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The Art of the Salon Concert: A Review

Image by David Gordon. 

The salon concert, an intimate experience that draws you into yourself as it draws you out of your comfort zone: a perfect way to let the mind float among the melodic strains of the performance. Such was the experience while watching Opera Ivre perform Cri de Paix! on Easter Sunday. Composer, pianist and organizer Ken Shakin presented an anti-war performance, complete with strains of loneliness, humanity, sinister undertones referring to the refugee crisis, naturalistic nuances and dreams.

The performance was sung in French, narrated in English. The performers were five: two tenors, Felipe Baliero and Martin Netter, bass-baritone Eric Beillavaire, narrator Chukwuemeka Ene, and the composer himself at the piano. The opera consists of 9 songs. The texts are poems by Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, and Louise-Victorine Ackerman, one of the few French female poets still remembered from the 19th century. The singers’ voices, perfectly suited to the subtleties of French music, wove through the songs that were rich in harmonies and nostalgia. The music was enlivened by accents of African percussion played by the narrator, the theatrical L’esprit d’ivresse. Opera Ivre always has wine available in its performances and as demonstrated by the number of wine glasses, the audience seemed to enjoy that immensely.

The performance, which filled the Ballery to capacity, captivated the audience. Le Bateau ivre, text by Rimbaud, filled the space with its rolling, marine-esque melody. The final notes ebbing like the tide with the magical acoustics of the venue.  Je suis élu, text by Verlaine, was rousing with the Esprit’s wolf-like howls and irregular rhythms and Chant de la pluie, text also by Verlaine, was adorned with sounds of rain produced by the instruments, and at the end, a deep thunderclap from the piano. The last Anthem, which used the text of the poem Le Cri by Louise Ackerman, was inspiring with repeated cries of ‘O Paix!’ The cheers and whistles of the captivated audience were proof of the power of the performance.

Image by David Gordon. 

The opera was set against the backdrop of the current art opening, The Life Studies, featuring artist Georg Meyer-Wiel whose art is a study of the male figure in sketch and color. The works provided an atmosphere of humanity, the lines of the figure studies evoking the strength of man, as well as his fragility. The melodies wound the agony of war around the mortal figures on the wall.

Thus Simon Williams, director of The Ballery, accomplishes yet another beautiful experience: this time art and music together, with the wrenching theme of war and the plight of the refugees. The Ballery provided an ideal setting for  this moving salon concert.

Opéra Ivre presents Cri de Paix!
Nollendorfstraße 11, Berlin
Sunday, 27 March at 18:30

By Sasha Prince
Sasha is a classical singer and animal lover and has been in Berlin since 2014. She is from the US and the place she lived the longest is Austin, Texas.

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