MONTREAL INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL
by Nancy Snipper
37th year, Montreal’s
International Jazz Festival is the hottest ticket
during summer. Certainly one of the world’s largest
of its kind, the festival features over 800 dazzling concerts
performed by outstanding musicians from all over the world.
Audiences from here and beyond Quebec’s borders enjoy
the rich array of vibrant genres that spill out onto the festival’s
seven free outdoor stages and 12 indoor venues that require
tickets. For tickets and info, visit: montrealjazzfest.com
WAINWRIGHT'S PRIMA DONNA PREMIERS MAGNIFICENTLYJ
Jazz Festival Concert: Place des Arts, Salle Wilfred Laurier,
July 2, 2016
Donna is Mr Wainright's first opera; and because of it, we
discover yet another brilliant side to the singer/composer's artistic
expression. What moving music! Highly French in flavour, this
interesting creation highlighted a lyrical melody which seemed
to echo the spirit of Bizet and Delibes. Several passages climaxed
in melodic crescendos, poignantly pointing to Verdi, Puccini,
and the darker parts to Prokofiev and Richard Strauss.
the subject is a tasteful and highly stylized tribute to "Woman"
and the "Feminine" as she lives through the inevitable sadness
of ageing - how it affects her outward appearance, her own doubts
focusing on the late Maria Callas (portrayed with hypnotic intensity
by Cindy Sherman), Callas -- the great Greek opera singer -- is
a larger than life legend. Her unique voice and striking beauty
captivated the world's attention - and this aspect carried through
in Prima Donna by the use of close-up images. Cameo photos on
the projected back wall screen in the film filled our own imagination.
Baroque style settings and luscious costumed Cindy Sherman as
Callas were richly highlighted in the film.
as Callas inspired the world, she herself was captivated by Queen
Regine, a bust of which is first shown in the film. It was directed
by the Italian genius, Francesco Vezzoli , and it featured his
inspiring soundtrack. Scenes of Ms. Sherman (portrayal alluding
to Callas) at various stages of ageing, singing at the piano,
taking off makeup and studying herself slowly, move across the
screen enhanced by frequent fade-ins and fade-outs that beautifully
flow in a synchronized, symbiotic manner to the emotionally rich
terrain of the singing and the orchestral symphonic music -- perfectly
performed by the a symphony orchestra under the baton of the vibrant
American maestro, Jace Ogren.
only featured some parts of the opera. Still, we glued to our
seats. The artists who sang were sublime; their lush yet varied
vocal totality along with their obvious connection to the characters
they portrayed effectively claimed our admiration. Soprano, Kathryn
Guthrie who reached notes that surely exceeded the highest upper
C stunned us all. Soprano, Lyne Fortin, who sang the lead, was
exuberantly beautiful. Her deliciously round voice is rich, emotive
and it was perfect for the part. Tenor, Antonio Figueroa was so
tender, and his voice is sweet. It sould be noted that the libretto
was co-authored by Mr. Wainwright and Bernadette Colomine.
is a stand-out. It will surely mesmerize audiences in Paris where
it will soon be performed.
Mr. Wainwright shared the more familiar side of his musical artistry.
Whether at the piano or in front of the mike, dressed in an elegant
sparkly silver suit created by Zaldy, his musicality spills out
in a non-stop flood of love. Head swaying, and arms moving gracefully
to the fluid and periodic cleverly punctuated rhythms that mark
his original songs showed how much music lives within him- his
voice is so smooth - his range and his ability to hold a note
for an eternity is astounding.
and always humorously self-mocking when referring to his French,
though he did hold his own in the language - as proven in his
hypnotically beautiful song, "Les feux d'artifices t'appellent"
which he played at the piano, as he did several songs: "Cigarettes
and Chocolate" and a sonnet song from his latest album, Let
All the Loves In:: Nine Shakespeare Sonnets. I loved, "Going
to Town" and "Oh What a World." His sister, Martha joined him
on one of his late mother's favourite songs - and she appeared
on stage again with two cousins for the final encore number -
the iconic - "Halleluja".
frustrating that such a complex concert offered no written program
for the public; nor were there electronic super headings in either
language as the opera (in French) played out. Thus the opera lost
a vital concomitant element, and as one French couple said, "We
caught only some words as they sung." (Regardless of language,
opera librettos are often lost during a performance in "ear translation."
everyone reading this will go out - if they haven't already -
and purchase Prima Donna, currently playing at
International Jazz Festival. How
rare to hear an opera knowing the composer still lives within
SISTERS: BORN TO SING TOGETHER
de Rideau Vert, July 7th, 2016
they live miles and miles apart, Lucy Wainwright Roche lives in
New York, Martha Wainwright in Saint-Sauveur, these two sublime
songbirds belong on the stage. Lucy has a voice as heavenly and
as pure as Joan Baez’s. It’s pitch perfect and true
folk. Martha’s voice is a mix of Emmylou Harris, Alison
Krauss, Dolly Parton and Bonny Raitt. The variety of textures
in her voice is astounding. She is more kinetic on stage than
her calm sister, but both hold us in their vocal grip.
vocal duality magically blends into a rapturous realm of utter
beauty. The range of both is staggering. The crackle and silky
smoothness Martha is able to achieve almost simultaneously in
a single melody line is just so gorgeously scary. Her song, “Around
About” starts on a high note and as she goes through the
sentence, it ends low and bluesy. Martha is a passionate and a
wondrous eagle whose wings soar above us all; Lucy is a sweet
nightingale – ethereal and eternally soothing.
styles harmonize beautifully – heard in the fabulous songs
they performed – most off their latest 2015 album, Songs
in the Dark, in a memorable Montreal
International Jazz Festival performance.
sisters said, without a trace of sentimentality (rather they chuckled
when repeating this phrase), “They are morbid and slightly
were anything but. Yes, they were in the minor key; yes some were
slow with lyrics about creeping shadows, but their haunting beauty
and sometimes lonely and sad images were so beautifully rendered.
Such moving melodies with perfect harmonic nuances -- the chance
to slumber was overshadowed by awe.
Rocking Medley,” they offer wailing newborns up for adoption
willingly, while on a cover of Richard Thompson’s “The
End of the Rainbow,” you feel -- yes this is what Lucy said
– the most depressing of their medley. The song says: “There’s
nothing to grow up for anymore,” and one believes this is
the real song that hit the most morbid of lullaby songs in the
repertoire delivered in the concert.
spread through the audience when Archangel, Martha’s little
son, came out holding a violin and bow, tried to sit on the too-high
stool, and then never really played. He just kept looking up at
his mother, waiting for his cue. At the end, he took a bow, and
we were so amused.
ladies were great at playing off one another, sharing funny anecdotes,
and tell-all disasters, including one about their matching dresses
which alluded to a dress story about Rufus; his garment gift to
the two of them has gone into the garbage. Even their father Loudon
Wainwright III was not off limits. He is an insomniac: “Shut
up and Go to Sleep” (their last song for the evening), was
totally appropriate for the theme of the evening. Cleverly comedic,
Lucy has this low key drawl humour that is subtly delicious. She
added just the right punch to Martha’s more intense stage
presence and anecdotal candidness.
ARCHER SETS THE TONE OF HOME-SPUN HONESTY
Archer, from Australia opened the evening. His vocal style is
little bit skiffle and a little bit old time. His catchy vocal
tremor is such a throw-back to days gone by. His songs about the
outback, nature, death of a family mother, hobo days and kangaroos
and cars were highly original. “The Greatest Symphony on
Earth” about love-making surely showed his risqué
sense of humour. Still, I was not sure if he was comfy in the
theatre’s performance arena.
so low key, rather shy, and although his stage presence was interesting,
his delivery might have been more appreciated at a café
house. His songs are lyrically rich, but his diction seems to
reside between his teeth; he was hard to understand. One suspects
he is far more a songwriter than a singer. He’s the real
raw deal, and for that, I admire him greatly as an artist.