Opera Star and Choreographer Twirl Into 2022 with Flamenco-Infused Collab
THIS WEEKEND AT MATCH, Houston mezzo-soprano Jessica Blau presents a unique spin on the traditional, classical voice recital with Sojourns on the Silk Road, an evening of art songs by Ravel, Debussy, Da Falla and other French and Spanish composers and flamenco dancing by renown choreographer and French Basque native Fanny Ara.
Each song — performed by various combinations of Blau, Houston Ballet pianist Katherine Ciscon and classical guitarist Marc Rosenberg — is infused with additional emotion and meaning, thanks to Ara’s dramatic visual presence and percussive footwork. “Each song in the show is conceived as its own sojourn in a different time and place,” says Blau. “I wanted to give each performer their time to shine.”
As an opera singer with a passion for Spanish and Latin music, Blau has always had a flair for the dramatic. She first encountered flamenco while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Art History at Bard college, and soon became obsessed with this emotionally charged, rhythmically complex style of dancing, going so far as to study flamenco daily while living in Seville, Spain, and perform professionally as a dancer in Austin, which is where she met Ara.
“I was immediately taken with her original style, in that it is so well-suited for collaboration with many different styles of music,” says Blau. Though they’ve known each other for years, Sojourns on the Silk Road is Blau and Ara’s first collaboration.
Along with Rosenberg, who Houstonians will recognize as a guitarist for Musiqa and Opera in the Heights, pianist Ciscon is another crucial collaborator of Blau’s. “We both like pushing things out of the box,” says Blau. “Her creative force led to exciting new arrangements of this music that you may have heard before, but not in this way.”
Does this mean there will be singing and dancing at the same time? “Yes!” says Blau. “Lots!”
Sojourns plays at 7:30pm on Friday, Jan. 7, and Saturday, Jan. 8, and a livestream of the performance is available on Friday evening.
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