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The Magic Memories (168)

Hello everyone!

Today’s topics are: Frank Garcia Anecdote; Festival de Magia Madrid 2024 by Jorge Blass; Computer Glasses Next Week

These are The Magic Memories 168, gone online Sunday, March 17th, 2024, at 0:07h sharp.

All The Magic Memories from 2021, 2022, and 2023, including the Magic Advent Calendar from 2020, can be found HERE.

Frank Garcia Anecdote

In The Magic Memories 165 I discussed my presentation of Frank Garcia within the meeting of the German Card Conference (CardWorkshop), and received several comments of appreciation.

Mark Gallo, from Northport, USA, wrote in to share this anecdote:

I met Garcia at one of the Abbott’s Close-Up Conventions in Colon, Michigan, USA, in the late ’80s or early ’90s.

He did a fabulous trick with two toy cars (like the British “Matchbox” cars).  He put a dark blue one in one hand and a white one in the other.  He spread his hands.  A little woo-woo and they had changed places!  I was astonished!

The next week I was in the local magic shop and told the owner about this impossible piece of magic.  He calmly and patiently explained to me that these cars–with heat-sensitive paint–are available at every toy store.

Well, sure–but if you never go to toy stores…

Festival de Magia Madrid 2024 by Jorge Blass

Last week I gave you an insider’s view of a two-hour event honoring Juan Tamariz, for which they flew in Gaetan Bloom and myself from Paris and Basel respectively.

The editing of the event is still in the works, and Jorge Blass promised to send me the finished version when ready – it should then go on YouTube for you to enjoy, too, and I will let you know. I promise you will find this most interesting.

Dialogo magico con Juan Tamariz

Since both Gaetan and I never miss a chance when we can stay one or two days longer in a fascinating location – and Madrid is one of the most fascinating in the world, especially when it comes to magic and gastronomy – we gladly accepted Jorge Blass’ invitation to the magic show of his Festival de Magia; the night before we had done the Homage for Juan Tamariz on the same stage.

XIV Festival de Magia

In the show I was sitting next to Gaetan Bloom. Briefly: We both were most impressed by the show, its concept and, of course, its artists.

Here are a few scattered impressions for your enjoyment. I did not take notes, so all of this is from memory, making these The Magic Memories in the real sense of the term 🙂

Show Production

First thing to say is that the way the whole show was set-up was truly excellent, original, and modern. It ran for ca. 90 Minutes, without pause (my preferred format).

One should consider that such shows, albeit running for several weeks and within a super-professional setting, do not have the privilege other theatrical productions have.

Plays, operas, musicals, and similar productions have weeks and sometimes months of rehearsal, where the complete cast is paid for.

In the case of  magic shows, the likes we usually get to see at magic conventions, the rehearsal time is limited to one afternoon.

But even with a show that runs over three weeks, as does the one by Jorge Blass, the artists coming from several parts of the world, with a tight budget, the rehearsal time is one day.

Nonetheless, and in spite of these restrictions, Blass manages to put up a complex show, and this is only possibly thanks to his immense experience as a producer and performer of various kinds of shows for television and theaters.

The first thing that surprises most magicians who are used to the “magic galas” at magic conventions is that the presentation of the artists breaks out of the traditional format emcee-artist-emcee-artist etc.

Instead, a modern choreography, where light and music are matched, accompanies the audience through a diverse universe of magical artists and effects: Each artist is announced on the large lateral screens, one on each side of the large stage, but still part of it, so that visual unity is maintained.

Then the artist is greeted from the off. The entrance, the performance, and the exit are well thought out in an attractive but untypical way, giving the whole proceeding an up-to-date touch using state-of-the-art technologies. Very well thought out and executed.

Jorge Blass

Blass himself, as the host and producer of the festival, which is now in its fourteenths edition, did an excellent interactive piece where he had everyone in the audience use their mobile phone to go through some apparently completely haphazard calculations to reach a result, which he had predicted.

Not only that: The final number gave the day’s date and the exact time. (In the back of my head I remember seeing this somewhere, but cannot recall where – maybe someone can help…).

Jorge Blass himself

Blass had two more appearances, one of which being a very nice routine, which stared with an Out of This World theme using Polaroid photos.

Normally I find such adaptations corny, but in this case the presentation as well as the method were really good.

The routine ended with the ring of the female spectator vanishing in a very convincing way, and reappaering in a sealed box, which had been created by a 3D-printer!

The printer, which had been standing far away from where the performance took place, had been introduced before the spectator even had come on stage, and Blass explained that it was about to create “something”.

The routine was brought to an end by having the assisting lady’s husband come on stage and putting the wedding ring back on his wife’s finger, amusing and a bit sentimental, but certainly fitting for Spain, and it made the whole piece well-rounded, a great trick for sure.

Gaetan and I booth looked at each other and had no clue, although I am sure that Gaetan knew how he would have done it… but that is the way geniuses work🙂

Gonzalo Albiñana

Gonzalo Albiñana from Spain, who had won a major award at last year’s Spanish National Convention (I have reported about the convention in The Magic Memories 135), was the fil rouge of the show with some very good shadowgraphs and a repeat bird-cage vanish routine, all wrapped in a theatrical presentation with poetry and mime.

The silent tones characterizing his performance registered well with the theater-going audience, and were a lovely counterpoint to the louder productions in the show.

Personally, I tend to agree with Juan Tamariz when he writes in his The Magic Rainbow, that when magic is combined with a “theatrical story”, the magic suffers.

I remember seeing Harry Blackstone Jr. doing his bird cage vanish live with lots of children on stage, and it touched me emotionally much more than the poetic staging of Albaniña’s, although the latter was by all definitions more “artistic”, while Blackstone simply had more down-to-earth “showmanship”.

These things are had to pinpoint in words, but the emotions do not cheat.

Anyway, well done, but not my cup of tea.

Gonzalo Albiñana-Spain

Bruno Tarnecci

Bruno Tarnecci came all the way from Peru, and did a very elegant act with lots of effects and great complexity.

In such an act there are hundreds of things that can go wrong, but everything worked in unison and created a very magical atmosphere that enchanted the audience.

You can see a small part of the act he presented – the floating cane in the clip below:

Mortenn Christiansen

All the artists up to here had been received extremely well, but Mortenn Christiansen from Denmark, who was up next, brought the house down, as they say.

I also admit that this is my kind of magic: Formal minimalism, just the Artistic Trinity formed by the artist, his instrument, and his words – no special effects, no music, no smoke and mirrors, the pure thing, magic.

I had seen Mortenn already several times, last time I believe at The Session in London Heathrow, were he was good, but here in Madrid he was incredible.

First, he is a “stand-up magician” in the real sense of the word: He stands on a huge stage, almost always in the same spot, and commands the attention of at least 800 spectators; this already is remarkable.

Second, me, who is not such a friend of comedy, he made me laugh, and he kept surprising and fooling me. What I particularly liked is that his comedy does not come in the way of his magic, as so often happens when performers start to be “funny”, or start to tell “stories” to make tricks “more meaningful”.

Mortenn has intuitively understood that a good effect speaks for itself, and with a most natural way of expressing himself, combines situation comedy of the finest caliber with original and impactful effects.

This man has a great future ahead.

If you have never seen Mortenn, you can get an idea from his performance at Penn & Teller’s Fool Us, but the act is by no means the same as the one I saw here in Madrid, which was far more complex and complete.

Juno Park

Juno Park, from South Korea, did a manipulation act that leaned on the well-known South-Korean school of magic, but had a clear identity of its own.

An act of sheer beauty, that is characterized by the fact that magic effects and musical queues seamlessly form a poetic-visual unity.

With the precision of a piano player, and the coolness of the modern manipulator, he captivated the Madrid audience from the first to the last moment. (Traditionally, the Madrid audience is the toughest of Spain: For the bull-fighters, if they made it in the Arena of Madrid, they had reached the peak of their career!)

Although you can get an idea of his performing persona, his style and some of his effects in the video clip below, the act I saw in Madrid was now much more complete and rounded, of great artistic quality, a joy to behold.

Here is another man who has a great future ahead, and you will see him at many magic conventions.

Personally, I still prefer real playing cards being used in card manipulations, rather than colored pieces of cardboards, as most in the South-Korean school of manipulation do, because playing cards have a meaning, while colored cardboards look like made props… certainly, beautiful props 🙂

I predict that someone from that school will soon revert back to real playing cards, or at least pieces of cardboard that look like real playing cards, and be a smash hit. If it happens, remember I said that in The Magic Memories 168, 2024, if it doesn’t happen, well, forget that I said anything… (this is how prophecies in the history of civilization work anyway).

Josephine Lee

Josephine Lee from the UK, who had already had a part before, got to close the show with some truly well presented and spectacular illusions.

The plots were classic, but the design of the illusions was exquisite. This is very important, since the solution of an illusion is usually too linear, and more often than not the illusionist fools him- or herself into believing that the audience doesn’t know how it is done, but really many do…

Therefore, if the design is well thought-out, the Space-Information-Continuum on the stage is correctly managed, the actions are motivated by an apparent “story”, and the synchronization-timing has been well rehearsed, also with the assistants, then a large scale illusion, like the big opera in music, can overwhelm an audience. And this it did.

Josephine Lee brought an excellent finale to a superb magic show.

I should mention one more thing that was brought up by Juan Tamariz when we discussed her performance over dinner, which he liked a lot (Lee’s illusions and dinner), as I did: Lee does “Sawing a Woman in Half”, an illusion occasionally criticized by female magicians in the sense that male illusionist always use female “victims” to stab through, saw in half, etc.

Well, Lee, as a lady magician, used a female assistant to saw through…

One more thing made me think: Lee’s show is professional in every detail, no question. What men used to do before, and are still doing, she does with equal charm and competence, in her very own way.

I was just wondering if a woman could maybe do those things men do in a different way, in a “Yin-way”, as opposed to the “Yang-way”. How that could look? I do not know. One day someone will come along and show us…

Finale and Resolution

At the end all the artists and the production team received a well-deserved standing ovation, led by Gaetan Bloom and myself (my readers in the New World should remember that in Europe standing ovations are not as common as in the USA).

I made a note to travel to Madrid in spring next year to see the new show… if you have never been to Madrid, I humbly advise you to make this one of the 100 things to do in life…

Computer Glasses Next Week

After my cataract operation on both eyes I will finally get my glassed to work at the computer screen next week! (Ophthalmologist, “You have to wait about two months until the eyes calibrate…”. Me, “I see…”)

This is why I will stop this week’s blog here, as my eyes get strained, but truly hope that I will get back to “normal” by next week, and if so, promise a longer blog with some magic.

Among other things I will tell you about my experience working with Jorge Blass and his partners in a TV series of his, Nada por aqui, and a taping they did of me, with the discussion of a very interesting trick.

Stay tuned 🙂

Wish you all a successful and happy week,

Roberto Giobbi

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