Friday, December 18, 2009

Voyage of the Black Madonna - Concert Dedicated to Mother Earth

On December 6, 2009, the laments and celebrations of the Voyage of the Black Madonna rang in St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in NYC. The performance was a showcase of some of the music and dance from the full theatrical production. Evocative music, whirling, colorful costumes and interpretative dance told the story of the poet Virgil and his encounters with different faces of the Black Madonna. Written by Alessandra Belloni and Dario Bollini, the story is based on various legends from Southern Italy. In this version, Virgil is awakened to understand the essential nature of Mother Earth through his experiences with seven Black Madonnas.

The show includes original music by renowned composer, arranger and musician John T. LaBarbera. La Barbera, Belloni and Bollini spent many years researching the origins and celebrations of Black Madonnas around the world, and the music that drives those celebrations. In Voyage of the Black Madonna, the rhythms originate in Italy, Africa, Brazil and the Gypsy musicians of the Basque Regions of France and Spain. During the show La Barbera expertly played various stringed instruments, including mandolin and battante. His versatility and musicianship gave the impression that there was an entire string section, instead of just him. Susan Eberenz‘s flute, piccolo and recorder added just the right amount of brightness and flow to the pieces. Entertaining us on violin was none other than Sebastian, Eberenz and La Barbera’s son who, at 11 years old, is already a performing veteran. As the show contained highlights from the full production, the narration read by Dolores Deluise was essential to the audience’s understanding of the onstage events.

It was Belloni’s clear, strong mezzosoprano voice and incomparable frame drumming that guided the production. Surrounded by her many frame drums, she played the various Black Madonna characters who enlighten Virgil as to the true nature of Mother Earth. Virgil was played by dancer Mark Mindek, whose flowing movements told the story of seeking, learning and finally, comprehension. Mindek, who is normally the stilt dancer for Belloni and La Barbera’s theatrical company, I Giulliari di Piazza, still gave the impression of towering above us all even though his feet were on the ground this time.

Special mention must be given to the costumes. The deep, rich colors of purple, turquoise, reds, yellows and blues added a sumptuous feel to the dark, heavy wood of the church. It was the combination of these flowing colors, expressive movement and soaring music that made it a unique experience.

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