USTheater is devoted to plays, operas, and performances, American and international, performed and published in the United States. We also are open to new plays by playwrights.
All materials are copyrighted as noted. The blog is edited and much of it written by Douglas Messerli
Douglas Messerli | "Dreaming Through Music" (on Brooklyn Rider and Magos Herrera)
dreaming through music
Herrera and Brooklyn Rider / I attended the performance at The Wallis Annenberg
Center’s Bram Goldsmith Theater, with Thérèse Bachand, on Thursday, October 10,
me begin this review by admitting that I do not have language skills in either
Spanish or Portuguese. It is important to say this when you are reviewing a
concert when almost all the songs are in these languages.
Last night at the Wallis’ Bram Goldsmith
Theater, apparently, many of the Beverly Hills audience members felt that,
given that language gap, they had to get up and politely exit the theater,
while my evening companion, Bachandand I
remained in our seats to soak up the lovely music of the beautiful and jazz-inspired Brooklyn Rider quintet—Johnny Grandelsman (violin), Colin
Jacobsen (violin), Nicholas Cords (Viola), Michael Nicholas (cello), with
Mathias Kunzli playing a wide range of percussion instruments—accompanying the
wonderful vocal renderings of Magos Herrera.
The songs she sang and the quintet played
were from composers from Mexico, South America and Spain, including Chile’s
Violeta Parra, Argentina’s Gustavo “Cuchi” Leguizamón and José Castilla, and
Carlos Aguirre, Mexico’s Álvaro Carrillo and Magos Herrera’s own
compositions—one in collaboration with Felipe Pérez and another with Nicaraguan
composer Fabio Gouvea, along with a popular Mexican song, a Spanish composition
based on the work of Federico García Lorca by Vicente Amigo, and several songs
by the most brilliant Brazilian composers of the 20th century, whose works I
have heard on my two trips to that country, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, and João
Gilberto. Although I might have liked to have minimal translations provided, I think
my theater companion and I truly understood their undercurrents of love and
But what the audience who remained truly
understood is in the Octavio Paz quote, which prefaced this performance:
Dream of the sun dreaming its
world. Sing till the song throws out root, trunk, branches, birds, stars.
Sing until the dream engenders the spring at at which you may drink and recognize yourself
Based on the group's Sony Masterworks
recording from this year, Dreamers, this important work refers not just
to the “dreamers,” not just born in the US in fear of deportation, but on all those
who might dream to be free of dictatorial governments and able to move across
borders with the ease of these lovely songs. If I didn’t comprehend many of the
words, I knew what they meant through Herrera’s lovely phrasings: they were all a
cry to love, care for one another, to join together with a joy in just being
The darker tones provided by the
quintet worked brilliantly with Herrera’s soprano voice to provide us with a
language that spoke of the stupidity of any walls between people. This was a
music that communicates its intensity of loving, of caring, of passion that
doesn’t even need a translator to communicate it to you.And I feel so sorry for those who felt
excluded and left because of that. I’d only cry out: open your ears and you
will hear an ocean of comprehension.
Herrera—dressed in a gorgeous white
gown, covered with a caftan with stunningly sashed green rows of ribbons, and white shell-like earrings—sings with a Latin-based sopranto voice (and what a voice!) of a world open to the borders of linguistic differences. Although I might have
desired to understand every word she phrased, the point was aptly made: music
transforms us simply by its remarkable rhythms, its pulses, its amazing ability
to pull us in by our ears and hearts.
Those of us who remained were treated
to an evening so memorable that even I as a critic,who often does prefer to stand up
for the now standard standing ovation, stood willingly up to applaud this
amazing musical demonstration of borders completely collapsed. I could have
almost cared less whether or not I understood what was being sung: it was simply marvelous to hear it.
Angeles, October 11, 2019
from USTheater, Opera, and Performance (October 2019).