All promise and no delivery
Review: A Tribute to the Women of Rebetika
For fifty dollars, you could go to see any number of shows in Melbourne. For example, a tribute to Johnny Cash starring Tex Perkins and band, or perhaps the award-winning Gershwin musical Crazy For You.
These are professional shows of world standard.
At the same price, one would have expected the same standards would apply to A Tribute To The Women Of Rebetika, but sadly, it failed.
One can be more forgiving of a $15 community program, but not of a program billed as excellent and one which includes a unique all-woman rebetiko ensemble from Greece.
I don't think I went in expecting too much, I was expecting professionalism at the very least.
Indeed, I wanted to love this show. Unfortunately I left disappointed, as did many others.
The performance was intended to be a recognition of the contribution of women to the rebetiko movement, and to Greek society in general.
I guess from that perspective, the night was in part a success. Sadly the bad parts outnumbered the good ones.
The music itself was performed well by Christella Demetriou, Eleftheria Kourlia, Sophie Moulakaki and Claudia Rossini, the key members of the Greek rebetiko group San Mayiemenes, along with Greek-Australian performer Irene Vela.
Chistella Demetriou is a competent bouzouki player, but not a particularly inspiring singer, and should let the other clearly more accomplished singers carry that role for the group.
Eleftheria Kourlia is a far more accomplished vocalist and should be carrying the main thrust of the singing in the group.
Claudia Rossini, is also a great singer and violinist whose ability to sing in Greek despite being based in Greece for only two years is amazing.
Overall though, their musical renditions were certainly heartfelt.
Indeed, there were moments of uplifting beauty, where the music transported the listener back to another Greece. Back to a dusty teke in the middle of Piraeus in the 1930s, where a woman was singing the blues.
Where the performance fell over most, however, was in its presentation, and the "déesse de la chanson" Anthea Sidiropoulos.
While she is a competent singer, her intervention and readings were wholly unnecessary.
The show began with an amateurish multimedia presentation, and the level of professionalism did not improve from there. It was evident that the show itself had not been adequately rehearsed, with Sidiropoulos clearly feeling her way through as she went.
Towards the end of the first half there was very nearly an audience uprising sparked by a lack of volume reaching the back of the hall and the generally bad sound engineering.
Listening to conversations during the overly-long 30-minute interval, I ascertained that audience members were not impressed by the "history lesson" being delivered by Sidiropoulos.
I personally did not mind the history lesson, but I did mind the manner of its delivery.
It was being read verbatim from the flyer I had in my hand, as the printed program had not been delivered on time.
What this show lacked was professionalism, presentational skills and oomph. It needed personality, San Mayiemenes appeared less mayiemenes (enchanted), and more bored on the stage, unable to breathe life into the performance and render it a success.
The desire to dance was palatable in the hall, but unfortunately the energy did not emanate from the stage at a sufficient level to encourage the reciprocation of that energy.
The second half began better with the Taviano, an energetic instrumental piece that featured violin and accordion solos that injected some much needed life into the performance.
It then moved on through a series of rebetika that shared the stories of the lives of those who had originally performed them.
The show dragged along and had to be cut ten songs short due to time constraints, again so much time taken by the didactic and ill-prepared lectures on rebetika.
It was clear that there was no contingency plan and as a result ten or more rebetika went unsung.
I have to question why the organisers of such shows, that have such fantastic potential, automatically assume that Greek-Australians will happily pay good money to watch sub-par performances.
Unfortunately, this Greek-Australian will not.
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