BWW Review: Combining Centuries of Musicianship in REQUIEM POUR L. at Baxter Theatre Centre
Les ballets C de la B opened the Flemish Dance Season at the Baxter Theatre this week with REQUIEM POUR L. - a captivating take on Mozart's Requiem that combines reworked vocals, instruments and movements to present a unique piece of art.
The production is made of four separate groups who intertwine with each other and with their talents. Four musicians are the first to enter the stage, followed by three operatic singers and three African singers/dancers. The last to complete the tetrad are three likembe players who also dive into dance numbers. Combined with a simplistic set whose large space is continuously utilized by the performers, the effect is something else.
Each performer in REQUIEM POUR L. deserves a mention of their own as each is talented in their own right, yet creates a fantastic group ensemble. What struck me from the opera vocalists was their ability to remain in sync with each other and with the pitch, while the lyric vocalists and musicians had the ability to make disjointed pieces of music and dance seem well rehearsed and polished.
The first image audiences are presented in REQUIEM POUR L. is a close up, slow motion shot of a dying woman lying in bed surrounded by loved ones. This montage is played throughout the production and is quite an intrusive, universal visual. At times it syncs with the performance but is mostly on its own trajectory as a formidable reminder of mortality.
REQUIEM POUR L. only premiered at the beginning of last year, so it overflows with modern touches. The mere fact it has taken Mozart's Requiem (composed in 1791) and contorted it into something "jazzified" and "Africanised" is a feat in its self. Throughout the continuous 100 minute production, Requiem is reconstructed into a mesmerizing journey through countries and decades as there are lyrics in Lingala, Latin and Swahili and differing dances in contemporary styles. Sometimes the dances lose purpose or meaning, but they are brought together by the production as a whole. There is also a wonderful interaction between the 14 performers on stage that add to the overall flow of this requiem.
Due to the contemporary and unconventional take on a classic masterpiece, I was worried that REQUIEM POUR L. might not do my all-time favourite Lacrimosa justice. The respectful and passionate approach to the piece was just the same as it had been for the other 13 sections. Not only does this re-imagined composition shimmer with nostalgia for the "original"; but it radiates with the novelty of progressive genres. The ingenuity to the way in which instruments were used adds to this - particularly the silent accordion and a striking euphonium section.
Under the guise of Flemish Dance Season, classical dancers might be disappointed by REQUIEM POUR L. It is not so much a display of dancing as it is an amalgamation of creative elements supported by multi-talented artists that deserved every minute of their Tuesday night standing ovation.
Photo credit: Chris van der Burght