larger scale, reaching visitors
from Indiana and Chicago.
"I'd like Restaurant Week to
become a week where Ann Arbor
really becomes a destination," she
said.
But for now, Restaurant Week
is focused on showcasinglocal fla-
vor and providing savory experi-
ences for those who attend.

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