Posts Tagged ‘Estrella Morente’

Review – Estrella Morente – Sadler’s Wells 2009 Flamenco Festival

March 15, 2009

Last night I went to Sadler’s Wells to see Estrella Morente perform. She was accompanied by two guitarists and three singers (two female and one male) who, of course, also clapped, stamped, and snapped their fingers as the mood warranted. It started with her dressed in what looked to me like an equestrienne costume, with a black shortish jacket, a string tie, and tight pants. With her hair pulled back, she was a sight to behold – beautiful, focused on the music, and, to me, the epitome of Flamenco. She encouraged the guitarists with “Ole!”s and sang spiritedly. Her hands seemed to communicate the words of her songs, which, sadly, I wasn’t usually able to follow along with – just a few words I didn’t understand or one which the vocalizations broke in a way I wasn’t expecting and I just got totally lost. A real incentive to improve my Spanish, this woman is.

A brief pause, though: my enjoyment of this evening was SERIOUSLY hampered by the people sitting next to me, who seemed to feel that they could not WAIT to check their text messages until the show was over – or even to wait until the pause between songs. And the one who took a flash photo – SERIOUSLY! We were inside and this was completely inexcusable (not to mention illegal in most venues). I was about to grab his phone and throw it down the aisle or into the orchestra pit. The glare was really impressive. At least the girl sitting next to me, who couldn’t seem to wean herself off of Facebook, had the decency to try to keep her phone in her bag so as to reduce the quantity of light she was emitting. I was, however, appalled.

The guitarists both did some solos, and I thought the younger one seemed frustrated in a kind of competition with the older one – such a beautiful woman, if only I could be more skilled, she would pay more attention to me! But perhaps that was just me imposing something that wasn’t happening on the evening. At one point in the middle she disappeared, and was replaced about ten minutes later by a sensuous beauty with tousled hair in an off-the-shoulder black dress with a purple and green shawl wrapped around her. She looked like she’d just got out of bed after a particularly good night. I thought maybe we were going to get some dancing, but … those eyes … those cheekbones … my God, it was Ms. Morente again, looking like a goddess! (I was thinking Keira Knightly in Pirates of the Carribbean would have been meant to look as lush as this.) Now she stood as she sang, occasionally using her shawl for emphasis, singing of birds and skies and rivers running dry and sad memories, and with what little I understood I felt like my heart was breaking listening to her recounting the ways in which life seems to serve only to disappoint.

At the end she sang a song that most of the audience seemed to know (with lyrics about Miami, Londra, etc.) that had her getting the crowd to sing along (and one man in front of me to use her mike – he seemed to explode with excitement and, truth be told, did not have a bad voice), then did an a capella song with her three accompanying singers – which provided a nice chance to hear the gentleman sing (I could imagine spending a lovely night at a bar just letting him tell me the story of his life in song). There was no encore after the last song wrapped up, but with such a glorious evening, it seemed we were best to walk out, floating, on the high she’d created.

(This review is for a sold-out performance that took place Saturday, March 14th, 2009. It’s a bit difficult to review the show as there was no set list and no list of musicians, so pardon the lack of detail! For a review of a show that was probably about the same as this one, see the Miami Herald.)

Flamenco Festival starts at Sadler’s Wells (and comments on the Birds Eye silent Vamps series)

March 13, 2009

Now that my week of Vamps in Silent Film has wrapped up (Salome, The Vampire, A Fool There Was, Alraune), I’m moving on to Flamenco at Sadler’s Wells. I’ve got three shows in the next 8 days – Estrella Morente (Saturday), the Mujeres gala (Monday March 16), and the Flamenco Carmen on Friday the 20th. I’m pretty excited about it – just got my email about Mujeres, and it will be 90 minutes of non-stop, toe (and heel) tapping madness! Anyway, the reviews will start filtering in soon – expect to hear about Senora Morente on Sunday.

Some comments on the silent movies I watched: I think I’ve pretty well decided I don’t care for pre-20s era silents. Alraune had good cinematography and a reasonable plot (as a sort of SF/horror movie, I saw it as being a sort of Victorian version of Blade Runner), but A Fool There Was (1915) and The Vampire (1913) were just a big mess, lacking coherence and difficult to watch.

However, I have a bigger complaint to make about the music that was presented alongside these movies. Jane Gardner’s piano score for The Vampire was okay, but Alison Blunt’s hodgepodge of random noise that accompanied Alraune made me wish it was truly a silent movie. Do these people not go to the trouble to examine the music that might have originally been made for the film, or consider how to do sound effects to enhance the experience? Blunt even missed out on a brilliant opportunity to illustrate the music the band was playing in a flapper dance scene.

I realize that my years of watching Dennis James at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre may have spoiled me a bit, but the man knows the genre inside and out. I’ve also seen The Asylum Street Spankers and Aono Jikken perform new, original silent soundtracks in a way that enhance the viewing experience. What does it take to get people to understand you can’t just noodle your way through a movie and not come off looking like a self-indulgent ass? I’ll say this much about Bishi’s performance in accompaniment to Salome: it wasn’t just original, it made watching the movie better. (Sure, the effect was to turn it into a giant music video for me, but this worked because the flick itself was so OTT.) That said, there’s no excuse for not having good music with silents. Can someone come over here and teach people how to do it right? I salute the Birds Eye film festival for investing the money in having new music created for these films, but I wish it had been done in a way that created something that could follow the movie around forever, rather than being so disposable.