Michael Fabiano

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Arts in the News: Leonardo da Vinci’s Invention Comes to Life, Theater Bathroom Concerns and more

October 16th, 2017

Leonardo da Vinci viola organista

The Viola Organista: Leonardo da Vinci’s Invention Comes to Life
Leonardo da Vinci dreamt up an instrument called the viola organista, never built in his lifetime. Then, in 2013, Polish instrument-maker Slawomir Zubrzycki decided to build the first example. The instrument is a hybrid of elements from a harpsichord, an organ, and a viola da gamba. When built, it looks like a harpsichord and has a set of strings. Those strings are not plucked, however: instead, they press against rotating wheels covered in horse hair, using the same mechanism that creates sound in string instruments. Zubrzycki spent more than five thousand hours bringing the instrument to life, using Da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus, a twelve-volume collection of manuscripts and designs, as his guide. Though Zubrzycki will never know what Da Vinci thinks of the instrument once built, he explained at the instrument’s unveiling at a concert in Krakow: “I’d hope he’d be pleased.” The instrument, when played, produces a unique sound somewhere between an organ and a string instrument. Interested in hearing this one-of-a-kind instrument for yourself? Check out Classic FM’s story about Zubrzycki’s endeavor <HERE>.

Nationwide Survey in Britain to Address Theater Bathroom Concerns

The Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT) is running a survey in the hopes of helping to address “issues of accessibility and inclusivity” when it comes to bathrooms in British theaters. The results of the nationwide survey will be used to provide guidance on venues’ bathroom provision. The survey asks theaters of all sizes to provide the number of bathrooms in each building, the capacity of each bathroom, the methods for hand-drying available, as well as other design details. It also inquires about the gender balance of available bathrooms and wheelchair accessibility. The survey has been launched by the standing committee for Technical Standards for Places of Entertainment, responsible for helping to ensure the safety and comfort of the public, staff, and performers in performance venues. Chief executive of ABTT Robin Townley explains: “We hope the survey will help address issues of access and inclusivity. It’s about seeing if and what amendments to the guidance are required.” Hopefully, the survey will help British theaters provide comfortable facilities for all patrons and ensure that their trips to the theater allow them to focus on the show, not bathroom logistics.

Golden Age of TV Proves Double-Edged Sword for Writers

The increased prestige of writing for television, as the medium enters the era of “Peak TV,” has resulted in writers flocking to Southern California in the hopes of making a name for themselves. As streaming services like Netflix continue to expand the television landscape, more and more writing opportunities present themselves: a record 455 original scripted series aired last year (the number for 2017 is expected to top 500). John Landgraf, the chief executive of FX Networks and the man responsible for coining the term “Peak TV” in 2015, explains: “I never would have thought there would be enough talent to cover the number of shows currently being made–and yet there is.” The opportunities, however, may come at a steep price: a recent New York Times article features stories from three writers who have dealt with long hours, substance use, and unstable returns in their attempt to make it in the industry. One writer reports how working two jobs left him getting by on three hours of sleep a night, relying on sugar, alcohol, and caffeine to keep him going. To read more about the incredible toll the instability and intensity of writing jobs take on the writers for many hit shows, check out the New York Times article <HERE>.

Trump Declines Invitation to Kennedy Center Honors
A statement from the White House in late August announced that the U.S. President and First Lady “decided not to participate” in this year’s Kennedy Center Honors, traditionally attended by both figures. The statement explains that the decision was made “to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction.” The Kennedy Center responded, thanking the presidential administration and saying: “We are grateful for the gesture.” The honorees for 2017 are set to be Carmen de Lavallade (actress, dancer, and choreographer), Gloria Estefan (singer-songwriter and actress), LL Cool J (hip-hop artist), Norman Lear (television writer and producer), and Lionel Richie (musician and record producer). They are set to be recognized during the 40th Annual Kennedy Center Honors on December 26th of this year, though de Lavallade, Lear, and Richie have declined the invitation. LL Cool J and Estefan have yet to confirm their attendance. Though this year’s event will certainly be different than those of previous years, it will hopefully nonetheless prove to be a lovely night of celebrating amazing talents in the art world.

Arts in The News: Van Gogh Film Released, Opinions of Non-Theatergoers and more

October 9th, 2017

Full Trailer for Hand-Painted Van Gogh Film Released

In anticipation of the long-awaited the hand-painted film, “Loving Vincent,” about post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh, a trailer for stunning biopic has been released. Set to be the first entirely hand-painted feature film ever made, “Loving Vincent” has already been seven years in the making, a collaboration of 125 artists who worked to transform 120 of van Gogh’s paintings into 65,000 painted frames based on live action sequences. Notable stars in the film include Chris O’Dowd, Saoirse Ronan, and Aidan Turner, among others. The film itself is a mystery, revolving around the sudden death of the famous painter in 1890; viewers follow a detective who traces van Gogh’s steps, revisiting his paintings in the hopes of uncovering an explanation for the artist’s supposed suicide. The film reportedly does not come to a definite conclusion, leaving the reasons for van Gogh’s sudden demise up for debate. Interested in seeing a film that is truly the first of its kind? “Loving Vincent” hits theaters on September 22nd!

Award-Winning Show Closes Amid Casting Controversy

Despite being nominated for twelve Tony Awards, Broadway’s “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” is set to close in the wake of a casting controversy around diversity concerns, less than one year since its premiere. The musical is based on a section of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” about 70 pages in length. While Josh Groban originally led the cast, he was eventually replaced with “Hamilton” actor Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan, who was in turn set to be replaced by Mandy Patinkin only three weeks later. Theater fans and many in the Broadway community expressed outrage at Patinkin’s casting, arguing that the move was racially motivated. Patinkin subsequently dropped out, explaining on Twitter that he was not aware of the circumstances around his being hired. Soon after Onaodowan announced his final performance would be in mid-August, producers announced the show’s final performance the first week of September. The musical’s short-lived run certainly demonstrates the power of audience and industry opinion and how controversy can be deadly for even critically-acclaimed shows.

Theater Seeks Opinions of Non-Theatergoers

The York Theatre Royal in the UK has launched a rather nontraditional initiative: a new program, the “Visionari scheme,” seeks the opinions of not only frequent theater-goers but also “non-theatre attendees.” The resulting advisory group will spend a year learning about theater through workshops led by the venue’s staff; subsequently, they will advise on programming decisions at the theater. Associate producer John Tomlinson explains the unorthodox decision to include non-theater-goers: “One of the exciting challenges with this is for us to engage with those who don’t necessarily go to the theatre to have an influence. We want to widely and openly invite non-theatergoers to take part….Over the coming years, the group will be expanded to ensure that we genuinely reflect the wider community.” Those applying to become part of the advisory group must commit for a minimum of two years and will receive a free membership to the theater for the first year. It will certainly be interesting to see how the initiative progresses and what sort of changes result from this unique advisory group!

Museum Exhibit Stepped On and Restored in Same Day

The staff at the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels had quite a long day one Wednesday in mid-August: a museum visitor unknowingly walked into and damaged a work in the Yves Klein exhibition while approaching another work in the gallery space. The visitor walked on “Pigment bleu sec” (“Dry Blue Pigment”), a shallow wooden basin covered with sand and the artist’s signature matte blue pigment, “International Klein Blue,” leaving white footprints on the work, and blue footprints on the floor. The museum reportedly has multiple safety measures, including warning signs, a partial barrier, and a guard, to protect against such accidental damage. A museum spokeswoman explains that somehow “the man was too fascinated [with the other work] to notice all of that.” The nature of the work made the damage fixable: “Pigment bleu sec,” first conceived sixty years ago, is assembled with new sand and pigment each time it is shown. In this case, that meant the damage was “not the same as damage to a ‘unique piece,'” explains the same museum spokeswoman. The museum staff was able to re-assemble the work the same day, barely missing a beat. Earlier this year, a visitor to a museum in Nice accidentally walked on a similar Klein piece. The incident in Brussels certainly highlights the amazingly efficient response of museum staff; hopefully, it also reminds museum-goers to be aware of their surroundings, even among the most breathtaking exhibits!

Fab Five Tips to Lease a Car

September 30th, 2017

Whenever people find out that in many cases I recommend leasing a car (instead of purchasing one) they are surprised.  As a result, I thought for this blog I would walk people through my reasoning and provide some insider tips for the leasing process.


Leasing a car has several benefits.  First, car payments through a lease are often lower than a monthly payment for financing and ultimately trying to purchase a car.  This is because with a lease you are paying for the depreciation of the car during your lease term instead of the cost of the whole vehicle.  Second, you can drive something newer with more features.  Third, you have none of the hassle and headache about maintenance and repair.  Most leases include all the maintenance and come with some type of roadside assistance.  Unless you cause an accident, you will most likely not be responsible for any defects or parts that break down and need repair.  Four, leasing gives you the opportunity to efficiently switch brands and models every couple of years.  Here are five tips to help you through the process:


Tip 1: Familiarize yourself with the proper vocabulary.

  • Dealer’s Price / Capitalized Cost / InvoicePrice / “Sticker” Price is how much for which the dealership would sell the car.
  • Residual Value / Residual Price is how much the car will be worth at the end of your lease.
  • Estimated Depreciation is how much the car will decrease in value from the time you drive it off the lot to when you turn the car back in at the end of your lease.  This is the number that is going to determine your base monthly payment prior to interest.
  • Lease Factor / Money Factor is the interest rate for your lease.


Tip 2: Know the Residual Value prior to negotiation.  For any car you might be interested in leasing, know what the residual value for that car will be in 2 or 3 years so that you can provide support for your number at the dealership.  You can find a lot of calculators online like here or consult the Kelley Bluebook.  You will most likely have to estimate the number of miles (most leases assume you’ll drive 10,000 to 12,000 miles a year) to make this calculation.  Ask yourself honestly how many miles you drive on average a month and make sure you use this number in the estimate.  You don’t want to overestimate because that will increase your lease payments.  Knowing the residual value in either percentage or total value will give you a leg up and give you an advantage.


Tip 3: Set a favorable Dealer’s Price.  Never say the words, “I’m here to lease a car” before you negotiate the dealer’s price.  Like determining the residual price, there are websites online where you can research this figure.  You want the lowest possible dealer’s selling price because this is going to determine how much you’ll pay per month (and a lower dealer price, higher residual value means the lowest possible payments for you).  The dealer wants to establish the highest selling price as possible, so having figures for your negotiation will only help support your argument.  Establish the most favorable number for the dealer’s price.  Then, indicate you are interested in leasing and start negotiating the residual price.


Tip 4: Needs, Wants, and Expectations.  Prior to a trip to the dealership, you should figure out your needs vs. wants.  Needs are your “musts” or “deal breakers” whereas wants are your “preferences” or “wish list.”  This creates your expectations.  Do you need an SUV or do you want an SUV?  If you need to be able to fit two car seats in the back, then an SUV might be easier than a car.  Do you need all-wheel drive or do you want it (perhaps you live in an area where it often snows and rains)?  Do you and your partner constantly bicker about the temperature in the car?  If so, then dual climate control might be more of a need than a want.  How important is the sound system?  This might dictate whether you add a car with a technology package to your lease.  Don’t rely on the dealership to create this list because it’s to their advantage to convince you everything is a need.  Create your expectations before you set foot on the lot.


Tip 5: Interest Rates are Flexible and Negotiable.  This is where it is going to pay to shop your competition.  Don’t accept the first interest rate the dealership gives you, instead call the finance managers at competing dealerships to find the best interest rate available.


Bonus Tip – Don’t forget to add all the one-time fees into your calculation.  There will most likely be a security deposit, acquisition fee, and disposition fee possibly a registration and other miscellaneous costs.  Always ask to see if these can be waived or reduced and compare leasing companies.  Some companies charge $300 in fees, but others may charge more than $650.

What the New Bodega Startup Gets So Wrong

September 21st, 2017

As an operatic tenor, I am constantly traveling and am rarely in the same location for more than a month or two at a time.  I love it because it gives me the opportunity to experience different cultures and what it feels like to live in multiple cities.  Whenever I am choosing a place to rent for a performance, I always walk around the neighborhood to see what is near the apartment or house.  A corner store is a huge selling point.

The last time I rented in New York City, there was a cute convenience store just down the street from where I was renting.  Whenever I’d walk in, the man behind the register would greet me by saying, “Hi Mr. Four Shots of Espresso!”  I’d regularly purchase water, fruit, vegetables, and egg sandwiches.  Like many small stores and stands, there were always fresh flowers for sale – a great touch if you know your fiancé is coming to visit.  Visiting the store was something to which I looked forward and a reason to discard my pajamas in favor of real clothes to have a conversation with a friendly shopkeeper.  I’d also regularly ask the shopkeeper for restaurant recommendations in the area.  This is the problem with the new Bodega company – it eliminates all of this.

Started by two ex-Googlers, Bodega is a startup that installs pantry boxes in apartments, offices, dorms, and gyms by preaching convenience and automation.  The five-foot-wide pantry boxes are filled with non-perishable items and an app allows the user to “unlock” the pantry while a camera with computer vision will monitor what you take and automatically charge your credit card.  Ironically, the company logo is a cat, a reference to the social media popularity of cat memes such as the Instagram account with over a 111k following that posts photos of cats who inhabit actual brick and mortar bodegas.

While I much would prefer a “bodega dog,” I can sympathize with everyone who feels this logo is disingenuous at best and appropriative at worst.  Bodega founder Paul McDonald has been very forthcoming of his desire to eliminate physical bodegas.  He told Fast Company during their interview that his vision is that “Eventually, centralized shopping locations won’t be necessary, because there will be 100,000 Bodegas spread out, with one always 100 feet away from you.”  The implication of this is shameful.  Mom and pop stores will be forced to close because they won’t be able to compete with these vending machines.  Without the ability to sell staples like water, candy, band aids, over the counter pain relievers, and deodorant, stores won’t be able to afford to also sell the perishable items.  The rise of these machines will have a great impact on the decrease of culture in neighborhoods.

Probably most importantly, the vision of this company misses the mark for consumers and is morally irresponsible.  Prior to launching my nonprofit ArtSmart, the founding team debated whether we would offer voice lessons to students over a technological medium such as skype.  We considered this because it would be less expensive and potentially more “convenient” as our mentors wouldn’t have to travel on-site if they had a conflict.  Ultimately, we decided that utilizing a technological medium to teach a lesson was a disservice to both our mentors and the students.  So much occurs in a voice lesson that can’t happen through a computer – physical presence, the ability of a teacher to correct posture and breathing by placing a hand on a student’s back, the ability to read music together by pointing to a section on the page, playing the piano without a delayed sound effect, and a tangible human connection. As we discovered in our due diligence, studies have confirmed that bonding occurs faster when you interact with someone in person.

Furthermore, a prerequisite to conducting a lesson over skype is access to a computer.  We found that most of the students ArtSmart services do not have the access that would be required to conduct a lesson over skype.  Similarly, to utilize Bodega’s new pantry box, you need a smart phone and a credit card.  Where will someone who doesn’t have a smartphone purchase items if Bodega forces corner stores to close?  Will Bodega accept food stamps?  What if someone only has cash?  So far, I haven’t read any evidence that the Bodega founders considered these questions.

Instead of forcing consumers to act solely through technology, Bodega should have considered how to use technology as a supplement to the experience as opposed to defining the experience.  Perhaps a partnership with convenience and corner stores utilizing the camera with computer vision would have been mutually inclusive rather than exclusive.  Regardless, I plan to continue to support brick and mortar bodegas whenever I can and you should too.


Interview: Michael Fabiano on Faust

Limelight Magazine's Editor, Clive Paget, heads backstage to meet American tenor Michael Fabiano ahead of his appearance in David McVicar's production of Gounod's Faust, for Opera Australia.

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