Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: academy of st martin in the fields, joshua bell
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields & Joshua Bell
Let me start by saying that Joshua Bell has really nice hair; soft and bouncy, like that of a child. It moved ever so delicately with each passionate tug of his 300-year old Stradivarius, the Gibson ex Huberman.
This observation, more or less describes my experience of being in the Esplanade Concert Hall on the 12th of June 2010, listening to the talented violinist cum director, together with the equally astounding orchestra. The set for the night included;
Beethoven Coriolan Overture, Op 62
Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor, Op 64
Beethoven Symphony No 7 in A, Op 92
Casting aside the rather flat stage, lit with general overhead wash – that did no justice to the splendour of the performance (and was only a subject of interest to one who is accustomed to visual insinuation), the humbly house chamber-sized ensemble provided a graceful delivery, providing dimension to the intricacies of each movement. One could tell that each verse was cautiously executed, but at the same time suggested effortlessness.
Academy of St Martin in the fields, sounded like a play to me. Now, it is but an exquisite orchestration by skilful individuals. I particularly enjoyed their pizzicatos. Light as day.
Throughout the one and a half hour performance, I found myself frozen, afraid to disrupt the seemingly fragile line of music flowing through my ears. “Surreal” the lady beside me said as she stood up after the second piece. I could agree more.
Bell then graced us with, what I thought was a classier version of the theme song for Barney, the (now extinct) purple Dinosaur, a cheeky encore, just before the intermission. I was later told that it was actually the Yankee Doodle.
The second half was no less impressive and intense. So much so Bell jolted passionately on his concert master’s chair- almost trance like, what I thought was a physical aide memoire to the marvel that is Beethoven’s. Melody easing into another, notes hitting where it matters, lingering like butterflies in the fields proving that he is simply awesome, like his hair.
I end this review with a video of how I first heard of Joshua Bell.
PS: Thank you Jeremy
This one was a festival highlight. The star-studded crowd puller. Superstar ballerina Sylvie Guillem, celebrated choreographer Russell Malliphant (in his first appearance in Singapore) and just-as-famous theatre artist (acts, writes, directs et al) Robert Lepage. On the back end of this production, there were equally accomplished designers: the late Alexander McQueen on costumes & fabric, Michael Hull on lights & luminosity and Jean-Sébastien Côté on sound & music.
And it was lovely. About 90 minutes of wizardry and wit. Eonnagata wowed me thoroughly but also left me confused; more about the artists’ intentions than the Chevalier’s gender. They used the Chevalier d’Eon as a central point of reference to perform, as it were, gender and identity. But too often they found themselves tangled up trying to tell the Chevalier’s story, managing only anecdotes here and there. There was a wrestle between segments that tried to deliver (reconstructed) facts about the protagonist and the much more affective segments that managed to locate and exploit theatricality in the protagonists life. Ultimately, the wrestle left me tired; well entertained but unmoved.
I would not wish for any fewer collaborators on Eonnagata, only perhaps one (or one more) who could provide it a little more direction, some dramaturgy or even editing. That said, I cannot rant enough about the wonderfully creative products of the collaborations. Here are just a few.
- An evocative scene between Lepage and Guillem that transitioned from a spoken enactment (with a hilariously mis-timed laugh track) to a stylistic dance-theatre interpretation of the same(this time with beautiful music and dramatic gesture).
- A solo fencing scene where Malliphant takes on none less than the air around him, which in turn responded in flashes (Hull) and echoes (Côté).
- The poetic trio between Lepage, Guillem and Malliphant as they weild a massive table that has had its surface transform into a mirror to reflect one performer in the other, to embed one gender in another. A scintillating play of images and their people.
- Malliphant’s emergence from a giagantic Kabuki costume; at first being it (the female) and slightly later in duet (or bed) with it. McQueen’s vision in creating a counterpoint to the fluidity and muscularity of Malliphant’s frame was remarkable. The costume soothed as much with its colour and texture as it did intimidate with its size and sheer volume.
- McQueen worked a completely different magic with Guillem’s body. In a delicious play between being flamboyantly clothed and utterly exposed at the same time, a layered open robe was clung on her shoulders as he battled herself (the Chevalier of course). I wouldn’t think its easy to clothe the limbs of a Sylvie Guillem, only leotards could be least accused of being reductive/intrusive to an unadulterated experience of her movement. But McQueen manages to create echoes of her fluid lethal movements in the traces of fabric that linger on in the spaces that her hands and legs have just annihilated. Fabric of the colour and quality of desaturated, suspended streaks of blood.
With little knowledge of the story of the Chevalier d’Eon, I was intrigued simply by the artistry of the dead male fashion designer playing itself out through the limbs and body of this very alive ballerina. There was a duet, a ghost and some definite ambiguity on gender. So Eon or not, this rapidfire tag game of high quality artistic collaborations most certainly got on with the Onnagata. And may I also share a particularly awkward moment where I found myself staring ever so intently at Guillem’s crotch (I could swear that McQueen had stuck a sock in her leotard). But no sooner had I lodged my eyes on the area that it turned out to be the private property of Malliphant or Lepage. Hull’s lighting teased me more with its enhanced shadows and quick concealments, and Côté’s music just made me look silly doing this. So, I still don’t know.