Cristina Zavalloni | La donna di cristallo

ReMusic Record

If you read the biography of Cristina Zavalloni, you immediately realize that she is a veteran, an Olympic and mythological figure, with a full artistic baggage. Luckily, the girl is still young and, pursuing on this path, many other pages will be necessary to tell her unlimited production, and, for our part, a real commitment to follow her work. I suggest you to deepen her acquaintance by entering her website where, as first thing, you can rest your eyes on its amazing turquoise and aquamarine colours and, then, have proof of what I have written. She moved with naturalness and freedom from the jazz background – her principal language – to classical music and dance, from theatre to contemporaneous and operatic music, from baroque to musica popular brasileira and composition. Besides, with interpretative versatility she faces authors like Stravinsky, Andriessen, Ravel, Messiaen, Satie, Poulanc, Berberian, MacMillan, just to quote some of them. She is literally fantastic and immune from any clumsy attempt to label or confine her in a definite expressive context. Cristina is talent, beauty. She is the muse to whom the great Michael Nyman dedicates Acts of Beauty. More simply, she is a curious woman. Of a curiosity meant as an art flywheel, as a spasmodic research of situations, events, signs, symbols, ideas, perceptive stimuli. Through all that she grows up, perfects herself – it is the sense of life – not in a permanent state of sterile absorption, but in projection towards the others. With the desire of express herself, of attracting the attention on the postulate that the entire human race has the possibility and the natural right of sharing what today, due to an obtuse and violent power, is meant as a strange, horror, useless, parasite concept, but that on the contrary represents our nourishment: the culture. You need many cultural and idiomatic keys to have some chances to enter the universe of which the Bolognese artist is interpreter and, often, director.


The last album, the tenth after the starting Danse à Rebours that dates back to 1996, does not escape from this bent. I am talking about La donna di cristallo (The crystal woman), that sees the collaboration between Cristina and the saxophonist/composer/arranger Cristiano Arcelli, leader of the Radar Band. Fulvio Sicurtà is on trumpet, Massimo Morganti on trombone, Giacomo Riggi on vibraphone, Michele Francesconi on piano, Daniele Mencarelli on bass, Alessandro Paternesi on drums, and Enrico Pulcinelli on percussions. The CD has been recorded between the 26 and the 28 September 2011 at the Auditorium of Santa Cecilia in Perugia. Produced for the EGEA Edizioni Discografiche label, and issued on March of this year. Arcelli himself, in the notes inside, tells us of the excitement that had preceded this experience that, beyond the starting frictions of a perfectionist origin, has been stimulating and fulfilling. The humus of researching stimuli between the singer and the musicians has resulted in the collective language where there is an exchange and an interaction between individual cultures.


The title could refer to a human or artistic fragility of the protagonist, but Cristina seems to me anything but fragile, from both sides. On the other hand, the crystal is the symbol of the transparency, of the multicolour reflexes. Crystal is also the brightness of her minute figure on the noir backgrounds of the cover or on the internal pages of the booklet. The musical message is crystal. So is the sound, in a discreet manner when the vibraphone reminds the tinkling and clearly in some vocal passages. In the album, there are passed and recent tracks, composed almost entirely by Cristina, and it is, at the same time, complete and elusive. Complete because it is like a container with inside all the artistic experiences of her sumptuous path, elusive because the only authentic conducting line is emotional – the thrrriill as it is emphasized in the lyrics. The elusiveness is strong within each composition: there are many references inviting the listener to chase them. Then they disappear when you have the illusion of having grabbed them.


The first track, Les observateurs, written for the show I Testimoni with the Swiss author Lorenzo Buccella, has a definite theatrical nature. The intro creates expectation, pathos and has the flow of a Brecht’s piece, or of a certain north European dramaturgy. It draws inspiration from the current Dark tourism, to which adhere those people who, behind the false pretences of observers of the society, hide a morbid desire of horror. “We are those people that examine the crime news, those that you call voyeurs, those whose hearts burst into flames facing the dramas, shamelessly. We are vampires, pirates without any scruples. We are those who want to go far away and dive into the horror”. Where there is a homicide, a tragedy, they are present. Unfortunately, it is an aspect of the human nature. In fact, two thousand years ago Lucretius in De Rerum Natura, described the pleasure you feel looking at a sinking ship from the shore “and not because it gives pleasure the fact that someone is suffering, but because is sweet sensing the evil from which we are free”. Vibraphone, voice and percussions create an atmosphere a la Dario Argento. Then a crescendo of winds easies off and a pressing, hysterical voice, cynic like a Joker, expresses the insane nature of the voyeur, and repeats itself in lyric style and, always with the tingling texture of the vibraphone, reprises the crystal theme. Now the piece melts in a familiar and reassuring bop. Again the lyrism and then the tension that comes back as a protagonist, till the final high note. X E.B. is a dedication to Enzo Baldoni: lyrics and music are bare and essential. Just a hint of the piano, few dry notes on the keyboard, the voice is light. A vibraphone paints the sad flowing with the counterpoint of the brushes. Then a solemn winding scene is the signal of the tragedy that is going to happen. What follows is the melancholy of thinking that the fate is unavoidable, because alive in the victim’s conscience. “I know you believe me. I had to come here”. Istinti is a song written some years ago together with the pianist Stefano De Bonis, included in the album Idea, and radically rearranged, always in a jazz version. Cristina here is a narrator and tells about the friendship and the thwarted feeling between a star and a cloud. She uses her voice in an amazing way also reproducing the sound of the wings. The intro is effectively fairytale but then the piece sprawls in an alternation of rhythms with beautiful orchestra openings and solos of trombone and trumpet. Arcelli has composed Waking with Zavalloni’s lyrics. The track plays on a progression of emotional states sung on a sequence of waving pianistic notes.

She sings of altered waking, secret strategies, vicious cycles, fear of the unknown, hostile places, in sum a manifest restlessness, a deep looking in the eyes, although recommending to pay attention to the liar look. A trumpet solo introduces the second part of the song, where we can find the certainties of a hug and our being, based on the other person, that lights the day. Also Trilha de Caranguejos is reprised by Idea, and it is the apology of the thrill, which I mentioned in the first part of the review. The track begins with an arrangement tinged of South America, where Cristina stretches her voice to the extreme and then hands to a dub rhythm on which a vibrant sax exalts itself in a soloist journey till the soil of the free, till the end, where the cantata comes back. La donna di cristallo becomes a song, on the theme of a worn and empty love, without emotions, like flowers with no smell. The jazzy style makes of it a refined track that, although in its sixty features, becomes timeless. Matala, based on a text by San Juan De La Cruz is a track where styles and structures interweave. The gothic cue, with the vibraphone that reproduces a toll, introduces the lightness of the lines in an original language, whispered in Italian, behind a dissonant instrumental wall. The track, extraordinary intensive, after a pause of quiet, explodes in a trumpet solo that terrifies, that is strong, violent, dramatic, and that accompanies into a shaded gloss.

After a richer and more elaborated version of X E.B., epilogue of an event that appears to have been lived very intimately by Cristina, comes Luna Park where the artist runs free whit her voice playing with the instruments in an unending festive atmosphere. 3-10/You are my thrill is a standard where the strength of a thrill is sublimed and devastating with an increase in pulsations, here a sentimental quiver.


After twenty listening, the album does not crack up. On the contrary, it adds details and nuances, it offers continuous emotions and it never tires out. Still in the expressional polychromy that marks it, it cannot be considered as “hard”. It is an intellectual work indeed, as Zavalloni is. You cannot appreciate her when she says that the culture is senseless if it just proposes shows for few passive elected. You can only love her when she says that the artists, in the morning, should go in the school to sing, play, paint, educate because the young people of today will be the competent public of tomorrow. Or when she exhorts everybody to be lively, curios, committed. If I was not sure that she would refuse, I will propose her as our Prime Minister.


Cristina Zavalloni

La donna di cristallo

EGEA Edizioni Discografiche


Total time 47’25’’


by Giuseppe
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