Sunday, 15 March 2009

Gracias caballero

Estrella Morente at Sadlers' Wells last night - though this video is not from there! Nor did she have this group with her - just a couple of guitarists and three others supporting with palmas and occasional voice. The clip's from a show she did a couple of years back, set in the gardens of the Generalife in the Alhambra in Granada; it's a zambra, performed with a small band of bandurrias - there's a DVD, but I'm not sure if it's been issued on CD - it should be!

The first half last night was performed seated, dressed formally in black suit with white blouse and black bootlace tie, and the treatment was for the most part traditional. After a brief instrumental interlude she returned in flowing flamenco dress and shawl, both of which she used to great effect in a series of more dramatic and adventurous arrangements.

For the final song the guitarists left the stage, a searing electronic monotone started up, and Estrella and the three supporting singers came to the front of the stage and stood in a circle of light and sang a slow, powerful song with palmas and sharp, breathy vocalisations providing a cross-cutting rhythmic accompaniment. Stunning. There was no way they could have done an encore after that - and the audience didn't even ask for one.

Afterwards we were looking for a bar in the theatre, and saw a crowd of people in the Lilian Baylis Studio. As we went in we realised they were all on their way out - then we realised 'they' were Estrella and the other performers - and she was stopping for photos with members of the audience.
So I took a couple on my iPhone - and she came over and shook my hand, and gave me a kiss on both cheeks . . .

I told her the final song had been "estupendo", and she said "Gracias, caballero".

Star-struck? Me?? Who cares! Gracias, Estrella.

Estrella's website

My pics don't seem to have come out :-( , and nor does the 30 seconds of video Brian took on his mobile. Isn't it always the case?

And yes we did manage to find somewhere for a drink - a Tapas restaurant in Upper Street - good tapas, a bottle of Rioja, and a coffee with a coñac to finish off. Well, the evening needed celebrating, we thought.

She'd referred to the final song as a martinete - a blacksmith's song sung slow, without guitars or dancers, with just the sound of the hammer on the anvil marking out the rhythmic accompaniment. I can't find a version on any of her own records, but her father Enrique Morente's Sueña la Alhambra starts with a martinete, which could be the same song - it opens the DVD, and he sings it in a similar setting to Estrella's version last night - a group of five men, this time, in a lighted circle, with an invisible chorus providing a similarly mysterious aural backdrop.

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