Articles by antonigarciareviews

Audiobook Recommendations: Keep Smiling by Charlotte Church

Hey, everybody, Antoni here. Well, yesterday’s and today’s weather have been rather harsh. Once again my attempt to see Verdi’s Don Carlo starring Jamie Barton as Eboli at the Deutsche Oper Berlin has been thwarted because of the insane rainstorm. However, I do think this next audiobook recommendation would suffice. A few days ago, I stated I was going to take a look at Charlotte Church’s second autobiographical work, Keep Smiling, which was released on September 6, 2007, and written and narrated by Miss Church herself. I came across this audiobook by complete chance and heard a sample of it on I was quite intrigued and as I logged on to Audible for my free trial, I downloaded the audiobook and I had a fine time listening to it. What is so noticeable about Charlotte’s second autobiography is how much she has grown from her early teenage years to a young woman. Her delivery, in comparison to her first autobiography, is much drier, wittier in her own special way, humorous in an honest yet occasionally dark way, a lot more emotive, and she throws in a few swear words here and there. Charlotte still presents herself as down-to-earth, wise, authentic, and always knows that her family matters most. Despite everything that happened to her with the press hounding her on many occasions, she is still able to be herself, which is also the main message of this particular autobiography originally told to Charlotte by her grandfather. It does not matter how bad or insane things are, sometimes you just have to keep smiling and keep a positive attitude, and that’s something I got out of this piece of work. Yes, Charlotte’s beginnings and development as a young prodigy have also been mentioned here, and this time she is a lot more detailed like all the marketing deals and contracts she, her family, lawyers, and managers went through, her falling out with Jonathan Shalit, which caused so much tension between him, Charlotte and her family to the point where Shalit filed a lawsuit for breach of contract, and the constant media attention. Being 21 back then, she also reflects on how she felt about her first few albums, the tours she made whilst being tutored for school, the dresses she had to wear for her concerts, her 2000 accomplishment of winning the Classical Brit awards, the celebrities she has met like Placido Domingo, who also stated to Charlotte that she sounded more like a mezzo than a soprano, how a good deal of her albums won a lot of praise in the States in comparison to Britain and of course her ever-broadening repertoire evidenced in her 2001 album, Enchantment, which she recorded in the United States. This also showed how Charlotte bade farewell to classical singing, to Sony, and the image that defined her as she was no longer a little girl. Come early 2003, where she released the single Brave New World composed by Jurgen de Vries with Charlotte crediting herself as CMC and acted in a film with Craig Ferguson called I’ll Be There, which I have yet to watch, thus branching herself out two years later as a pop singer with the album Tissues and Issues, coined in after her falling out with then ex-boyfriend Steven Johnson, and the year after that where she hosted her own comedic talk show, The Charlotte Church Show, which in my opinion has slowly started to become a guilty pleasure because of that really catchy theme tune. Just by listening to Charlotte candidly talk about how much the media has affected her and her family while she was still quite young, the phase she went through transitioning from a novelty act as a young girl to teen branching out to something not everyone saw kindly to, her emotional rollercoaster ride with her family and the press, her budding relationship with then ex-life partner, rugby player Gavin Henson, and her pregnancy at only 21 years of age, thus retiring from the partying, was rather enlightening. As much as the media has made her out to be a fallen angel, I highly disagree with them. Whilst I might not care too much about her pop career, though I have been warming up to it as the years went on, I should not forget that this was a transitional phase in Charlotte’s life not only as a performer but also as a person. She was trying to find herself, trying out new things in her life, all while staying strong and authentic, with a good head on her shoulders. That is something I have always loved about Charlotte Church. Despite her transition from classical to more modern music drawing in some controversy, she was still able to keep her love of music intact and nowadays she composes her own songs while combining a lot of the styles she sang in into one fine work. As I stated before, this audiobook is a bit of a far cry from Voice of an Angel My Life (So Far), as there are also no musical cues and it is just Charlotte doing all the talking. She was essentially a young woman who has dealt with a lot growing up in the spotlight and it is clear in how she narrates. She does not sugar-coat anything as she talks about her time as a rebellious teen who has found herself smoking and partying, her tumultuous relationship with Steven Johnson, who did something rather tasteless to Charlotte, and the constant harassment from the press, thus affecting how her family life went. There are some things that are kind of hard to listen and some people who grew up with Charlotte Church as a classical singer will be flabbergasted as to how she turned out, but as long as you keep an open mind, you will definitely get a kick out of this autobiography and maybe have some empathy as well. Whether you’re a fan of Charlotte Church or not,…

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Hey everybody, Antoni here. Yes, I know I was supposed to make a review of Verdi’s Don Carlo starring Jamie Barton as Eboli last night. However, professional commitments specifically to the rehearsal process of Shakespeare’s The Tempest prevented me from doing so and I had to be there in this rehearsal for the whole four hours. So, to compensate for this, I figure it would be nice to review an audiobook I have been enjoying so much, Charlotte Church’s first autobiography, Voice of Angel: My Life (So Far), which was written and narrated by Church herself and was released on April 11, 2001. Ah, Charlotte Church. Where do I begin with her? As I stated in my album review of her holiday album, Dream a Dream, I was introduced to her singing through one of my aunties from my mom’s side when I was a wee nine-year-old. I did not know anything about Miss Church until I heard her sing in the Disney Channel and I heard a bit of her singing in Dream a Dream in a music class. Her voice had this infectious effect on me as a child and with every album of hers that I bought I heard an overall difference from how she sounded like in her first album, Voice of Angel, to her final album as a classical singer, Prelude: The Best of Charlotte Church. Her voice, while growing fuller at the time, still kept that youth, as she was still in her early teens at the time. Charlotte Church was a lot of people to me: the big sister I wish I could have had, one of my role models for classical singing, and the co-star I wish I could have had if I would have been a child actor myself. In fact, my biggest performing arts fantasy when I was a kid was to act alongside Charlotte Church and Alexa Vega in either a TV show or a movie. Before I even heard about this particular audiobook, I basically stumbled upon this online and thought the book itself looked rather fascinating. I did not start listening to it until I was twenty-two years old and spending the New Year in Vancouver. As I listened to Charlotte Church’s charming and down-to-earth Welsh-accented voice, a burst of nostalgia, awe, and general positive energy was overflowing. What makes Miss Church so infectious as a person is that she is a down-to-earth, outspoken, brilliant and an overall fine and genuine person, who does not take crap from anyone. She cares a great deal for her family and friends, which has always made her cool in my eyes. For those of you not in the know, Charlotte’s aunt, Caroline Cooper, is a cabaret singer. She and Caroline appeared in 1997 on the British TV show, The Big, Big Talent Show hosted by Jonathan Ross, where Caroline was the main performer. Yet, when Charlotte was introduced, she stated the host that unlike her aunt who is a cabaret and modern music specialist, Charlotte stated that she was into opera. That was when eleven-year-old Charlotte Church sang one lane of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu from Requiem and both the audience and the host were in awe. Webber’s Pie Jesu has ever since become Charlotte’s signature song. Usually, the danger of some autobiographical works is that the person involved would come off as self-indulgent, pretentious, self-righteous, and too much of an overblown windbag for his/her own good. It would also be a horrible case if a young person wrote an autobiography as he/she has not experienced that much in life. That type of trap does not occur here. In fact, the way Charlotte talks about her childhood, social life, professional life, academic life, hobbies, first gigs, experience on recording Voice of Angel, Charlotte Church, and Dream a Dream, views on the celebrities, managers, crew members, and musicians she has met and worked with, path as a singer, falling out with her former manager Jonathan Shalit complete with lawsuits galore, and life in Cardiff, Wales sounds earnest, confident, and wholesome. She was like any other teenager at the time when she told her story and did not act and sound like a spoiled child star. Everything Charlotte says fascinates me because aside from her accomplishments as a performer from performing to Prince Charles, Bill Clinton, and Pope John Paul II to singing in places like Jerusalem, London, the Vatican, Toronto, and New York, she describes everything so vividly with such wholesome grace it is infectious. Coming from someone who has yet to go to Wales and maybe make an Erasmus program in Cardiff, Charlotte makes me want to go there. From the way she describes her place of birth to the many wonderful places she mentioned to everyday life in general there to even the famed Eisteddfod, Wales and especially Cardiff has always been one of my biggest destinations I want to make in the future. In terms of the technical structures of this audiobook, I have to say it was well-done. It is well-arranged with a clear beginning, middle, and end in each chapter and Charlotte’s choice of words is unpretentious and it all comes from her. Unpretentious is the perfect word to use for this audiobook as Charlotte does not come off as someone with a huge ego, but rather someone who is grounded in reality thanks to having a firm relationship with her family. There are also some musical interludes used from time to time, but it is mostly Charlotte Church doing all the talking while taking some pauses where it is needed. Overall, I recommend this audiobook wholeheartedly especially if you have grown up with Charlotte Church. She presents herself so gracefully and naturally and if you can spare two hours and forty-two minutes of your time to listen to this audiobook, then you will not be disappointed. With that said, I give this audiobook a well-deserved 5 out of 5 lilting Welsh melodies. Fans of…

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Comic Recommendation: Beanstalked by Sierra Ray

Happy Father’s Day everybody! Antoni here, and I got something special to all the dads out there. If there are some things I love so much in my childhood, which hold up so well to this day, then they have to be fairy tales, mythology, and comics. As a child, these were my major sources of imagination, wonder, and creativity. Nowadays, as a grown-up, I still love these to this day because there are some elements which can thrill, frighten, excite, make one laugh, make one cry, make one empathize, and emit a whole gamut of emotions. It is also no wonder why I hold these in such high regard because a lot of the television shows I watch whether it’s anime or western animation or live-action, there are some elements of fairy tales and myths on these installments and I jump with glee when I spot the references. On top of that, I consider them to be an art because of the imagination that can spark anyone’s mind, plus take one into worlds unknown and be filled with anticipation and excitement. Enter Beanstalked created by Sierra Ray, known in Deviantart as PockyBloo, beginning in 2015. She not only wrote the story but she also illustrated the characters and the settings. I stumbled upon this webcomic on Deviantart last year as summer break was about to start. I was completely intrigued by the characters, the designs, and even their personalities. From that moment on, I became more curious about this webcomic. Just a few days ago I began reading it and I instantly fell in love with this! The story basically revolves around Jack Asesino, who of course is based on Jack and the Beanstalk. It starts off with the usual fare of Jack taking the cow to be sold off, only to encounter a mysterious woman, who is the Enchantress of the Moon, who tells him of his fate as a fairy tale warrior, who bears special powers and weapons known as Märchen, the German word for of course, fairy tale. This prophecy befuddles Jack and that’s all I’m going to tell from here because you might as well read further what happens next. I find the entire story to be very intriguing with the right amount of adventurous tension and thrills, marvelous fantasy elements, and some comedy to balance things out. Keep in mind that there is some profanity being used here and there, especially coming from one of the characters who I will talk about a bit later. So, don’t be fooled by its family friendly like appearance as there is also a fair amount of bloodshed present, but only in reasonable doses. However, for those who can tolerate a few swear words and some violence, then this is for you. Additionally, the story does contain elements of the chosen one trope, a ragtag team of fairy tale characters interacting with each other, power-ups typical in a lot of shounen anime like Bleach, Dragon Ball Z, InuYasha, Naruto, and One Piece, and elements of magical girl transformations like in Sailor Moon or Madoka Magica, complete with the characters bearing special weapons and powers in combat. However, what makes this webcomic stand out is its heart is in the right place and it’s a character-driven story where one does feel for characters like Jack and many others, plus one would want them to develop. Overall, despite some familiar elements found many installments, the writing is solid, charming, breathtaking, and leaves one with a lot of anticipation for what comes next. The art style is very appealing to look at. Clearly, it is inspired by manga and anime from the facial expressions, to the exaggerations, and to the overall look and feel of this webcomic. It’s well-detailed, colorful, and gorgeous. The noticeable area where the art truly stands out is when the characters summon up their chosen Märchen, providing the readers with a visual and stylistic orgasm, so to say, as there is a certain brilliance, which leaves them in complete awe. The characters are wonderfully likable. Jack believes himself to be a normal farm boy until he meets Moon, who tells him of his prophecy as a fairy tale. He is at first incredulous at this until that fateful moment where he is at the beanstalk does his destiny come true. He can be a slacker and a bit goofy in his actions, but his heart is always in the right place and is very loyal and caring to the people who matter most to him. Pinokuni, based on Pinocchio, is the first ally Jack meets during his trek to the beanstalk. He is crass, unafraid to speak his mind, swears a lot with the use of the F-bomb and even calling Jack Jackass, and is the total opposite to Jack’s all around good guy nature. Despite his rude attitude, he does have a soft side to him and the banter between him and Jack is a lot of fun to witness because of how they bounce off of each other. Much of Moon’s character is shrouded in mystery but is nonetheless quite fascinating. There are also other characters who are equally as likable like Beast, the tall, dark, muscular prince with a heart of gold and is based on the Beast from Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, the cool big sis badass strategist, Raiponce, the book-smart brain who is curious about the world around her, Ashe, the tough pyromancer, Nalja, the blind half werewolf girl who possesses great strength, and even Goldi, the Seven Little Kids, Gero, Henny Penny, Hazel, and Kettle. Overall, I highly recommend this webcomic to anyone who is a literature and mythology fan or even anyone who is avid about comics. It has lovable characters, great writing, and a lovely art style that I am willing to give this 5 magical weapons out of 5. This is a definite gateway drug for me when it comes to great webcomics…

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One New Role Coming Up and it’s Shakespeare-related

Hey, everybody, I regret to inform that I could not make it to the Staatsoper im Schillertheater to watch Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust and later give a proper vlog-style review, this was also the same case of why I could not make it to my dear Narine Yeghiyan‘s Lieder Recital and give a review of that too, as I had a new project under my belt.   How I got into this project was by complete chance thanks to my very great filmmaker/actress friend, Carolina Rath. As soon as I got the memo that I was going to read for Caliban for Shakespeare’s The Tempest, known in German as Der Sturm, I was quite ecstatic. I knew from the back of my mind this was going to be not only a great challenge for me as it’s always been for someone who’s first language is not even German, but it was also a great opportunity for me to open new gates and eventually make this particular role have a handsome place on my resumé and/or curriculum vitae in order to apply for universities, more acting jobs and the like, since another academic plan for Uni is to not only have English as my major but also Theater Studies, if ever Spanish as my second subject does not fare well or vice versa.   Our director, Frank Tilmann Otto, is a sympathetic and really cool person. I am glad to work with him so far, as long as I keep diligent, hard-working, and disciplined. In addition to that, the overall camaraderie has been positive and I hope it is kept that way.   In terms with how I am faring in school, let’s just say that how I’m doing now is a slight improvement from the first half of the E-Phase and as always, I have been passing all of my subjects and still continue to do so. Once I reach the Q-Phase, as in the last two years of doing my Abitur or pre-university schooling, then I will have to give a lot more effort.   It may seem like I’m doing a bit too much, but I’m open to anything. Though when all is said and done, I’m a lot more excited for my summer break and I’m anticipating what is to come on my journeys.   I wish you all a good night and I hope you all had a pleasant Pentecostal week.

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