The blistering heat of a Sunday evening in June would be the perfect atmosphere for more music-making in Cardiff. The Festival of Voice is rampant in Cardiff, with each major venue (and even some of our intimate venues) having a huge variety of music on. It’s perhaps one of the most exciting things to hit Cardiff for some time.
Prior to the big guns of Rufus at the WMC, Ala.Ni did her set lasting no longer than an hour, if that. The effect, however, on the audience and myself was to a great degree. Her extraordinary presence, velvety voice and extremely long arms make her a unique figure in music today.
Highlights included the hair-raising Darkness at Noon, with her descent into the auditorium belting out near operatic tones. I cried, for the sheer intensity of the piece and its heavy real message – a sad moment in an otherwise chirpy concert. She opened with Cherry Blossom, my undoubted favourite from her whole set. Warm, tender and crammed with charm, you could easily mistake it for a Doris Day song. A joyous discovery!
| “The immortal Rufus Wainwright was the main event” |
He is certainly loved by audiences, as was proven by his arrival onstage and the standing ovation at the end. His renditions of Judy Garland numbers are as standard, and a Cole Porter number had a bit more oomph to it. His take on Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah (now immortalised in Shrek) was a real high point of the concert.
He also comes into his own with his own writing: The Art Teacher, a classic if any song of his could be considered as such. Expressing a pupil’s love for her teacher and her life going on without him is such a weepy. In his piano-playing, you can certainly hear the influence of Phillip Glass, along with Rufus’ journey into opera in his Prima Donna. Les Feux d’artifice t’appellent could easily become part of the aria repertoire, with its nods to Bellini, Puccini and Glass. He has yet to give up opera and 2018 will see Hadrian premier in Toronto.
His voice has the tendency to teeter on the brink of breaking during some songs, such is the intensity. It’s not so much a smooth voice, though certainly rough around the edges. It’s pure and is his own voice, unmistakably him and never without the pure charisma that goes with his presence.
Ala.ni Rating: 5 stars
Rufus Wainwright Rating: 4 stars
Festival of Voice continues in and around Cardiff all this week. Highlights include La Voix Humaine, Opera for the Unknown Women and The Last Mermaid.
Cover image credit: Festival of Voice website here.
Watch Weeping Tudor Productions’ version of Satie’s Medusa’s Trap and his 150th birthday concert below.