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Lawrence Edelson
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Director / Choreographer
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“The Glass piece is more staged song cycle than conventional music drama: Ginsberg's texts, reflecting his highly personal take on American culture and his place in it, present no continuous characters or linear plot, but there was certainly plenty of dramatic interest in director Lawrence Edelson's deft, ingeniously minimal production, which began with a railroad track running across the floor between sets of bleachers and subsequently used the track's components to represent everything from an airplane in flight to a car in motion to a bed. Meanwhile, on the walls above the bleachers, evocative video footage, some historic, some involving the live performers, enhanced and deepened the mood… A talented ensemble of attractive young singers chanted, keened and sang Ginsberg's lines of hope, disillusionment, love and cynicism, as set to Glass's mesmeric music, with absolute commitment, baring their souls and a good deal of their bodies as they journeyed across America's history and geography. The singers were musically accurate, vocally well matched and fearless in their theatrical intensity…Hydrogen Jukebox was certainly a daring choice for this conservative community, but the audience sat rapt throughout — even through the repeated refrain "When Bush was Drug Czar, U.S.A." — and rose to a unanimous standing ovation (this reviewer included) at the end.” "Tuesday night at Sanders Theatre, Fort Worth Opera presented what is surely this year’s most significant area operatic event—and possibly the most significant theatrical event as well—with the opening performance of a new production of Philip Glass’s Hydrogen Jukebox. Structurally, Hydrogen Jukebox is not an opera at all, but a set of twenty ensemble pieces. It was up to director Lawrence Edelson and production designer Anya Klepikov to produce a sense of trajectory—not necessarily plot—out of Ginsberg’s brilliant poetic ramblings and Glass’s relentless score. Klepikov arranged the room as a sort of miniature basketball arena, with two sets of bleachers (each seating approximately fifty onlookers) facing each other across a space dominated by ladders and a railroad track. On either wall, projected still photos and moving pictures (produced by C. Andrew Bauer) constantly explored themes of violence (with actual film of executions by firing squads and scattered corpses), as well as other profound themes related to the text. If this sounds, in description, a little heavy-handed, the actual effect was, on the contrary, constantly thought-provoking. Six singers moved across this bleak field of dreams in costumes ranging from combat fatigues to near-nudity, all the while singing beautifully and often powerfully… During his long career, Ginsberg served as a sort of Jeremiah on the American cultural scene, casting, with cold eye and searing words a light on an America very different from the one portrayed constantly in political rhetoric and only unintentionally revealed in our massive popular and commercial culture. Although premiered in 1990, and based on poetry written from as far back as the immediate post-World War II era, the truths of Hydrogen Jukebox, with its refusal to accept or, ultimately, to reject that vast spiritual dream world we call “America,” are, if anything, more frightening and compelling than ever." "Philip Glass' chamber opera, to poetry by Allen Ginsberg, continues the Fort Worth Opera Festival's tradition of new and "out-there" works. Twenty-one years on, its critiques of misjudged wars, corporate abuses and political flimflammery, its acknowledgment of homosexuality and drug use, can still get a rise. Hydrogen Jukebox has been imaginatively staged and choreographed by Lawrence Edelson. Down the middle of the intimate Sanders Theater, with the audience tiered on either side, designer Anya Klepikov stretches a stylized train track. Segments are removed and spun around as part of the choreography; turned-up endings become ladders and roll-around vehicles. C. Andrew Bauer's projections range from milling faceless crowds to a nuclear-explosion plume. Picking up themes from the libretto, the singers are variously costumed as soldiers in fatigues and gas masks, flight attendants, nuclear scientists and suited bureaucrats. At the end, in a hymn to death, they strip to boxers and slips, lie down and one by one fall silent. Creeping, dancing, flinging themselves, the young "Hydrogen Jukebox is not a traditional opera. A result of a close collaboration between composer Philip Glass and poet Allen Ginsberg, the work reflects, in the words of director/choreographer Lawrence Edelson, ‘a slice of America—a national community facing a myriad of challenges as we travel through the decades.’ There is no concrete narrative present in the piece, but rather moves from poem to poem. The audience is tasked with the challenge of reacting.Fortunately, there is no dearth of material that can elicit a reaction. From the horrors of war, sexual liberation, and even the corruption of politics. No subject is taboo. However, each of these subjects is presented with a strong sense of dignity. While the production can take on dark and gritty aspects, it is never presented in a crass manner. When the subjects of sensuality and sexuality come up, it is never portrayed crudely, but rather as a natural extension of life and society. It holds up the mirror and shows everything, warts and all, but does not denigrate it further…Hydrogen Jukebox is a stark look at life, at society, and at us. It can be dark and emotional. But it shows sincerity in material that won’t be found in other places. This production is more than a "don’t miss." It is a performance of high caliber and emotion that can remind us of the past, task us with the present, and potentially give us hope for the future." LA SERVA PADRONA (PERGOLESI) / TROUBLE IN TAHITI (BERNSTEIN); OPERA SANTA BARBARA
"Love and marriage, as one musical theater composer noted, go together like a horse and carriage. While the idea of getting hitched can be exhilarating, the actual journey is often bumpy. Opera Santa Barbara presented both sides of this coin last weekend in the Lobero Theatre. Giovanni Pergolesi’s La serva padrona, which dates from 1733, is a bubbly comedy about a maid who schemes to get her bachelor employer to propose to her. Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, which premiered in 1952, shows us a day in the life of an unhappy marriage. While both scores are marvelously inventive. they make for an unlikely pairing. But this particular arranged marriage worked splendidly, thanks to the stylish and energetic conducting of Mark Morash, the enormous talent of six young professional singers (all resident artists at the San Francisco Opera’s renowned Adler Fellowship Program), and the cleverness of stage director Lawrence Edelson and set and costume designer Martin T. Lopez. Edelson moved the baroque opera ahead in time two-plus centuries, so that it, too, was set in the 1950s; the lord of the manor became a Hugh Hefner-like figure in blazing pink pajamas. This continuity gave the evening a genuine arc. culminating in a surprisingly powerful ending. It also allowed Lopez to create some wonderful, Technicolor-bright scenery, dominated by large silhouettes (of Playboy centerfolds in the Pergolesi, and suburban homes in the Bernstein)." "Last weekend's double-header chamber opera event at the Lobero Theatre, gamely mixing the 18th-century wiles of Pergolesi with the 20th-century fare of Leonard Bernstein, was a wowing triumph.On this occasion, Pergolesi's musically lustrous, satirical farce about romantic power playing, "La serva padrona," made for a surprisingly apt playmate for Bernstein's 1952 parody-gone-dark, "Trouble in Tahiti". the charming and sometimes disarmingly deep two-for production made for the ideal capper in a small but mighty and well-balanced season. Mixing and matching chamber operas can be tricky business without hard and fast rules. a harmonious accord across the centuries and attitudes was at work in the Opera Santa Barbara matchup, directed and choreographed by Lawrence Edelson. At the Lobero's opening presentation of the Pergolesi opera, the curtain rose on an eyeful of a stage set, by Martin T. Lopez, a garish bedroom setting with a giant pink bed, cutouts of chandeliers and, more audaciously, several jumbo cutouts of the comely "mudflap girl" silhouettes popular on Mack trucks everywhere. Clearly, the production took the route of ushering a Baroque work into a post-pop-art modern milieu, respecting the inherent musical beauty of the score while sprinkling late American 20th-century kitsch - including handcuffs and French maid costumes with built-in wardrobe malfunctioning - around the giddy, gaudy edges. This one-set wonder production, which worked beautifully, was the lair of the pampered, affluent playboy Uberto, who indulges his base instincts but secretly longs for his insolent maid, Serpina. [the opera] was wonderfully sung by baritone Ao Li and soprano Susannah Biller, also blessed with an attention to acting interchange, even though the nature of Baroque opera relies on repetitive dialogue. A couple's to-and-fro relationship is also at the troubled center of "Trouble in Tahiti", albeit from a radically different turf, that of the early phase of post-WWII American suburbia. opening with real estate agents promising the moon in assorted suburban outposts to the stuff of darker, existential and emotional clouds. Those gold- jacketed and manically grinning real estate agents, chirpily sung by Sara Gartland, Mr. Li, and Daniel Montenegro, provided a goofy twist on the Greek Chorus, reappearing throughout the opera like nattering boosterist phonies. But the real the strained relations of a married couple, Dinah and Sam (the lucidly fine mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani and baritone Ryan Kuster, respectively). While he exudes macho manners in the office and gym.she explore her fuzzy psyche on the analyst's couch and in a delectably crazed scene based around a B-movie. Fifty years later, its inquiries about sanity in the suburbs, and about American complacency in general, still ring and sing true.” "Intriguing performances. La Serva Padrona opened the evening's program. Director Lawrence Edelson conceptually set the action in a vague 1950s mis-en scene, and stylized the story of a careless playboy trapped within an artificial world.larger than life. complete with pink wallpaper, nudie figure cutouts, and leopard print chairs. The setting brought to mind a place where Hugh Hefner might encounter characters from the comic strip Blondie. Baritone Ao Li, a superb singer/actor, played the demanding bachelor, Uberto. With delightful comic timing Mr. Li captured the utter haplessness of a man whose intent on avoiding marriage is crushed by a determined maid. Delightfully sung by the enchanting soprano Susannah Biller as the scheming housemaid Serpina, this comic intermezzo was rounded out by the silently silly and doddering butler, Vespone (Daniel Montenegro). This was a rambunctious staging of a classic opera buffo. Trouble in Tahiti followed. Compelling dramatic moments were apparent in (Maya Lahyani's) exquisite performance. full of tempo twists and surprises.Ms.
Lahyani's full-throttled approach embraced the swift changes of the rhythms and the quixotic hopes of (her) character's marriage. Ryan Kuster, as Sam, the overtly self-assured husband, completely convinced. A trio singing radio-type jingles made up the chorus and included Sara Gartland, Ao Li, and Daniel Montenegro, all vocally spot-on and provided the necessary counterpoint for the dramatic framework. The direction from Mr. Edelson was handled with exceptional LA TRAVIATA (VERDI); THE MINNESOTA OPERA
"Great opera is predicated upon a handful of common elements which, while easy to define, are notoriously difficult to master. First and foremost is an emotionally evocative narrative capable of sustaining intoxicatingly heightened passions.
Inducing such a sublime condition requires a captivating score matched against a riveting cast capable of fusing libretto with music, amplifying both to an exalted degree. While few productions fully achieve such an eminent goal, the Minnesota Opera's stunning new production of La traviata, now running at the Ordway Center, proves a thrilling exception.With soprano Elizabeth Futral as Violetta, tenor Bruno Ribeiro as Alfredo, and baritone Stephen Powell as Alfredo's disapproving father, Giorgio Germont, La traviata offers a trio of astonishing performances. The emotive thrust of these characters is given a sweeping range through the imaginative verve of stage director Lawrence Edelson. With stage movement as fluid as the music, Edelson maintains continuous action, pausing only to punctuate key passages. Each scene is a model of mood, from the boisterous opening party, through Violetta's charming of suitors (wittily recalling Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes or – if you prefer – Madonna's Material Girl video), past the romantic sting of Act II, all the way to the gripping finale. The dynamic staging also displays masterful shifts between the ensemble chorus and flourishes from such skilled performers as Victoria Vargas, Brad Benoit, and Jonathan Kimple. Productions of revered works all too often exchange daring innovation for the safety of imitation, following prescribed patterns of presentation rather than taking artistic risks. The Minnesota Opera's La traviata is the absolute antithesis of such uninspired productions. Gifted with extraordinary performances and a visionary creative team, La traviata achieves heartbreaking pathos, reasserting the enthralling greatness of Verdi's masterpiece." "Since the reality TV craze seems to be on the wane, how about some reality opera? That's what Giuseppe Verdi had in mind when he wrote La Traviata, adapting Alexandre Dumas fils' largely autobiographical novel about his doomed love affair with a high-class courtesan. When it premiered in Paris, many audience members confronted a passel of party-hopping characters based upon themselves. It may be 158 years later, but "La Traviata" still needs to feel a lot like reality to work. Thankfully, the Minnesota Opera's current production is all about making the emotions as genuine as possible. From heart-on-their- sleeves characterizations to voices wringing every ounce of joy and sadness from Verdi's music to a dignified design scheme that always augments the action, it's an excellent example of grand opera brought down to human scale.director Lawrence Edelson deserves as much credit as anyone for a production that transports audiences yet keeps it real." ".this is the best Minnesota Opera production I've seen to date. Stage director Lawrence Edelson and lighting designer Josh Epstein elegantly conduct the action so that it's always completely clear to the audience not only where the action is, but what's at stake.the fact that world-class productions like this can take place in our mid-sized Midwestern metropolis— and can, in fact, pack the house—makes it hard to be pessimistic about the future, or the present, of classical music." "There are many ways to treat Verdi's 1853 La Traviata, deservedly among the most popular of operas. Some are more fashionable than others. The Minnesota Opera's [production], which opened Saturday in St. Paul, will never attract the kind of attention showered on the studied audacity of high-concept updatings in Salzburg or New York. Yet. [it] captures more of the work's emotional depth and power than most trendier productions could hope to do.Stage director Lawrence Edelson allows himself a bit of titillation early in the evening, injecting a note of lasciviousness into Violetta's great soliloquy "Sempre libera" by turning the men of the chorus into a paying audience. He also gives us a glimpse of the lovers' foreplay at the beginning of Act 2. But from the elder Germont's fateful entrance a few minutes later, Edelson and colleagues are on their best behavior, their work full of felicitous touches. The complex, wrenching scene between Violetta and Germont following that entrance is the heart of "Traviata" and one of the finest things in opera. Elizabeth Futral and Stephen Powell play it magnificently, alive to every flicker of feeling: indignation, fear, shame, sympathy, grief, resignation." ORPHEUS (TELEMANN); AMERICAN PREMIERE; WOLF TRAP OPERA
"Lawrence Edelson directed fluidly and often created striking stage pictures, none more potent than the sight of Orpheus, after his tragic glance back at Eurydice on their way out of the Underworld, hanging on a ladder, as physically devastated as the rose he crushed in his hand, the petals falling with the Act II curtain. There also was some effective whimsy here and there, including wonderfully animated choreography for the Orpheus-Eurydice wedding party." ".a classy affair, with more than enough imagination and skill to turn the only recently unearthed Telemann work into a hot "An Orpheus with's a delight to have it back.Designer Martin T. Lopez's sets were creative and highly evocative for "Wolf Trap Opera offered an entertaining and energized production, not only updated in costumes and sets, but in the acting and the perpetual motion of the singers. Director Lawrence Edelson did a splendid job of making the work relevant and ". a stunningly touching and entertaining production.beautifully balanced. sets are simple but evocative, the lighting is outstanding, and the costumes mix the fanciful and the contemporary with intentional ambiguity." PÉNÉLOPE (FAURÉ); NEW YORK CITY PREMIERE; MANHATTAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC
“Manhattan School of Music again did New York’s opera-goers a service in mounting a fine, persuasive account of a rarely- staged work, Fauré’s Pénélope. It will surely never be a repertory staple – the libretto’s odd excision of the entire Te1emachus sub-plot makes Penelope’s overall effect somewhat static - but approached seriously, as here by the excellent conductor Laurent Pillot and ingenious director Lawrence Edelson, it makes a compelling evening in the lyric theatre. Edelson managed a great deal of dramatic variety on the Borden Auditorium’s smallish space.” “The imaginative staging by Lawrence Edelson bristled with activity for the secondary characters, especially the hard- drinking suitors and the servant girls who help them pass the time. Edelson invented playful business for a Ulysse who slips in and out of disguise, and the director took advantage of the multiple levels and symbolism of the lapidary set by Martin T.
“Fauré’s “Pénélope” is a critics’ favorite of longstanding…The production, by Lawrence Edelson, was simple and attractive.” “For lovers of rare French opera, and fans of Gabriel Fauré last night's premiere of Pénélope at the Manhattan School of Music was a nuit divine…Lawrence Edelson left not a nook or cranny uncovered in his direction, helping make these characters come to vivid life. Visually there were so many wonderful moments in this staging it would be impossible to recall them all here, but several were just too beautiful not to mention. The serving maids entrance, with their Greek masks and beautifully uniform choreographed gestures and the human "wall" they make to prevent the suitors from attacking the palace. Pénélope's despair as she sits weaving at her loom, the metallic silver threads and its frame weaving her into a sort of visual tapestry. The entire second act with the shepherds on the hill, the despondent Pénélope thinking of hurling herself off the cliff into the sea, and the final image of the reunited king and queen on their thrones, with an enormous shower of rose petals being tossed from the shepherds on the second level. All of this – and so much more, were just beautiful to behold…For so rarely performed an opera, this performance set a standard. In a perfect world, this run would be extended, the performance captured for DVD release, but, helas, such is not the world in which we live.” “Director Lawrence Edelson's adroit handling of the tale kept the opera moving forward…All in all, a welcome tribute to a “Manhattan School of Music presented a beautifully stylized production of a rarity, Fauré's Pénélope” New York Observer (Featured in “The Very Best of the Fall Opera Season”) IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA (ROSSINI); HAWAII OPERA THEATRE
“Figaro on a Segway? It may sound crazy, but it had a kind of dramatic logic in Hawaii Opera Theatre's production of Rossini's Barber of Seville. Director Lawrence Edelson built his concept around Europe's "commedia dell'arte" tradition… within that general framework, Edelson and the performers borrowed pages from American comic traditions as well, their antics recalling Charlie Chaplin, Keystone Cops, Marx Brothers, and, literally, slapstick. Characters performed in commedia's fantastical masks and costumes… creating an impact that was simultaneously old and new, European and American… Staging was lively — everyone was clearly having fun… Throughout, visual gags abounded: giant hammers, dog dishes, trick ladders, harnesses, and, of course, the Segway… Primed for comedy, the audience laughed easily and often; the production was a perfect introduction for opera first-timers of all ages.” CARMEN (BIZET); TOLEDO OPERA
"The Toledo Opera's new production of Carmen, which opened Saturday night in the Valentine Theatre, is the largest and most complex production the company has tackled. It's also one of, if not the, best productions in the long history of this company. powerful acting and director Lawrence Edelson's savvy staging heighten the drama of this tempestuous story.
the overall effect of (the production) is as powerful and memorable as the namesake character." THE TOYMAKER (PUTNAM); WORLD PREMIERE; NEW YORK MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL, OFF-BROADWAY
“An intricate and beautiful story… under the direction of Lawrence Edelson, the two plots are woven seamlessly together, preserving boundaries for clarity’s sake and at times intersecting to hit the audience with emotion poignancy and relevance.” “The past and present stories parallel one another, and it is only towards the end of the second act when all the pieces fall into place that you understand how everything so beautifully connects. It is a complicated and extremely long emotional journey. But worth it. The production is wonderful. The director, Lawrence Edelson, has chosen to portray many of the scenes using his actors as life sized marionettes. It is visually striking…The New York Musical Festival must be applauded for giving the opportunity for serious musicals like this to be seen.” There are some gorgeous moment in The ToyMaker. Putnam’s music is often lovely, and best of all is (Edelson’s) wonderful theatrical use of jerky human marionettes.”


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