PERFORMING ARTS

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pamela Z

Squalling babies, screeching birds, Puccini arias and the bland recorded voice of an answering machine -- it's all raw material for the relentlessly inventive singer and sound artist Pamela Z, who appeared at GALA Theatre-Tivoli over the weekend for three performances of "Voci," her electroacoustic meditation on the human voice.

For Z, the natural voice is just a starting point; it's the extended possibilities of singing that intrigue her, and for nearly two hours on Sunday she turned her classically trained soprano into a kind of cybernetic chorus.

Dressed all in black, hooked up to a Mac laptop and strapped into microphones, sensors and other electronics, Z prowled the stage like some postmodern ninja chanteuse, using her meta-voice to create vast sonic soundscapes and explore the human voice in all its incarnations -- from the first cries of an infant to the terrifying voices people hear in their heads.

And despite a few problems (there's no dramatic structure to keep things moving, and it sometimes felt as if Z were determined to use every vocal effect in the book), "Voci" was genuinely engrossing and often extremely funny.

Z is clearly willing to leap boldly into the unknown, and she's filled "Voci" with sonic wonders -- singing into amplified sheets of metal, for example, or bringing off Catalani's famous aria "Ebben? Ne andro lontana" while a computer-generated voice clumsily reads the lyrics.

Few other sopranos could even imagine it; Z turned it all into poetry.

-- Stephen Brookes

Capital Wind Symphony

Gershwin for wind symphony? It seems an odd mixture, but on Sunday, the Capital Wind Symphony showed how well it can work, with effective arrangements.

R. Mark Rogers's version of the "Cuban Overture" was a bit of a dud -- too massive and muddy at start and finish, and rather draggy in the middle. The enthusiasm of the players and conductor George Etheridge could not prevent it from repeatedly bogging down.

But Warren E. Barker's "Strike Up the Band" was a winner, the show's satire of unthinking patriotism encapsulated in a buoyant march that is part Sousa and part Sir Arthur Sullivan.


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