Painting Rosier -feuilles by Barbeau is made alive within Century Song at the Centaur in February 2020
I came away bowled over by the exceptional beauty of the multidisciplinary show Century Song, presented at the Centaur theater in Montreal this evening and for 2 more days, February 14, 15 at 8 p.m. and Sunday February 16 in the morning at 2 p.m.
Century Song is a dazzlin I g, imaginative and moving production from Toronto’s Volcano Theatre, a company which has just returned from a European tour and soon begins a tour of the United States in Los Angeles. This multidisciplinary work by Toronto director Ross Manson, virtuoso soprano, Neema Bickersteth and choreographer Kate Alton, combines singing in the form of vocalization, piano and percussion, dance, mime, theatre, visual art and video, around an epic story of the 20th century. This improbable musical collage combines musical extracts from Rachmaninoff to Asperghis, from South African folk sounds to the music of John Cage, the sublime Quartet for the End of Time by Olivier Messiaen, and jazz rhythms, all performed by the singer-dancer and accompanied by two musicians: a pianist and a percussionist of great talent. In visual art, they combine the prints and paintings of the German abstract expressionist Kathe Kollwitz and the automatic painting Rosier Feuille, by Marcel Barbeau, along with the creation of Pop Art videos The Hallway of Progress and Endless City, by fettFilm. The fluidity with which the director, the technical team and the soprano-dancer make the transition from engravings by Kollwitz to the 1946 painting by Barbeau, which envelops Neema Bickerbeth as she sings, dances and embodies all the struggles for freedom – particularly those of black women – this is a highlight. Note that before his death, Marcel Barbeau had approved this use of his work, which reminded him of its creation in 1946. He was honored for its association with this young innovative theater company. He would have been touched by yesterday’s show.
All this would not reach such an artistic summit without the talent and the flame of the great soprano Neema Bickersteth who masters dance, song and mime, and whose song of extreme expressiveness is doubled by astonishing virtuosity, constantly passing, in a few seconds from the mastery of the most sophisticated classical vocal techniques to the vocal techniques of contemporary music and even those of folkloric southern African song or those of jazz. In short, it offers a show where the perfect mastery of versatility off the beaten track is carried by an extreme sensitivity in tribute to the black women who in everyday life transformed our societies in the twentieth century. At the end, the excited, enchanted spectators had only one desire: to see this show again as soon as possible. However, despite the quality and originality of this show and its recent successes in Europe, notably at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival, for lack of media coverage, there were still tickets available for the last performances. Visual arts lovers and music lovers risk missing out on this pure jewel, unless another theater or a performance hall welcomes it again on Quebec soil. We can only wish so.
Next shows in California: “Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha “, Berkeley et à “Stanford Live“, Palo Alto, San Francisco region. Details : www.volcano.ca.
Ninon Gauthier, PhD, Art historian, President Marcel Barbeau Foundation