Friday evening in Dvorak Hall at Doudna Fine Arts Center in Charleston was the last of the summer’s 2012 premiere events. It was truly “the last of summer wine” with the world-renown guitarist and vocalist, Robert Michaels. Prior to the performance a cookout was hosted by the Fine Arts Center for guests of this premiere event. Former EIU Lab School students were having a reunion in the center also, and many also attended the performance. I overheard one say that they came for the reunion plus wanted to see the new Fine Arts Center. They found the center and the event very impressive. Setting the mood of the evening was the stage lighting designed by Will Richardson, an EIU student. There was rose and gold colored lighting with fog rising from the stage floor which featured a drum set stage right, drum box in front, guitar at center, and accordion stage left. There were forest green drapes left and right of stage with blue spotlight pin wheels going round and round on dark stage backdrop.
At other times it looked like a flickering campfire creating imaginary shadows. Ceiling stars were spot-lighted overhead the audience. Introduced by Director Dwight Vaught, Robert Michaels strolled out on stage playing in his romantic eclectic theatrical style. He lives in Canada but was born and raised in Italy. His long black wavy hair was tied back in a ponytail and he was sporting a faint mustache and touch of beard. He was dressed casual with black pants and stunning purple striped shirt. His awesome trio of musicians sauntered in taking their places with their instruments.
Robert Michaels took us on a musical, imaginative, peaceful journey to many places starting with “Brazilia.” Then to Italy with love songs — my favorite “Seduction.” Some real high notes on this one. “Amore Amore” was so romantic. The audience started clapping to the beat. More beautiful music from Rome, close to the homeland of Roberto Michele Buttarazzi (Robert Michaels, shortened for his CDs).
We enjoyed flamenco music traveling from Arab countries to South Spain with a desert chase. Beautiful flamenco dancer, Melody Buttarazzi (Robert Michaels’daughter) danced out on stage. She was dressed in a black body suit with long flowing, red skirt with two layers of ruffles. She danced with a sand-colored scarf decorated with red flowers.
The flamenco dance was picturesque and so was the talented dancer. The drummer sat on the drum box drumming along to “Zumba.” This was not the Brazilian dance exercise but I think a Zumba enthusiast would love to dance to this tune. The drummer made this one sound like rolling thunder as he expertly moved his hands over the “cajon” box. We went off to Spain with “Matador,” bull-fight music. One could hear the swish of a cape. (I did anyway.) The drummer on the cajon box used the heel of his shoe for an interesting sound on the drum.
In Naples (in imagination) we heard an “Italian Blues” ballad about a Lagunari whose princess left him for a Frenchman. He is in depressed misery and singing to his pet bird. He asks the bird why he doesn’t fly away, like his princess did. A nice tango was followed by “Caruso” a song written by Lucio Dalla as a tribute to Enrico Caroso the well-known Italian tenor. Luciano Pavarotti, my favorite tenor (May he rest in peace) also performed this number. I’m listening to it right now. Robert Michaels’s version of this beautiful piece is to die for. What a voice! “Name that Tune” was fun as Robert Michaels asked the audience to yell out the name of the tune — with one stroke of the guitar string. Yes, yes, one audience member did! That person earned a free CD for their musical ear and we were entertained with the rest of “Classical Gas.” There was an encore with “Volare’” which Robert Michaels described as the National Anthem of Italy. Then as an added treat, and as the spotlight followed, Robert Michaels walked out into the audience singing to a guest as his daughter danced flamenco style on stage wearing a stunning red and gold long, fourlayered, ruffled skirt.
A beautiful end to an evening of romantic music by a seductive and talented guitarist, singer, and performer who was surrounded with a trio of magnificent musical artists. Thank you to all at Doudna Fine Arts Center who brought this outstanding performer to Charleston. Carolyn Stephens of Charleston is an arts enthusiast and reviewer-at-large for the Journal Gazette/Times-Courier. Contact her firstname.lastname@example.org.
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