All’s Fair

By Steven Libowitz   |   November 8, 2018
Tadja Enos, Cooper Bruhns, Sierra Hastings, Oliver Rubey, and Daniel Blanco (photo by David Bazemore)

An even newer work also gets its Santa Barbara debut over the same two weekends as UCSB Theater presents Vanity Fair, based on William Makepeace Thackery’s classic 1848 novel, and adapted for the stage with a modern twist by playwright Kate Hamill. Thomas Whitaker directs the tale of misadventures, friendship, and morally questionable acts, which premiered in New York just last year, making UCSB only the second company to stage the work that The New York Times hailed as “a gift to actors and a goody bag for audiences,” while The Wall Street Journal called it “a masterpiece of creative compression that is at once arrestingly original and faithful to its source material.” Coincidentally, one of the two young women at the center of the plot who are attempting to navigate English society during the Napoleonic Wars is named Amelia. Vanity Fair runs November 9-18 in the Performing Arts Theater on campus.

Magic with a Message: 4Qs with Ivan Amodei 

“I could card trick you to death, or turn a red ball blue in front of your eyes, but I wanted to do something that had more meaning.”

That’s how Thousand Oaks-raised illusionist Ivan Amodei explained his transition from standard magic to shows that explore deeper themes, even the existential issues of life. The veteran performer whose “Intimate Illusions” show, launched just four years after he won first place at the International Brotherhood of Magicians Close-Up Competition, is nearing its 10th anniversary of residency at the historic Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills has raised his game once again for his new show, “Secrets & Illusions: Unlock Your Destiny” – which comes to the Lobero Theatre on Saturday night, November 10. 

Amodei talked about the show that is set in a famous Paris museum and promises to blend the mystery of magic with mysticism and messing with one’s mind. 

Q. How did you come up with the concept for the show?

A. My wife and I went to the Louvre just before closing time, so it was almost empty. And I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to do magic amid all these beautiful pieces of art, with each piece relating to something meaningful for people, like facing your fears, the Law of Attraction, or making good choices. So, we have projections of paintings and we’re uncovering life’s deep secrets inside these priceless works of art.”

The show is billed as “a psychological thriller that reveals the secrets to life, one illusion at a time.” That seems like quite a bold statement. How can magic do that? 

I’m taking illusions I’ve created or modified and recreating them as a way of illustrating these issues or ideas. The whole show is based around demonstrating the value of these kinds of premises – trusting your intuition, taking charge of your life’s direction, the importance of time – through a crazy illusion. For facing your fears, for example, it involves a 12-inch Bowie knife in a sort of Russian Roulette game that an audience member plays. It can be very heart-wrenching, but life is like that. Nobody actually gets hurt, of course, but people have started crying and really struggled with that one. There are about nine different illusions, each touching upon these various elements – not all of them are that tense, of course. But even this affect is both funny and scary, and also sends a message.

It seems that this isn’t just an angle for you, and that you care about these ideas. Is that accurate?

Yeah, I do care. Prior to having kids, my values were really different. But they opened my eyes about what is important. Now, I think a lot about these bigger things in life. I create magic around what is important to me, and I love sharing it with others.

Where does that leave the skeptics, and those who want to figure it all out? Do they get in your way, do you want to convince them?

Well-done magic traps you where you can’t figure it out. But I’m not worried if they do. I don’t want the antagonistic relationship the audience might think they have with the magician. Good magic isn’t me shoving it down your throat that I made something happen. It’s you coming to that conclusion on your own. Magic isn’t about fooling the eye. It’s about fooling the psyche.

Opera Opens

Santa Barbara’s conflux of big anniversary seasons in classical music – CAMA at 100, the Santa Barbara Symphony’s 65th – continues this weekend with the kickoff of Opera Santa Barbara’s 25th season via a new production of La Bohème. Former Israeli Opera director Omer Ben Seadia, who helmed Opera Santa Barbara’s (OSB) production of L’italiana in Algeri in 2015, returns to the Granada Theatre to stage Puccini’s most romantic work and one of the most frequently performed operas in history on Friday & Sunday, November 9 & 11. 

Tenor Nathan Granner as Rodolfo and soprano Eleni Calenos as Mimi are the star-crossed lovers, while OSB veteran baritone Luis Alejandro Orozco sings the role of Marcello and last season’s Chrisman Studio Artist, Elle Valera, returns in a principal role as Musetta, the other couple in the tale of bohemian rhapsody and rebuke. OSB chief Kostis Protopapas conducts. 

Digital Delights of Delilah

Mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča and tenor Roberto Alagna – who first paired up for a production of Carmen at the Met in New York – reunite for another sensual French opera, opening the season in the title roles of Saint-Saëns’s biblical epic Samson et Dalila. Darko Tresnjak, who won a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical in 2014 for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, makes his Met debut with vivid, seductive staging, while Sir Mark Elder conducts the first new Met production of the work in 20 years. The Live in HD entry screens 2 pm Sunday, November 11, in Hahn Hall. 

Classical Corner

Montage, UCSB Music’s fifth annual department showcase concert, features faculty members from the chamber music and voice programs along with undergraduate and graduate students and UCSB Music alumni in a densely packed evening at Trinity Episcopal Church starting at 7 pm Sunday, November 11. Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, new faculty cellist Jennifer Kloetzel, pianist Natasha Kislenko, and tabla player Shashank Aswathanarayana are among the stars for the concert, which has been curated by UCSB professor of flute Jill Felber. Free admission.

Santa Barbara Master Chorale sings the local debut of Dan Forrest’s 2016 work, Jubilate Deo, which brings to life the global aspect of the traditional Psalm 100, “O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands,” by featuring an array of languages including Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Zulu, Spanish, and English, with each movement combining characteristics of its language-group’s musical culture with Forrest’s own musical experience. Vivaldi’s Gloria, the most popular of the composer’s 37 liturgical choral works, rounds out the program on Saturday-Sunday, November 10-11, at First Presbyterian Church downtown.


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