grey marble

February 5, 2007

Pedro Almodovar is my source of music

A few years ago, after seeing All About My Mother, I noticed that Caetano Veloso would be performing at Carnegie Hall. I knew months in advance but I never bought tickets. I wasn't sure I would be in the country then, and then when I was certain, I forgot he was playing. That night, I went to the theater and waited in the cancellation line. I got lucky and ended up seeing the show in the balcony.

A few months ago, I watched Volver and was enchanted by the voice behind Penelope Cruz. From the soundtrack I learned it was Estrella Morente. A month ago, I read she would be performing in New York for the first time as part of the Flamenco Festival. Once again, I waited to get tickets. By the time I remembered, the show was sold out.

Saturday night, I took the train up to Town Hall. I was an hour early; there was no official cancellation line. I waited in the cold to see if anyone would have extra tickets. A few people wandered around asking for extras. Back inside, an attendant told me to come back at 8:15. Then they'd be selling any unclaimed tickets. I thanked him and walked back outside.

Turning around, I saw Cherry. Her husband had bought tickets. She asked me if I were going to the show. I said with any luck. They hurried into the theater to get out of the cold. At 8:10, I walked back into the box office. They were calling names off a list. Someone said that people could put their names on a list from 7pm on. I had missed my chance and debated leaving.

As the number of available tickets dwindled, an attendant said that they had one ticket left. A cashier asked if there were anyone waiting who was a single. I raised my hand. She took my money and I raced into the theater a lone guitarist took the stage and began to play. The usher led me down the center aisle. I was in the eighth row.

Soon two men joined the guitarist. One looked like a cross between Eric Idle and Eric Bogosian. Estrella Morente took the stage. Her performance was theatrical, bordering on the operatic. She stood regally, then sat in a chair, occasionally rising to dance with a fan or twirl her shawl about (once striking her guitarist). Now and again she would race off the stage, returning as the guitarist began another song. His playing was fantastic.

A pianist appeared for the second half; the guitarist disappeared. Morente appeared with a wireless microphone and took to the stage, singing now to the pianist, and then to the wings. Her voice was powerful and emotive. Her face ran through each song's emotions.

For her encore she brought out both her instrumentalists and her backup singers and launched into an extended version of "Volver." As the crowd brought her back for repeated bows, she kicked off her shoes and her microphone and her hair clips and danced onstage. Finally singing without the aid of amplification as the audience sang along.

The concert was fantastic. I had never realized the connections between Arabic, Qwaali, and Flamenco music before. As we filed out of the hall, I called Cherry to see if she and her husband wanted to have dinner in Koreatown. People commented on the performance, some praising Morente's fan work and others dismissing the way she used her shawl. Cherry didn't answer her phone and it was too cold to wait. I took the subway home, the sound of the guitar and Morente's voice still echoing in my head.
listening to: avenue q
Posted by eugene at | Comments (1)


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