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BWW Review: IL PARLE, ELLE CHANTE, PART 3: MYSTERY at Florence Gould Hall

Melissa Errico and Adam Gopnik Delight in Noir Evening

BWW Review: IL PARLE, ELLE CHANTE, PART 3: MYSTERY at Florence Gould Hall

I am a fan of Melissa Errico (Amour, High Society, White Christmas.) She is a singer of great technical dexterity and an actress with a deep well of passion. One of the things keeping her busy during the pandemic is a joint series of concerts with journalist, essayist and commenter, Adam Gopnik, for the French Institute: Alliance Française on the subject of "l'amour fou," or all-consuming love. Tonight she premiered the final concert in the series of three, IL PARLE, ELLE CHANTE, PART 3: MYSTERY.

The other two concerts focused on LOVE and DESIRE. Both were presented virtually at the height of the pandemic, with limited staging and interaction between the two and musical director, Tedd Firth. As a hopeful sign, tonight's concert was presented both virtually and in person at FI:AF's Florence Gould Hall with a small but live audience. As the title of the series suggests, Ms. Errico does the singing and Mr. Gopnik acts as a lively raconteur, putting all the musical material in the context of the evening's subject, Noir. Not simply film noir, but the entire art movement of the 1940s, that was born out of German Expressionism brought to America by artists fleeing the Third Reich. As Gopnik points out, it was French critics who identified the movement and gave it a name. It is a perfect subject for the French Institute.

Melissa Errico is an artist who wears her heart on her sleeve. The mysterious and emotionally opaque figure of the femme fatale is not what you would think of in the same breath as the intense and heartfelt Errico. And yet, she manages to infuse all the songs with a world-weary melancholy and an economy of body language that is perfectly in the style. Only at the end, when she channels Edith Piaf in La vie en Rose, is her emotional effusiveness given its full measure. It is a beautifully restrained performance.

As always, she is at her absolute best when singing the music of Michel Legrand. She sings two of his songs at this concert. A rare treat, Amour, Amour, and a standard, The Windmills of Your Mind. The latter is presented in a rhapsodic arrangement, that not only shows off Ms. Errico's brilliant technique but also showcases the virtuosity of her musical director, Tedd Firth. Other musical highlights include Theme from Laura, David Raskin's haunting tune from Otto Preminger's noir masterpiece. Errico's voice is at its most velvety on With Every Breath I Take, from Cy Coleman and David Zippel's City of Angels, a song that is such a perfect pastiche of noir, it's hard to believe it wasn't written in the '40s. She also premiered a new song by Marci Heisler and Zina Goldrich that humorously examines how the men in a femme fatale's life may not live up to their amorous reputation. Peter Foley and Adam Gopnik wrote a bilingual song especially for this concert, We Live, We Love, We Lie, We Die.

Adam Gopnik is a wealth of information on the origins and implications of noir culture. He took what could easily be a very pedantic job and made it thoroughly entertaining and engaging. And not only does he talk, on two numbers he takes out his guitar and accompanies Ms. Errico. She, in turn, sings two numbers by the great David Shire that have lyrics by none other than Adam Gopnik. He is exactly the sort of renaissance man who should be writing for the New Yorker, where he has been since 1986.

So "Vive la Chanteuse!" IL PARLE, ELLE CHANTE, PART 3: MYSTERY is a treat for the music lover, the knowledge lover, and the francophile.

Melissa Errico and Adam Gopnik are also curating a film festival for FI:AF as part of their CinéSalon series. OUT OF THE DARK, THE MYSTERY OF FILM NOIR focuses on French noir films and expands on themes explored in tonight's concert. The festival runs from May 4-July 5.

For more information about Melissa Errico, visit Melissaerrico.com. To learn more about Adam Gopnik, visit adamgopnik.com. And additional information on Tedd Firth, follow him on Facebook. To find out more about FI:AF and OUT OF THE DARK: THE MYSTERY OF FILM NOIR festival, visit fiaf.org/events.


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From This Author Ricky Pope