Article Title:Review: Dances of Desire
Author or Credit:Jay Bennie
Published on:12th March 2013 - 09:10 am
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Story ID:13035
Text:Dances of Desire - In Memoriam Carmen Rupe Composer: Jack Body. Conductor: Kenneth Young. Director: Warwick Broadhead Performed by the APO with Mere Boynton, Xiao Ma, Jason Moore, Anna Pierard and Norio Sato. Auckland Town Hall, 8 March 2013 While there were sublimely exquisite moments and the occasional flash of bawdy charm in the world premiere of Songs and Dances of Desire - In Memoriam Carmen Rupe on Friday night the big question which emerged was: "Where was Carmen?" The first thing to understand is that this was not an autobiographical work, or collection of works. Composer Jack Body sought to reflect "a young Maori boy in Taumarunui [who] dreams of being a woman, a fabulous creature, irresistible attractive, a fem me fatale... This is a story of transformation, male to female, Maori boy into a Spanish Gypsy..." Some elements of Carmen's life experience and psyche were there, but her heart and soul were missing. Dancer Jason Moore pretty much got it spot on... the brazen sensuousness, sometimes tawdry artifice, and tantalising glimpses of personal warmth as he interpreted Carmen's cabaret performances with expansiveness and verve. Enough to give glimpses of Carmen's nature but not enough to frighten the APO subscribers. Director Warwick Broadhead clearly got it and infused the evening with flashes of the vibrant yet homely hutzpah behind Carmen's huge smiles, huger hair and even huger boobs. He draped the evening with colour and attitude and the veneer of utter self-confidence masking something more subtle and fragile. I'm not sure if Jack Body got it though. Perhaps his supremely modernistic style was always going to be at odds with Carmen's more 'Bizet meets ukelele' persona. While certainly drawing on the moments of gloomier self-reflection and even wistfulness which were undoubtedly parts of her life, Body seemed mostly to merely assemble a collage of items based on the most obvious of Carmen's attributes without getting under her skin in any meaningful way. Dances of Desire felt like a conflicted piece, knowing and yet unknowing, a collage or mosaic with insufficient detail to truly reflect Carmen. Having wished that this premiere was presented as part of the recent gay Pride Festival it now seems obvious that its more natural home was indeed the more general-appeal Auckland Arts Festival. But if these are serious reservations there are few words to convey the supremely powerful and thrilling moments when male singer Xiao Ma, perched high above the orchestra like a gender-bending guiding angel, sang out across the Auckland Town Hall in a stunning mezzo-soprano voice, a range and style almost exclusively the preserve of female singers. From a delicate young man came the unexpected and powerful lyricism of a mature and supreme woman. Truly magnificent. For all kinds of reasons Carmen herself would surely have given this performance a standing ovation. Because here was the nub of what might have been achieved - the shimmering, ethereal dream of the male goddess woman calling to the all too human Trevor Rupe; rainbow rays of hope and encouragement breaking through the clouds of social norms; inspiration and strength succoring the earthly and earthy creature below whose inner self heard the siren call and who responded by re-casting himself as the alluring vision of sensual female glamour. The Trevor who became Trevina. Trevina blossoming into Carmen. Carmen taking on the world on her own terms... and quietly, eventually, in her own unique way, winning. That's the essence of Carmen we longed for but didn't quite get. - Jay Bennie Jay Bennie - 12th March 2013
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