The other night I went to see Monica Naranjo's new show Madame Noir in Madrid. I have to say it was a rare occasion indeed. Incredibly experimental, Monica has always pushed the envelope when it comes to her pop concerts. She's done the pop arena spectacle of the kind many of her fellow superstars present to their fans. Now it seems Monica has the habit of always attempting to do something not seen previously. I don't merely mean changing the name of the tour and adding male dancers as the "extra" element or building huge sets in a phallic beating of the chest (see Take That's amazing yet ridiculous new show currently sweeping the UK). Monica instead deconstructs herself as a performer and the notion of a pop concert each and every time she sits down with her creative team to embark on a new set of shows. This is why I marvel at Monica Naranjo. She is truly one of a kind and you'll never see the same show twice with her. Each tour, each night and each show is utterly different to the previous. When Monica reinvents, it is an absolute and utter reinvention not solely of her music but also of her profile, tour and reconceptualisation of the genres that define and delineate pop, cabaret, theatre and concert too. Exhilarating and incredibly brave.

I last saw Monica in Madrid promoting her 2010 Adagio tour. This saw a reconstruction of her pop anthems that have filled European discos and clubs for the past 15 years into soaring classical arrangements with a Philharmonic orchestra under the magisterial conduction of Pepe Herrero as her collaborators. This was a sight to be seen and heard. The show was epic in all senses of the word. How on earth could Monica top this? I just had to fly out to Spain and see her next move in the flesh. Indeed, she could easily have repeated the same sort of show again come 2011. For sure, she seemed to have certainly found her comfort zone as Spain's ultimate singer. No, forget that. On the Adagio tour Monica Naranjo claimed her rightful title as Europe's pop-prima-extraordinaire diva following the likes of Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi, Mina and Shirley Bassey who've owned that special moniker in the past.

However Monica did something very different with Madame Noir. Perhaps realizing she'd reached the diva summit she'd climbed in Adagio, Monica examined the ego of such performers and their spotlight this time around by kissing her Philharmonic goodbye and filling the stage with just herself and her stalwart polymath collaborator Herrero at the piano. Monica essentially created the character of Madame Noir with all her intricate, tragic, comic and hilarious psychoses revealed in front of her audience. This was no one-woman show however. This was a true exploration of what it means to be a diva and singer on the stage with just a spotlight, the song and her audience as company.

The result? Like nothing I've ever experienced before. How can I best describe the show? It certainly wasn't a concert in the strictest sense of the word. It was cabaret, musical and theatre all combined into one. The show is a story with a narrative including performances of European standards like Miedo, Para Siempre and E Poi in-between acted-out scenes of the performer, her long-suffering assistants, bumbling director and wonderfully rendered soliloquies by Monica. Absolutely groundbreaking.

One might say the show was collectively inspired by End of The Rainbow (Al Final Del Arco Iris), A Star Is Born, and Mommie Dearest. She began the show dressed in a beautiful white gown singing through the audience and down the aisle as if she was a ghost walking back to the stage. With a starlit staircase to guide her home, symbolically working much like a lost plane finding its runaway after a bitter storm. Once landed, Madame Noir had truly arrived and the play of the diva's life consequently unfolded. This was not Monica Naranjo but rather Madame Noir's story. The character was unbearable, beautiful, adorable and critically Monica had managed to convey a glorious sense of tender vulnerability.

Madame Noir may have been a show set in the 1950s but it was incredibly modern. Very rarely do performers go this far. For sure, artists will often don a role for a tour and even adopt a stage name to help them comprehend the dynamics of singing, the spotlight, fame and the stage. This was very different however. This was not simply Monica does Madame (like Stefani Germanotta does Lady Gaga for instance). Madame Noir reinvented the reality of the performance by collapsing the lines between theatre, musical and concert and making it work.

So much so that when the fire alarm went off backstage at the Teatro Arteria Coliseum, the audience were so drawn into Madame's realm one couldn't be sure whether it was part of the show or not. The boundaries of reality, stage, audience and performance had been blurred by Monica, her singing and the show's creative director Vanessa Jose. The theatre may have been burning down yet the show continued. Only the metal safety curtain beginning to descend over Monica (naturally still singing in character as Madame Noir despite the alarm) saw the eventual erosion of the illusion.

Oh how I would love to see Madame Noir again! Merely to hear Monica sing again would be a treat. She has a fire in her voice that can rise to a feverish inferno belting out notes with fragility and strength and yet she manages to convey the softer moments with a tenderness that had me in tears and goosebumps throughout the night. One only has to refer to her final song: the aria Nessun Dorma from Puccini's Turandot, which she conquered to a multitude of standing ovations. An amazing night.



1 comment:

xavier69 said...

Love your review, I hope she comes to USA. I really want to see this show.