[AUSTRALIA ~ WORLD PREMIERE]
Dunstan Playhouse, Thu 14 Jun.
The lounge music revival of the 1990s led Australian cabaret doyen Ali McGregor to discover the music and story of Yma Sumac – a mega-famous soprano in her homeland of Peru during the 1950s, whose voice and life clearly struck an emotional chord with our Adelaide Cabaret Festival Artistic Director.
An accomplished soprano herself, McGregor has written a glorious piece of cabaret theatre that unveils the musical story behind one of history’s greatest vocal entertainers. Only a few in the audience had heard of this woman before the performance but there are likely to be many who will make it their mission to learn more after this extraordinary cabaret experience.
McGregor’s voice is undeniably breathtaking and, like Sumac (who reportedly had a range of 5 octaves), is able to perform vocal aerobics beyond anything a human being should be able to produce, particularly in songs such as Chuncho where throaty, twittery animalistic sounds abound. There was even space made for a mambo version of The Magic Flute’s Queen Of The Night aria that was completely captivating.
Theatrically, McGregor’s stage presence commands attention as she slips effortlessly between playing herself and the songbird. Costuming – including pieces previously owned by Sumac herself – are sumptuous, and clever lighting brings the costumes and stories alive.
The evening’s narrative threads through and around Sumac’s life as McGregor recounts stories she has discovered through years of ongoing research and more than a few online purchases of memorabilia, leading to a longstanding dialogue with Sumac’s last and most loyal personal assistant.
This treasured relationship continues and provided powerful insight into Sumac’s life, loves and increasingly eccentric behaviour, leading to this ultimately wonderfully rich, vibrant, vocal landscape.
Five stars really do not fully import the wonder that is this show. Don’t miss it.
Rosie van Heerde
Yma Sumac – The Peruvian Songbird continues at Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, at various times, until Sat 16 Jun.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.