Kansas City Concert Review: Elvis Costello’s “The Juliet Letters”

Kansas City Concert Review: Elvis Costello’s “The Juliet Letters”

“The Juliet Letters”
Saturday, January 28, 2017
Lyric Opera of Kansas City

Review By: J.R. Deeter

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

As a fan of the music and lyrics of Elvis Costello I have to admit I had never heard of his 1993 release “The Juliet Letters,” a collection of 20 songs for voice and string quartet. I was not sure what to expect from the artist who has written a few of my favorite “pop” tunes through the years, given this performance was certainly not going to fit into the customary mold of his usual offerings.

From the start, this was indeed something different, something not easy to listen to. I kept waiting for the music to gain momentum into what I was used to. I kept waiting for the lyrics to give way to some snappy chorus easy to sing along to, but this was not to be and after my contemplation of the experience, I came away pleased anyway.

The vocalization interpretations of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City Resident Artists of April Martin, soprano; Samantha Gossard, mezzo-soprano; Casey Candebat, tenor and John Viscardi, baritone, were very entertaining. The set was designed with written letters hanging from wire in a crisscross pattern. The artists would remove pages and exchange them from one to another as they lit or extinguished lighting to create an ever changing dramatic atmosphere. The tone and lyrics are dark and brooding. It became clear that these were not to be happy, lovey dovey letters between star crossed lovers, but words of the brokenhearted; Painful, mournful anguished tales of love lost, or missing or refused.

The Fry Street Quartet of the Caine College of Arts at Utah State University provided the music and was the highlight of the evening. The performance of each member as they presented their part of the music really helped to convey the emotions of the selections and left me feeling sad and melancholy, as one should when the desire for love and happiness is not to be.

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