We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Eleftheria Arvanitaki
There is music in her soul and music in her name.  Just try saying it out loud--Eleftheria Arvanitaki.  This international recording star managed--with her warm voice and embracing gestures--to create a sensation of intimacy in the huge Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall.

It is difficult to believe that Ms. A. has been recording for 30 years.  She does not appear to be much over 30 at the present time and uses her stunning Mediterranean looks to good advantage.  She is slim and dressed simply in a way that said "I am here to share my music", rather than "Look at me and how glamorous I am".  It was all about the music!

There is no doubt that the fans hanging over the railing of the balcony were as involved as the elderly man who was dancing up and down the aisles of the orchestra.  The ushers gave up trying to warn people not to take pictures.  Fans stood up, yelled and screamed with their arms overhead applauding wildly, unmindful of the folks sitting behind them.  No one protested. That's the kind of evening it was.

There is no audience like an audience of expatriates and a good guess was that half the audience was Greek and the other half were Greek for the night.  They came to hear Ms. Arvanitaki sing the kind of music she has championed--rebetiko--a fusion of Mediterranian, Greek and Middle-Eastern.  Some of the music was contemporary and some was more along classical lines.  But whatever she sang, she was totally immersed in the music and her connection with the audience.

There was no program and we relied on the Greek friend who accompanied us to tell us what the songs were about.  Like all song, the subject is usually love--romantic love and love of country.  All seemed to spring from the soul.

There were seven musicians onstage--there was a piano and a keyboard, a bass viol, drums of both classical and ethnic variety, a soprano sax, a clarinet, a flute, and several varieties of stringed instruments--guitar, bouzouki, lute, and mandolin; later in the program Ms. Arvanitaki was joined by the well-known Armenian-American composer and oud virtuoso Ara Dinkjian who dazzled with his oud  solo and played another instrument with which we are unfamiliar; it looked like a banjo but did not sound like one.

Harmonies were rather basic in most of the songs, as was the rhythm.  Occasionally those two elements seemed far more complex and novel.  To our 19th c. ears, the amplification of voice and seven instruments was overwhelming. Unlike the thousands of fans in attendance we longed to hear Ms. Arvanitaki unamplified with only a bouzouki or piano as accompaniment.  We find that amplification dulls the colors of a voice.

Nonetheless, it was a wildly entertaining evening and we envied the man who was able to get up and dance.

©meche kroop

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