Something I enjoy in life is meeting new people and discovering new things. And it makes the encounter more special when it’s impromptu, unexpected…
That’s something great about Toronto, there I met great people in an unorthodox way (wink Lee-Anne). And in the same unusual way discovered two of my 2006 biggest coups de coeur: Amanda Martinez and the East Village Opera Company.
It was during the Little Italy Street Festival on College Street right after a Brazil game followed by a Brazilian fiesta in the streets of little Portugal. I walked back to college street to enjoy the food sold at the stands, watch the bands playing completely different types of music and share the crowd’s world cup frenzy.
I stopped at the first stage attracted by a nice adaptation of “Besame mucho”, a sweet voice accompanied by nice afro-cuban beats. The song that followed I didn’t know but I found myself swinging and singing the words of the verse that I quickly learnt, It was “Guajira Sola”. Eventually, I remained there till the end of the show as it was absolutely fascinating. In the mean time I was approached by a smiling young lady who gave me an invitation to the release party of Amanda’s first album, it was on my last night in Toronto, a week later. At the end of the show, I asked her for a picture, and told her that I’m convinced she will be a famous artist.
I was there at “the Drake hotel”, and I didn’t regret it. I was late, my friends were already in, It was packed and I couldn’t get in, so Veronica (the smiling girl) whispered a tip to me on how to avoid the crowd and get in from the back door… so I did 🙂
The show was great, after it was over, we stayed at the bar having drinks and chatting with Veronica, waiting for Amanda to sign my album.
Amanda is Canadian born to a Mexican father and South African mother, she was already established in a banking career when she decided to drop everything and live her passion for the music. It was the right decision, “Sola” her first album is captivating, hard to get out of the CD player. It includes a mix between Amanda’s songs: like the sexy “Cantame”, “Guajira Sola”, “Volar” the shivers giving ode to her adventurer father in the pursuit of his dreams and fabulous covers: the intense “La llorona”, the joyful “Gracias a la vida” and the poetic “Alfonsina y el mar”
Everyone I made listen to Amanda was charmed by her singing, her pure strong voice and the great arrangements on the album. Unfortunately Amanda is not widely distributed which is a pity as I believe her work can and should be a worldwide known treasure.
Looking forward for the second album, Amanda 😉
The East Village Opera Company
We were a bench of friends sitting at the beer garden of the Yonge street festival at the corner of Younge and Eglinton, taking it easy on that saturday summer night. I didn’t know who was on stage, all I know is that I left my friends to go closer to the stage, I was captivated by the heavy guitars, the strings and the captivating voices.
It was the East Village Opera Company (EVOC), a NY band that revisits opera classics, adding strings, heavy guitars, drums and new arrangements to the great voices of Tyley Ross and AnnMarie Milazzo making them more intense and powerful.
I lined up to buy their first CD “La donna”, As you put it to play you get the feel of the CD with the guitar riffs announcing “Vesti la giubba” from the Opera “Pagliacci”, my favourite piece of the album. I particularly like “Questa o quella”, “Una furtiva lagrima”, “Maria, Mari” and “La serenata”.
Even though I liked “La donna” I thought it was shy compared to what I heard from the band on stage. A few months later, as it was released, I ordered EVOC’s second album, and it turned out to be a masterpiece…
The arrangements were obviously more mature and audacious than in the first album. The addition of AnnMarie brought more intensity and energy to the mix and some duets on the album with Tyley are absolutely amazing. My favourites are Gianni Schicchi’s “O mio Babbino caro”, Dido and Arenas “When I am laid on earth”, La Wally’s “Ebben? ne andro lontana”, Turandot’s “Nessun Dorma” and Carmen’s “Habanera”.
What a bold way of editing these classics of opera, I closed my eyes more than ones and intensely felt the pain of Dido, the insecurity of the wally or the daring Calaf challenging death. I am sure their original creators wouldn’t find them outrageous, but definitely exquisite.
I feel lucky for discovering the East Village Opera Company and Amanda Martinez, unknown independent artists that should have a larger fan base, just for the good sake of spreading beauty in this world…
Pour savourer quelques grammes de finesse… dans ce monde de brutes.