By Marcina Zaccaria
Prototype keeps the music flowing with Sága, a unique American Premiere created by Dez Mona and Baroque Orchestration X.
A mix between a rock concert and a chamber opera, Sága draws upon Norse mythology. Baroque Orchestration X is precise. Their compositions with harp, viola da gamba, violin, theorbo, and harpsicord are both meditative and invigorating. The musicians also sing, with background vocals that provide a solid foundation for their mythology to be heard.
Among the black and white striped lines at National Sawdust in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the performers seem to be soul surfing. Dez Mona was formed by 2003, an effort between singer Gregory Frateur and double bass player Nicolas Rombouts. With over 500 shows under their belt, their inventive sound is practiced. At the top of the show, Frateur gives space to the musicians of B.O.X. (a Flemish, international collective) to set the tone. Then, engaging with the text, he sails through the composition, letting the story settle with the audience in each turn of phrase.
With words and music, it is a transcendent journey. Searching for a place to consider the happiness of each day, they let the music work with them. It’s a smooth journey. At times, the accordion pierces through, and at other times, the chimes break into the composition. The timing is everything. Every accent is deliberate. As B.O.X. introduces trombone and chimes, the composition is renewed and revitalized.
It’s a journey without vanity. Frateur is both seer and objective mediator, allowing moments of reflection. Performing barefoot, drawing energy from the floor, he shifts and commands the changes in every wave and ripple. With his long, wide legged pants, and his black waist coat, with flecks of amber, he is not so much a grand showman, but a central figure as a larger constellation. The musicians – surrounding the lead singer in a semi-circle – hold their place in the blue and purple haze provided by Lighting Designer, Christian Le May (Songs in the Key of D at Metropolitan Museum of Art).
There is something distinctly European about the feel of the evening. With something cinematic about their composition, B.O.X. keeps building bridges. Prototype is known to send it up loud or dish it out smooth and subtle; the collaborative team involved with Sága has provided some beautiful poetry around the theme homecoming. With safe harbor always nearby, Frateur seems bathed in sound. Though there is some fine falsetto (that is reminiscent of Freddy Mercury), there’s never a firm pulse or a harsh wail to shatter this smooth journey. There is plenty of repetition to keep everyone onboard. The music has a fullness that is incomparable; although supertitles would have made some difference, the audience never has to struggle with the text.
Co-produced by Beth Morrison Projects and HERE, Prototype features concerts, opera, and music theater performances through January 17. Sága is playing at the newly opened National Sawdust, located at 80 N. 6th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. www.prototypefestival.org