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Sunday, September 12, 2004

the wonder of why we're here 

Diamanda Galas Shocks & Awes A Packed House at PCPA

As the audience gathered in the grand Newmark Theater, the atmosphere was hot, humid and a bit ripe. They packed the 800+ seat theater, many decked out in gothic finery, to watch Ms. Galas perform La Serpenta Canta, a selection of bygone popular and traditional songs, largely of the rhythm-and-blues persuasion, brought to bear on our sorry little souls as only Diamanda can.

Every time I get a chance to see Diamanda Galas perform I jump at it, but as the date approaches I start to have misgivings, and often, up until minutes before the show is to begin, I don't know if I can take what she has to dish out. Tonight I was feeling particularly delicate, but after fortifying myself with some serious protein and a stiff drink, I faced whatever demons she could summon, sat down next to some folks I vaguely know, and said, "If I start crying, ignore me."

First of all, hats off to Elizabeth Gaines and Blaise Dupuy, who are in charge of light and sound design respectively. The amazing transformations that took place before our very eyes, are due in no small part to their mastery. Through smoke and mirrors and other effects, a very simple set-up -- one woman, sitting at a piano, in front of a large screen -- effortlessly yet dramatically changed throughout the show. Diamanda herself seamlessly morphed into several personas both visually and aurally, at turns alluring and horrifying.

Diamanda's voice finds its way to the very fiber of my being, digs in and does not let go until sometime after the performance has ended. Her voice has manifested in my body as a stomach ache, headache, dizzy spell, extreme tension, greif, pain, anger, fear and near collapse. At times I've felt as though the frequency of her voice is drawing something deep and dangerous to the surface, like venom being sucked out of a nasty bite. You may be asking yourself, "Why, pray tell, would you subject yourself to such torture?" Because it's good for me. Because it's impossible to remain indifferent. Because as depleted as I may feel afterwards, I know that she has fortified my soul.

Ms. Galas received two standing ovations and performed two encores, ending the night with Gloomy Sunday. My favorite. Thank you Diamanda and thanks to PICA.


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