Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A blast from the very recent past

Arrived at my desk in Tbilisi yesterday morning to find a message from a friend about a concert organised by the Lithuanian embassy of Judita Leitaite, mezzo soprano and Andrius Vasiliauskas at the piano. Wow!

The last time I saw Ms Leitaite live in a concert was roughly on 23 November 2001 or 2002, when she sang French love songs, together with the Lithuanian chamber orchestra, to an audience which for some reason comprised mainly of shaven headed young soldiers - not a happy combination, though the young men did well. I think I may have left at the interval, so I don't know if the young men stayed.

Ms Leitaite does not do opera singing, as far as I know (and in any case, the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre is full of well-established singers); she's more into recitals and concert halls, though I also cannot remember seeing her participate in oratorios or other large scale pieces. She does, however, do much work with contemporary music, and is the main female singer in Senderovas' soundtrack to the Film 'Ghetto' (which I am listening to at the moment) - this is outstanding, though I am told by the composer that things ended up getting changed for the film. I further have to admit to not having seen Mr Vasiliauskas, the accompanist, in concert in Vilnius, but there I don't go much to singer recitals.

This concert was arranged in celebration of Lithuania's 3-year membership in the EU (welldone!). The programme consisted of Lithuanian songs adapted for recitals, some songs by Grieg sung in their original languages, and some popular songs, in addition to some piano pieces by Ciurlionis and Grieg. The main theme of the evening was 'love'. It would have been nice to have some of the Jewish music (either from 'Ghetto' or other music) in the programme, also for the sake of Lithuania's reputation, but essentially it was a very light programme, and maybe that might not have fitted so well. It's also possible that people don't know of Ms Leitaite's skills in this area.

The concert went well - it was the right length for this kind of event, and the mix of singing and pianoplaying was good. Ms Leitaite is a great singer and actress, and effortlessly filled the (admittedly small) hall. It took some time for the audience to warm up (and did it really need 'La Paloma' to break the ice, and was it sung in Lithuanian?) - and then things really got going! At least one person in the audience was having a wonderful time, and he would probably have danced if there had been the slightest possibility. Ms Leitaite then milked the audience for all they had got.

Mrs President (Sandra, sorry Hans, I did not pass on your regards!) appeared just before the concert got going, with a whole entourage. This lead to a fierce little debate about the person's identity between my friend and me, since my friend had only seen her the day before - but she'd had a different hair colour...At this moment Ms Leitaite just about melted - she knew fine who she was singing to; but I am sure she has sung lots of times to the Lithuanian President!

It was a nice little touch that both Ms Leitaite and the Ambassador did not speak in Russian, only English and Lithuanian - though Ms Leitaite later burst into Russian for ease of communication.