I fell in love with Florent Pagny’s http://www.florentpagny.org/v2/main.html and http://florentpagny.artistes.universalmusic.fr/ voice when I saw his video Savoir Aimer (to know to love). You can watch it as he signs the lyrics. Later when he sang Libertes des Penses (freedom of thoughts) and Happy Days I was equally entranced. His voice was better than most pop stars. Then on one of the many French variety shows he sang a duet with Pavarotti. Tiens tiens, as the French. He’s had some really good training.
Then on one of the pop stations I heard someone singing opera. I don’t think anything is strange these days including opera on a pop station. It was Pagny who risked by putting out an album of arias. It became a best seller. He took a show called Barrytone on the road. I missed it in Paris.
When I got back to Geneva in August I saw a poster for a Geneva Barrytone performance October 28th. I went directly from the train station to the ticket agency before going home.
I wasn’t disappointed. He was accompanied by the Prague Symphony orchestra. The opening was a giant sized screen where he said he was often asked if he ever got bored in Patagonia where he spends part of his time. ‘You can decide for yourself’ he said. The opening shot was of a log cabin where he wakes to his morning matei before he goes on a hike, canoe trip and horseback ride against scenery which makes Switzerland look ugly in comparison.
Pagny long ago gave up conventional dress for gaucho clothing. The concert was no different as he strode on the stage in clothes that looked as if his horse was waiting outside. The arias were beautiful. He brought on a Turkish contralto. When she finished the audience couldn’t react for a moment before they broke into a standing ovation.
Pagny took a break by walking through the audience and talking to people. Take pictures if you want he told the crowd and joked although he would like to kiss a pretty women except he had promised his wife not to.
‘I’ve a problem,’ he said later. ‘Usually the orchestra is in the pit. He pointed behind him where the orchestra was on the stage as if it were possible to miss a 70-piece orchestra. ‘The prompter just broke down.’ He repositioned himself where he could watch the conductor.
He and the contralto sang about making God cry in English. The backdrop was the planes going into the WTC, logging, kids with guns, and all the other horrors of the modern world. The next song was a contrast to West Side Story’s Maria. He then did a ‘triptych’ of his hits including Savoir Aimer.
Interesting Swiss audiences tend to be non reactive. This was no different. During the pre-program warm up, only a small part of the audience participated in the clapping. Likewise, Swiss audiences usually demand only one encore. I remember years ago when RB2 and I went to a Dixieland concert in Neuchâtel no one clapped or tapped their feet. The lead trumpet finally said unless they clapped they were going home. He gave clapping lessons. It was done with humor. I wonder if performing artists who play in this country know they’ll get out early without having to go through repeated encores. In this case I could have listened to hours of encores.