Sunday, October 2, 2011

On the Road (很久沒有敬我了你)aka My First Concert in a Typhoon

Tonight marked a new first for me: watching an outdoor performance while enduring the relentless rain and gale of a typhoon, something that I've only fantasised about while watching Caballe sing Norma.

Nonetheless, the discomfort of enduring the elements and potential of illness was totally worth it as it was truly a show worth remembering. On the Road (很久沒有敬我了你)is an original musical commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra, featuring members of the aboriginal Nanwan Tribe performing their ritual songs to the orchestra's accompaniment.

Having sold-out and received rave reviews in its initial run in 2010, On the Road is the brain-child of associate conductor Chien Wen-Pin, one of the nation's best who has clocked time at the Deutsche Oper am Rhien before taking on the country's orchestra's principal conductor position from 2001 to 2007. The term 'musical' for the show is used loosely here: its more accurately described as a multimedia concert extravaganza interspersed with clips from a movie, which tells the story of a young conductor, upon returning from a career in Vienna, sets out to discover the music of his native land in order to bring said natives to Taipei for a performance at the National Concert Hall.

Which makes this truly a case of art imitating life imitating art. After each clip a character from the screen appears onstage and greets the audience with a song, further blurring the lines between actor and character, fact and fiction. The orchestra's lush harmonies and the aboriginal performers' power-packed mountain wailing blending together amazingly well to intoxicating effect; the strobe lights, colourful costumes, jokes and pyrotechnics added further glitz to an emotion-packed evening. So delighted was the audience that at the encores we simultaneously broke out into rounds of aboriginal folk dancing. With no shortage of soul, virtuosity, presentation frills, this is definitely one of the best performances I've attended in  many years of reviewing shows. And best of all, its FREE!

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