Sunday, September 7, 2008

Adriana Varela | The Auditorium, Rome | 6 September, 2008

Whilst every local and national news station in Italy seemed to have joined the stampede to catch a few seconds of footage of Madonna at the Olympic Stadium last night, at the Auditorium Music Park world famous Argentine tango singer Adriana Varela inaugurated the second edition of the Buenos Aires Tango festival with a stunning show in Sala Sinopoli.


The festival - sponsored by the Ministry of Culture of the Government of the City of Buenos Aires - is a two week celebration of tango in all its forms with a series of concerts and events introducing tango musicians, singers and dancers to a wider audience. Before the concert I was unfamiliar with Adriana Varela's music and I'd bought the tickets on the recommendation of a tango-loving friend - but I left the show a fan, entirely captivated by her extraordinary voice and charismatic personality! Prowling up and down the stage talking to the audience, sitting on occasions, combining elements of cabaret with tango-as-torch-song drama and even squeezing in a glamorous costume change at one point (during which her band - Marcelo Macri on piano, Ernesto Molina on accordion and Horacio Avilano on guitar - treated us to an instrumental interlude) this felt like an intimate nightclub show performed by a major talent. I was on my feet with the rest of the audience who gave her a standing ovation and was rewarded by a surprise second encore after the lights were up. One of the highlights of the show for me was Con la frente marchita (see video below).

Stepping outside after the concert into a still stiflingly warm summer evening, the Argentine atmosphere continued with dozens of couples tangoing in the Cavea which had been transformed into an impromptu open air dance hall for the occasion.

Buenos Aires Tango runs until 18 September.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Italian Contemporary Art at the Quadriennale

With the reopening of the Palazzo delle Espozioni the Quadriennale D'Arte di Roma show has returned to its original home. In its 15th edition, this major Italian Contemporary Art show brings together 99 young and mid-career artists working in Italy who have emerged within the last twenty years, as well as a posthumous contribution by sculptor Luciano Fabro who died last year. With so many contributing artists the Quadriennale is necessarily a huge show covering both upper and lower floors of what is already a vast exhibition space and although I found it somewhat patchy overall there's still plenty there to make the exhibition well worth a visit and an encouragingly large number of women artists included.

Artists using video and short films were well represented throughout the show – I particularly liked Grazia Toderi's Rosso, an absorbing nocturnal cityscape video on a loop, with its man made constellations of twinkling headlamps, planes and street lights played to an increasingly noisy city soundtrack which soon seemed reminiscent of the rumble of a distant warzone, with the red glow of the city and sudden flashes of light echoing infrared footage of recent bombardments (which most visitors will have witnessed only on television). Other major social and contemporary issues were also represented – global warming and the eco disaster of endangered species was tackled by Maurizio Savini in Destined for Nothing which featured a bright pink chewing gum sculpture of a polar bear who is found washed up and desperate - quite literally on our front doorsteps - in an interactive piece that allowed the visitor to step into the installation, look through a spy hole and take a closer look at a doomed species. I also enjoyed Andrea Mastrovito's disturbing life cycle animation/projected video Eine Symphonie des Grauens.

The Rome Quadriennale runs until 14 September 2008



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