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BWW Review: Melissa Errico, Adam Gopnik, And fi:af Debut Stunning Online Concert Series LOVE, DESIRE, AND MYSTERY

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Il Parle, Elle Chante is just what it says it is. It is also merveilleux

BWW Review: Melissa Errico, Adam Gopnik, And fi:af Debut Stunning Online Concert Series LOVE, DESIRE, AND MYSTERY
Sometimes there are artistic pairings that lead to a plethora of pleasurable experiences. If an artist is lucky (and the world is lucky too) those relationships between arts professionals lead to ongoing collaborations from which the arts community garners some of its greatest works. Note the Liza Minnelli/Kander & Ebb partnership or the Bernadette Peters/Stephen Sondheim connection. What rich reward the world has gained by those associations - and those are but two collaborations in an industry of many.

BWW Review: Melissa Errico, Adam Gopnik, And fi:af Debut Stunning Online Concert Series LOVE, DESIRE, AND MYSTERYMelissa Errico had an association with Michel Legrand that is best described as Muse Meets Maestro, making her one of the premier interpreters of his canon. These days it's looking like Melissa Errico can be artistically matched with others just as well as she was with Legrand... but her Maestro is still there, in the air, bestowing upon her his blessing and his inspiration. Ms. Errico's latest venture IL PARLE, ELLE CHANTE - LOVE, DESIRE, AND MYSTERY gives the singing actress a chance to collaborate seamlessly with Legrand, pianist Tedd Firth, and writer Adam Gopnik... ok, AND with France and fi:af (The French Institute Alliance Francaise)! Those are a lot of associates for one Manhattan-born artist to take to the microphone with her, and Melissa Errico draws them all to her in one fell swoop, in order to release one succinctly unique piece of theater.

Love, Desire, and Mystery is a streaming show that debuted on October 14th on the fi:af website, the conceit of which is interesting, intellectual, and intoxicating. The three-part concert series explores Love, then Desire, and finally, Mystery in an examination of l'amour fou (the French expression of an all-consuming love) with Ms. Errico singing and Mr. Gopnik orating in an ongoing open discussion about love Francaise. All of the music is either French composed or France-themed, and the hour-plus concert streams from the theater at fi:af, with Errico and Firth up on the stage and Gopnik in the audience, behind a clear panel; and one week ago, when fi:af premiered Part One: LOVE, the organization showed that the performing arts can survive, thrive and come alive in a virtual setting. In approximately 75 minutes, fi;af presented a performance that was fun, engaging, enjoyable, and tres, tres Francais. Original, entertaining, informative, and floating in a place somewhere between sexy and romantic, Il Parle, Elle Chante: LOVE provides a welcome respite from the dingy dealings of the real world, and it's all because of the three artists bringing the concoction into our homes.

First of all, NOBODY is like Melissa Errico. A true original, having her on a stage again is a real cause celebre. As she chats with self-professed Francophile Gopnik, the rapport rings in the air of the auditorium as their devotion to all things French plays like an electrical storm of intelligence laced with eccentricity and perspicacity. The format of the show overflows with respect for one another, for the artists they are representing, for the French, and for the themes on display. Errico is a performer who feeds off of the energy of her audience - and as there is no one in the auditorium, the choice of placing Gopnik in the audience, not opposite Melissa on the stage (as one might have done eight months ago), is extremely effective. In this configuration, the show becomes like a cocktail counterpoint, a he said-she said conversation where both parties playfully agree and, using their enthusiasm for the topic at hand, fan the flames of French idolatry; indeed, it is almost like watching through a scrim as two people flirt outrageously - and perhaps they are, but it is not with one another, it is with France, and with their coquettish dedication to the nation, the energy lacking from an absent audience becomes a tidal wave of ideas and social intercourse between two friends and colleagues. The friendship between the two is palpable, just like it is between Melissa and Tedd, behind the piano providing the proceedings with his usual exquisite artistry.

BWW Review: Melissa Errico, Adam Gopnik, And fi:af Debut Stunning Online Concert Series LOVE, DESIRE, AND MYSTERY

A right heiress to the title Chanteuse, Melissa is able to embody all of the composers' styles and intents, in any era, through any language, with any inflection. Though LOVE features a respectable amount of Legrand, there is also a portion of Porter, a dram of Debussy, and a soupcon of Sondheim. There is even a lovely David Shire/Adam Gopnik tune from a new musical about Eleanor of Aquitaine that promises there is something to look forward to in life after Coronavirus when the theaters of the world breathe once more. Throughout the whimsical, whistful, and cerebral program, Errico sings in French as though she were a native of the land, and even though you may not understand every word, you certainly do understand the meaning - that's the level of quality in her musical storytelling. Particularly lovely is a number involving Legrand, the Bergmans, and Johnny Mercer - it's a moment in the evening that is unflinchingly gorgeous, Errico at her very best. But then, it's hard to think of Errico putting anything onto a stage that isn't her very best.

BWW Review: Melissa Errico, Adam Gopnik, And fi:af Debut Stunning Online Concert Series LOVE, DESIRE, AND MYSTERY

As for Mr. Gopnik - listening to Adam talk is almost as exciting as a romantic, sensual, sexy date with a new lover. L'amour fou is about obsessive, all-consuming love, and while that is meant to refer to a person, one suspects Adam Gopnik has it bad for France. He has intelligence and eloquence mixed with a passion for French culture, history, art, and, well, all of it. He is completely in love with the country, the people, the mindset, and everything that comes with it. Besotted by France, Mr. Gopnik could speak of it at length, much longer than this recital could accommodate, and it would be a pleasure to sit and listen to him because each additional minute of listening, each new fact and eye-opening tale brings his audience further into their own burgeoning (or long-standing) love of the country. Together, Gopnik and Errico make a person want to be a French geek, and they both do it in a way that is neither too lofty nor verbose. The program is informative without being so heady that you lose interest, it's detailed without being so voluble that you wonder when the music will start again. The script with which he bridges and introduces the musical interludes is smartly crafted, both in its verbiage and its economy. Between the three of them, Errico, Gopnik, and Firth have done something that makes the upcoming installments of Love, Desire, and Mystery very enticing: they've made a French lesson chic, magnifique, et tres formidable.

IL PARLE, ELLE CHANTE - LOVE is available for encore screenings HERE

IL PARLE, ELLE CHANTE - DESIRE and IL PARLE, ELLE CHANTE - MYSTERY will be live-streamed in the future. Dates will be announced on the fi:af website HERE

Photos by Elena Olive/fi:af


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From This Author Stephen Mosher