Diamanda Galás’s once-in-a-generation voice keeps growing darker and wilder | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Diamanda Galás’s once-in-a-generation voice keeps growing darker and wilder



Virtually everything that’s ever been written about post­apocalyptic Greek-American mourning diva Diamanda Galás focuses first and foremost on her voice—and rightly so, given that it’s a once-in-a-­generation instrument that’s only grown darker and wilder since her electrifying 1982 debut, The Litanies of Satan. There’s also a lot to say about her prowess as a composer (no one will ever write better ritualistic song cycles lamenting the AIDS epidemic or the Armenian genocide) and about her powers as an interpreter, by which she disassembles standards and puts them back together again (take for example her two new albums, All the Way and At Saint Thomas the Apostle Harlem). But let’s spare a few lines for Diamanda the pianist too. If she were a slightly less riveting singer, this gift might be more apparent, but as it is, when she performs live the piano serves as an anchor, a prop, a counterpoint, or sometimes a wall to break through. It provides the framework for the cackling, bayou-banshee climaxes in the 11-minute version of “O Death” on All the Way (Saint Thomas has a version of the song too—and you know you need both). It gives an elegant, somber grace to “Verrá la Morte e Avrá i Tuoi Occhi” (“Death Will Come and Have Your Eyes,” based on the poem by Cesare Pavese). And its fluid, seductive curtains of notes lure the listener into Galás’s deconstruction of the Sinatra standard “All the Way,” as though the music were wafting from the window of a supper club in Hades.   v

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