BWW Reviews: A SCORE TO SETTLE with Rita Costanzi
The harp is a unique musical instrument, obvious for its size and physical presence yet often subtle in its positioning and role in a score. Yet the sound of the harp can elicit so many emotions - from passion and despair to tranquility and serenity. When I think of the harp I immediately think of the haunting piece that is performed in Les Miserables just after the battle at the barricades. Titled The Sewers, the piece has a remarkable potency due to both the tragic narrative context in which it is positioned and the harps unavoidable soothing and reflective sound. A key part of this is what can best be described as repeated upward progressions on the harp that are poignant through their seemingly contradictory subtlety and necessity to the piece. In A Score to Settle world-recognised harpist Rita Costanzi presents a similarly contradictory tale of her professional evolution.
Rita Costanzi's show at Melbourne's Butterfly Club successfully drew out such inner beauty of the harp, with her cabaret show titled "A Score to Settle" offering a unique opportunity to experience the majesty of the harp being played on its own. With the show running for just over an hour, Costanzi takes the audience on a journey into the inner thoughts, fears, desires, insecurities, and ambitions of every harpist. By the end of the show the impression of the harpist is not of a tranquil musician, but rather one of a fiercely competitive individual who almost takes on a curse when they adopt the harp as their instruments of choice. Costanzi's narrative indicates that such a curse provides the harpist with both tragedy and triumph in their career.
There is no doubting Costanzi's often-conflicting belief in the role of the harp and the link this has to her overall love of music. Costanzi clearly communicates an unshakable belief in the inner beauty and incorruptible nature of music, with it being described as possessing an honesty that cannot be twisted. While this may be the nature of the music, the audience is left to wonder if the same can be said of the narrative that segues the scheduled performance pieces. This is a sometimes awkward tension that is evident from the opening moments and prevails through the story, as she describes herself as being a romantic and then regaling the audience with tales that are best akin to stories of failed romances. Whether it is hopes, dreams, or strings, the uncertain tone of the narrative gave the impression that it could all snap at any point in time.
A dramatic tone was established early on, with the spoken introduction describing a chain of seemingly apocryphal events that surrounded Costanzi's birth. These paint her birth as being some sort of Messianic arrival. The resultant challenge is to then gain suitable recognition and fulfill the prophecies (or in Costanzi's case, the predictions of the fortune teller). With grand expectations hanging over her since birth, Costanzi's show tells how she progressed and managed such expectations to attain success. Despite her apparent success and visions of grandeur there are seemingly some perennial sources of conflict for Costanzi, scores that are yet to be settled, symphonies yet to be completed. These provide the basis for some amusing story telling.