March 31, 2020

Famous Singers Explored: Fado singer Amalia Rodrigues

I decided to do feature posts on famous singers. I begin with Amalia Rodrigues, the renowned fado singer from Portugal. Fado means “fate” in Portuguese which indicates a fatalistic and somewhat dark cast to this passionate style of songs.

Rodriguez started her singing career in 1935 and started touring internationally in 1943. She was especially popular in Portugal, Spain, France and Brazil. She became known as the “Queen of Fado.”

Her most fruitful career time was in the 1960s with concerts world-wide in Europe, the U. S. and the former Soviet Union. She died in 1999. Rodriguez remains the most successful Portuguese artist in history. Her recordings remain timeless.

Here is a Youtube clip of her singing:

Emma: Jane Austen musical at Chicago Shakespeare

It came as no surprise that the audience was predominantly women at last night’s performance of Emma, a musical currently playing at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. More’s the pity since this was full of smart dialogue and lyrics, fine acting and extremely high production values.

Lora Lee Gayer is superb as the opinionated and meddlesome Emma Woodhouse. Brad Standley as the upstanding and slightly repressed Mr. Knightley goes toe to toe with her. Their exchanges are reminiscent of the screwball film comedies of the 1930s. All of the cast members, a mix of local and out-of-town talent, turn in entertaining acting and vocal performances.

Paul Gordon is the mastermind behind this lovely musical having written the book, lyrics, music and contributed to the orchestrations. The marvelous direction is by CST artistic director Barbara Gaines.

There is a diaphanous quality to the scenic design with gauzy drapes, romantic lighting and sliding minimal sets. There is not much choreography but the ball scene absolutely delights. The pit ensemble is small but mighty with violin and cello, plus a tasteful electric keyboard and a reed person adding various colors.

This makes for an absolutely charming outing to the theater. You only have until March 15 to catch Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Emma. Limited tickets have been available at Hot Tix and Goldstar but paying full price would be worth every penny. Hey men, Jane Austen lives! Deal with it.

NAVY PIER, 800 EAST GRAND AVE, CHICAGO, IL 60611

www.chicagoshakes.com

Rocketman, a film inspired by the life of Sir Elton John

Released last year, Rocketman, the bio pic based on Elton John’s early life, has been currently available on selected streaming sites. In short, Taron Egerton is a wonder as Sir Elton. He justifiably won a Golden Globe as best actor for his performance, but was inexplicably left off the list of this year’s Oscar nominations.

Film credits go to director Dexter Fletcher and screenplay writer Lee Hall for choosing a dramatic arc in John’s life that has great emotional resonance. We see his difficult childhood, his precocity at the Royal Academy of Music in London and his search for a musical path. Enter lyricist, Bernie Taupin, played by actor Jamie Bell, who teams up with Elton to add words to his prolific compositions.

We see his meteoric rise as he conquers British and American music markets and becomes fabulously wealthy. Like a rocket, what goes up, must come down. Along the way, he tries to commit suicide and becomes addicted to alcohol, cocaine, cannabis, shopping and sex. The movie effectivelyly uses his participation in a rehab group as a device to tell the story.

Throughout the film, we hear those iconic hits and are bemused by his journey through ever more outrageous clothing and accessories. Those platform shoes! Those eyeglasses!

Elton John’s journey in this movie feels a little bit like that of Rocky Balboa’s in the Rocky franchise, but that is not a bad thing. We are rooting for him to turn his life around. Stay for the final credits where you get to read about “the rest of the story.”

If you love Elton John’s music, Rocketman is a must, but the film is inspiring enough for those who are less familiar with his work. Fashionistas will have a visual feast, producing both horror and delight.

Cafe Sabarsky/Neue Galerie in NYC: A Little History

Although I have not yet visited Cafe Sabarsky and the Neue Galerie on New York City’s Upper East Side, I did a little research on this storied venue.

Art dealer and museum organizer Serge Sabarsky and entrepreneur, philanthropist and art collector Ronald S. Lauder discovered a common interest in German and Austrian art and culture of the early 1900s. After Sabarsky’s death, Lauder created Neue Galerie in 2001 to honor his friend.

Located on New York’s Museum Mile, 5th Avenue from 83rd Street to 105th, Neue Galerie is the former William Starr Miller mansion at 86th Street.

The second floor is dedicated to Austrian work of the early 1900s from the Wiener Wekstätte movement and by luminaries such as Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele. Third floor contains work from the same time period by the Bauhaus movement and artists that include Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Lyone Feininger, Otto Dis and George Grosz.

The museum campus includes a bookstore, a design shop and two Viennese restaurants, Cafe Sabarsky and Cafe Fledermaus.

Cafe Sabarsky features light fixtures by Josef Hoffmann, furniture by Adolf Loos and banquettes upholstered with a 1912 Otto Wagner fabric. Periodic cabaret evenings and chamber music concerts benefit from the on-site Bösendorfer grand piano.

Here is a link for Cafe Sabarsky:

kurtgutenbrunner.com/restaurants/cafe-sabarsky/

For more info on the Neue Galerie:

https://www.neuegalerie.org/

Au Lapin Agile, a trip back in time to a quintessential Parisian cabaret

Cabaret can mean two things in Paris. If you are looking for topless women, champagne, feathers and lots of glitz, head for the Moulin Rouge, Lido de Paris or Crazy Horse and their glamourous ilk in Montmartre.

If you want something less expensive, very musical and a little bit retro, head for Au Lapin Agile for “poèmes et chansons (poems and songs)” and shots of cherry house wine.

Cassita, resident chanteuse Au Lapin Agile

Lapin Agile Owner Yves Mathieu

There is a resident group of professional singers who lead group sing-alongs and perform mini-sets of their own throughout the evening. Everything is in French but those who do not speak the language can enjoy the familiar melodies and soak up the timeless atmosphere with paintings covering the walls as they sit at wood tables that very well may be ancient.

The little house cabaret has existed since 1860 when it was first named Rendezvous for Thieves followed by Cabaret for Assassins.

In 1875, Artist Andre Gill painted a rabbit jumping out of a sauce pan thereby giving the venue its new name, Gill’s Rabbit. Before 1900, the title evolved into the Agile Rabbit or Au Lapin Agile, a delightful historical play on words.

The great cabaret artist Aristide Bruant (immortalized by Toulouse Lautrec) bought the club after the turn of last century and created a meeting place for struggling yet creative luminaries such as Picasso, Modigliani, Apollinaire and Utrillo.

Some of the current excellent performers include Patrice and Oona, a singer-songwriter duo, singer guitarist Gerard Caillieux, baritone Frédéric, the son of the current owner, Jean-Claude Orfali, pianist extraordinaire and Cassita, a clarion-voiced accordionist who summons up the spirit of Piaf.

If you want to brush up on your French before a visit, here is a page of lyrics from group songs sung at Au Lapin Agile.

au-lapin-agile.com/paroles/

This September, Au Lapin Agile was kind enough to let us bring Cabaret Connexion 2019 to their venue on their off night. David Edelfelt and I presented our Porter in Paris show with guest stars Jacques Protat, Jean-Jacques DeLaunay and Ava Logan, followed by Paris Qui Chante featuring Christine Steyer, Jean-Claude Orfali, Mylène Launay, Maryline Rollet, Francoise Miran and resident chanteuse Cassita. Angelina Réaux, Claudia Hommel and Anne and Mark Burnell were guest stars in the regular Friday show later in the week.

David & Elizabeth playing at Lapin Agile 9-19

A few words of advice, use the restroom before you are seated because making that trip once the show has started is problematic. If you want a beverage besides the cherry wine, order that at the beginning of your evening. For those who have trouble sitting on hard benches, opt for one of the banquette seats lining the walls.

The current owner since 1972, host and singer Yves Mathieu and his family have been have keeping the flame alive by including French song favorites from the last hundred years all the way back to folk songs from the 15th century. Bravo, Yves and family!

For the real heart of Montmartre and perhaps of musical Paris, an hour or four at Au Lapin Agile is what the doctor prescribes.

Tuesday to Sunday, 9pm-1am
Cash payments only
22 Rue des Saules, 75018 Paris France

Here is the English site for visitors, but the French site has more info.

au-lapin-agile.com/1-au-lapin-agile-anglais/

au-lapin-agile.com

Villa des Roses in Sète, France

Villa des Roses Entrance with Claudia Hommel

I found my dream residence in Sète, a charming town on the Mediterranean in France.

The Cabaret Connexion spent the day at this private property that featured a pool, gardens, terraces and a workshop room with three glass walls overlooking the pool and lush greenery. There were two pianos in this concert/work space including a gigantic Pleyel grand piano. This is literally the studio I have seen in my imagination.

Villa Concert Studio

Kyle Hustedt led an intriguing workshop on risk-taking in cabaret before we broke for lunch. Our unofficial tour chef, Cappy Kidd, foraged a delightful meal of just-caught seafood, cheese, fresh bread, delectable fruit and vegetables served on the sun-drenched terrace. Villa des Roses had tables and chairs scattered throughout the property so one could choose which bucolic nook in which to dine.

Our afternoon session was led by the incredible Angelina Réaux with her emphasis on “A Matter of Style.” Her own prodigious skills as an actress as well as a singer were an inspiration throughout the Cabaret Connexion in France.

We were in Sète so we could participate in a Festival of Song held in this port city. We gave an impromptu concert for guests at the Villa des Roses as we rehearsed for the evening’s concert held in the center of town.

It was with regret that I said goodbye to the owners and their enchanting Villa des Roses. If they ever put the home and property up for sale, perhaps they should give me a call?