French chanteuse, Caroline Nin emerged from the shadows in a white dress suit, into a badly lit spot. It was a rare error from a venue such as the Opera House and unfortunately set the tone for the evening. Nin’s sultry delivery was inhibited as she tried to push her way past cabaret style tables. Fortunately elegant musical arrangement and sure vocal delivery compensated for a show that seemed badly in need of a director. A more relaxed audience and performer emerged when Nin stayed on stage and sang close to collaborator and musical director Christopher Culpo. Sydney-sider Jonathan Zwartz on bass, also seemed a little off balance, though never missed a cue.
The narrative, as Nin explained in the opening moments, was absent, but song and small vignettes conveyed a little of the life and times of Marlene. Nin’s risqué moments were directed at unwitting (male) audience members, though a mysterious femme fatale received an unexpected kiss, a la Marlene in The Blue Angel (Der Blaue Engle) her 1930’s breakthrough film.
Audio visual material, perhaps for copyright reasons, was skeletal in its paucity, and more imaginative use would have enhanced the experience. Nin’s comment, albeit throw away, that if we, the audience could speak German, we’d get a lot more out of the lyrics of ‘Lily Marlene’, was at odds with the under used technology available. Opera Australia is quite capable of subtitling, so if this was a real concern, some thought might have been put into the translation dilemma.
Even the pale ghost of Dietrich’s charisma is enough to guarantee an audience these days. Her fascinating biography is partially explored in this tribute show, but the details are disappointingly absent, leaving a mostly impressionistic experience of the legendary Marlene. Nin’s smooth performance delivers on most levels and one hopes the technical weaknesses might fall away during the season allowing this seasoned trio to find their natural rhythm.
Sydney Opera House presents
Venue: The Studio | Sydney Opera House
Dates/Times: 25 – 28 June @ 7.15pm, 1 – 5 July @ 7.15pm
Tickets: From $20 to $49 or $20 to $39 concession
Bookings: 9250 7777 or www.sydneyoperahouse.com/thestudio