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Review

George Zahora, Splendid E-Zine, October 5, 1998

I think the phrase “unlikely tribute” sums this up well — an hommage to opera diva Maria Callas built from clarinet music and turntable manipulations of Callas in performance. Robert Lepage uses his clarinet’s range to evoke and accompany Callas’ voice, while Martin Tétreault scratches, loops, cuts and drops the recorded Diva into the mix. Not everyone is going to like this, or understand it, but it’s very intriguing nonetheless. Tétreault isn’t merely a scratch-happy DJ; his contributions to these pieces depend as much upon changes in pitch, uneven rotation and the pops, clicks and aural eccentricities of the vinyl medium as they do on back-spinning and other more overt record handling — his slow-wind on Maria La Casse is particularly striking. He seems, too, to be working with a massive, older turntable rather than the shiny, feature-laden 1200s favored by most DJs. Lepage, meanwhile, uses his instrument to manipulate and counterpoint the moods and phrases Callas establishes, turning happiness into melancholia and vice versa. Sometimes, when the vinyl-recorded Callas is delivered in short, staccato bursts while the clarinet is sustaining long, gentle notes, it’s hard to tell who’s who. Other extraneous noises — an instructional opera record and some live audience “response” being the most obvious — add a sense of whimsy to the disc. Though its premise might reek of art-wank and seem disrespectful to Callas, La Diva… is ultimately both well-intentioned and well-executed, and Lepage and Tétreault deserve full credit for a thought-provoking reinterpretation of the Diva’s art.

Lepage and Tétreault deserve full credit for a thought-provoking reinterpretation of the Diva’s art.

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