Ode to powerful women never gets exciting

On the day the revised New Bible Translation was presented to the king, the Nederlands Kamerkoor also looked up the Bible for inspiration. The Old Testament Esther takes center stage in their crossover program that pays tribute to powerful women. After all, the Jewish ester who becomes queen of Persia and saves her people in exile from genocide is “an ancient icon of empowerment.” Her story is recounted at the start by a poet Lisette Ma Neza. Sovereign and charismatic she brings in her poem Ester to the present. She was in Persia “like a black girl in the white west.”

This is followed by an implementation of the writings by composer David Lang, based on biblical texts, including Esther. The Nederlands Kamerkoor sings the meditative work at times in a hypnotic way, albeit not with the same accuracy in all places. The solo parts of the female voices sound immaculately clear.

Platgewalst thema

Between the choral parts, the Iranian-English composer and turntable artist Shiva Feshareki improvises with her electronics on a recording of the writings, while behind all this is a film by Miriam Kruishoop. In it dancer depicts Niaya Jones (Bosslady) her violent childhood on the streets of Los Angeles, filmed in slow motion in explosive krumping style.

Many elements, many common threads. They are not sought after combinations, the queen in exile is more often associated with the African-American experience. And yet it doesn’t really want to live on stage.

Although all cross connections can be identified, it does not feel like a whole where the sum is greater than the parts. An additional problem is that ‘the strength of women’ is a very general and actually bulldozed theme. What new light is the Nederlands Kamerkoor trying to shine on this? It wants to link up with contemporary emancipatory movements, but cannot really say anything new about it. That’s why the concert doesn’t get really exciting anywhere.

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