She sings. She plays the violin.
Her name is Lucia Micarelli, and she was the guest artist at the latest Long Beach Symphony POPS! concert, Saturday night at the Arena.
This was an atypical POPS!, with music director Eckart Preu on the podium; he will do one of these every year. The atmosphere was unlike the raucous party vibe of past POPS!; this was more like, you know, a concert.
The music was a pleasing mix of the classical and the popular. As a violinist, Micarelli convincingly essayed a movement from a Bach solo sonata, Maurice Ravel's flashy"Tzigane," and, despite one minor flub, the "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso" by Saint-Saëns. She played and sang the popular selections, a little Gershwin, some jazz, some old-time fiddle, a Randy Newman tune, “Nature Boy,” a song from the TV show she had a part in, “Treme,” and a striking arrangement of the Sinatra standard “Time After Time.”
I’ve said before that a successful POPS! involves putting insanely talented people onstage and letting them do their thing. We had that here. In addition to the gifted Micarelli, and our excellent orchestra, the band included a brilliant guitarist, Leonardo Amuendo; a terrific bass player, Ian Walker; violinist Neel Hammond, Micarelli’s husband; Zach Dellinger, who played viola and banjo and contributed backup vocals; explosive drummer Alex Acosta; and, somewhat surprisingly, Robert Thies, familiar to Southern California audiences as a chamber musician and concert pianist, who here displayed some phenomenal jazz chops. Less surprising was his virtuosic performance of the piano part in the Ravel.
But I may have been wrong. The best POPS! concerts also need energy, flow, momentum and here this show was lacking. Micarelli is charming, gifted and very nice to look at, but her spoken introductions, of both music and musicians, were long and rambling. She looked down at the floor while talking and closed her eyes while playing, which was unfortunate; when she raised her head and opened her eyes the Arena lit up.
To her credit, she was scrupulous about naming her arrangers, but she often did so diffidently and rather casually. This might have worked in a more intimate setting, like a jazz club, but in the cavernous Arena, even with the big screens, the energy was lost. Most of the music was slow, which didn’t help; the bits and pieces of the program were individually beautiful, and often moving, but they never formed a convincing mosaic.
At the end, we caught a glimpse of what might have been. A mashup of the Sibelius violin concerto and Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” was vibrant and exciting, with lighting effects that made the stage come to life. The whole show needed to be lively like that, with quiet interludes, rather than the other way around.
This was Micarelli’s debut as a solo guest artist with orchestra, and it showed. A little tightening and tweaking, and she will have a vehicle worthy of her enormous talent.