18 September 2016

Cathy Berberian - A Portrait

Here is some more from the NRK archives, broadcast in March 1970. I vaguely remember watching it at the time, so all the more delighted to find it in the digital archives of the NRK.

First we get a performance of The Beatles' Ticket to Ride, with tongue firmly in cheek and a little later Yesterday, with the singer and audience all decked out in fake noses and moustaches. An interview with Norwegian composer Kjell Skyllstad follows which allows Cathy Berberian to reflect on the rituals of classicial recitals, both from the point of view of the performer and audience.

Three performances follow, first Cathy Berberian's own "Stripsody," clearly inspired by comic strips and the vocal acrobatics involved in emulating the texts of the strips. Then, two pieces by John Cage follow, "Flower" and "Wonderful Widows of 18 Springs", sparsely performed with only a drum for accompaniment. Finally, we get to hear "Thema. Omagio a James Joyce" by Luciano Berio, with whom she was married from 1950 - 1964. The entire recital is taken from Joyce's texts, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to pinpoint exactly what's being cited. The voice is electronically treated and the camera pans over the audience to catch their facial epressions and occasional eye movements, all superimposed by videos and images of sea gulls and sailing ships. By the end, the words have been rendered unintelligible by electronic manipulation.

All in all, performances which range from humorous takes on popular culture to the deep crevices of Joyce's texts. But thoroughly enjoyable! Oh, and I forgot to say: All in glorious black and white!



kinabalu said...



Anonymous said...

"Even Cathy Berberian knows there's one roulade she can't sing."

That song, however, made me aware of her immense talent. Thanks kinabalu!