La Mama on Jan. 23 at 8:00 p.m

Wrequiem, an extraordinary, moving, and virtuosic music/performance work conducted and constructed by latter-day theremin doyen Armen Ra, and countertenor phenomenon Benjamin Marcantoni, receives a one-night-only presentation at La Mama on Jan. 23 at 8:00 p.m. A musical and poetic expression of madness, solitude and enlightenment, Wrequiem is a supremely evocative work that draws from the remnants of nearly-lost cultures as well as touching on then resonances of the European Romantic/classical tradition, American popular culture, and high camp. From its opening moments, in which Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg's "Over the Rainbow" is given an absolutely otherworldly treatment by Karen LeBlanc on the musical saw, up to and beyond Ra's own virtuosic theremin renditions of sacred Armenian melodies, accompanied by the enchanting Somna M. Bulist on the harp, the theme of an ever-more-desperate desire for a home‹not just a physical dwelling but a spiritual and psychological one‹reaches dimensions that transcend the physically modest design of the production. Weaving texts from Kahlil Gibran's The Madman (read by Kembra Pfahler, Donna D'Cruz and special guests) with Ra's own compositions as well as pieces by Verdi ("La Vergine degli angeli," sung by extraordinary countertenor Benjamin Marcantoni) and Massenet (Ra's treatment of the latter's "Meditation" on the theremin can only be called virtuosic), Wrequiem creates a powerful spell, fueled by the emotional commitment, eclectic sensibility, and painstaking craftsmanship of its creator. Elements of religious ritual bring the piece to a shattering but strangely hopeful conclusion. Much of Wrequiem's power is attributable to Ra's incredible command of the theremin, the unusual electronic instrument on which the player creates sound by seemingly manipulating the air around the instrument. Most familiar to mainstream listeners as the source of the "weird" sounds heard on the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" and in countless '50s sci-fi films, the theremin has an expressive potential that is only now being fully explored by a small but dedicated band of visionary musicians. Ra‹whose visual presentation (he is often bedecked in jewelry of his own design) is a dazzling as his musical talent‹ is at the forefront of that group, and Wrequiem is just one powerful example of his overall vision as both a creator and performer.

 

ARMEN RA

is an Armenian performer born in Tehran Iran. Raised by a concert pianist mother and aunt a renowned opera singer and Ikebana master, it was no surprise that Armen flourished, not only as one of New York's leading aesthetes, but also as a self-taught master of the theremin . By combining both the visual and aural aspects of his craft, Armen Ra has developed an art form that is truly his own and is something quite amazing to behold. Fusing Armenian folk music with modern instrumentation, along with melodic lounge standard's and classical arias.His unique and elegant recitals transport the listener to a time and place of beauty, emotional healing, and of course sacred glamour. CBGB's, Knitting Factory, Fez, La Mama,etc... Featured on and appeared in: CNN, HBO, MTV, VOGUE, NY TIMES, NY POST, VILLAGE VOICE, ROLLING STONE, and so on... "Am I scaring you?" he asked the crowd, which had been lulled into such a trance they weren't even cruising each other. It was spooky and fabulous - Michael Musto