Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Night at the Russian Opera

Last night I had the chance to do something a little different.

I had been invited by a friend to see a Russian artist named Vitas.  I had never heard of him before so I inquired about what type of music he played and I was told that it was euro-pop opera

Hmmmm, interesting ….

I told my friend that I would go see Vitas without even listening to his music.  I figured that this was just too weird of an opportunity to pass up even if the ticket was a fairly hefty $80.  I was assured that it was a good seat, however, and I wouldn’t be disappointed. 

Around 7pm, a group of us drove down to the Wilshire Ebell theater which is located in the mid-city area of Los Angeles.  Thankfully there was available parking (often times a challenge in the congested areas of LA) and we followed the other concert goers to the entrance.  I was wearing some nice jeans and a t-shirt which, believe it or not, is generally considered formal wear in this very casual city.  As it turned out, I felt very underdressed in this crowd; I was definitely NOT aware that this was a very ethnic event and apparently, Russians really dress up when they are going out.  The guys were wearing suits, the women were wearing dresses and I felt a little like the grubby kid at the dinner table.  I was given the ticket (which was in Russian) and a little old lady who looked suspiciously like Dr. Ruth ripped it in half and I was ushered into the Ebell. 

The Ebell is one of those beautiful old theaters that has been lovingly restored.  Although it doesn’t have the breathtaking intricacy of the Pantages in Hollywood, it has a lot of classic lines which you might see in a European arthouse.  With this kind of audience, I felt like I had been transported to St. Petersburg to see a revival of Uncle Vanya.  I didn’t understand any of the conversation around me so I waited patiently for the magic to start. 

Vitas deserves every bit of acclaim that has been heaped upon him.  His trademark is his falsetto and when he hits those high notes (and I mean HIGH notes), it no longer sounds like a voice but a perfectly pitched instrument.  He really is quite amazing.  I’ve never heard anything like him before and I was hypnotized.  He’s also quite the showman and (this is where it gets a little bizarre), he sang Ave Maria dressed up in a glittery Egyptian Pharoah costume.  I have no idea why a Russian singer would want to emulate a Vegas-style King Tut but I guess when you have a voice like that, you’re allowed to wear whatever you damn well please.  The other suprising thing about his concert was that he covered a lot of music territory.  Yes, he did opera but there was plenty of euro-style pop music, a few Russian folk songs, a little bit of Andrew Lloyd Webber and at one point, he broke into a Michael Jackson impersonation complete with the moonwalking and the hat.  There was not one word of English spoken so I’m not sure if Vitas can even speak English.  The crowd sure seemed to love him and towards the end, there was a steady stream of people lining up to give him flowers.  In return, he handed out a large number of long stemmed roses as he kissed and hugged audience members while strolling around the theater. Clearly, a smooth operator.  

His final encore is probably his most well known song:  Opera No. 2.  I have included the video of it below and I hope you check it out to really get an idea of this guy’s unique style.  The song itself is over 10 years old but apparently it has aged well; Vitas sang it with incredibly fresh beauty, power and heart.  I hope he comes back to LA again.   Seeing him on Youtube is one thing but seeing him in person with the whole theater experience is quite another.  

1 comment:

evadahl said...

Very cool. I have been hearing that tune here and there and now I know where it originates from. Have not seen the blowing up of the fish bowls though. Great review, would be good to see him. Hope you are doing well, Love Eva