Chicago Flamenco Festival 2011: La Lupi: Live review + photo gallery

  • Susana "La Lupi" Lupia�ez

  • Manuel Chac�n (Manuel de la Curra), left, with Francisco Fernandez (Curro de Mar�a)

  • Manuel Chac�n (Manuel de la Curra)

Susana "La Lupi" Lupia�ez

Spanish dancer Susana “La Lupi” Lupiañez stormed the stage March 3 for [node:235493 link=the first of three performances;] at [node:31848 link=Instituto Cervantes Chicago;]. Accompanied by guitarist Francisco Fernandez (Curro de María) and vocalist Manuel Chacón (Manuel de la Curra), she gave an enthusiastic and full house four distinct sets, each with its own costume change, from a jet-black gown with a long ruffled train and sheer sleeves through simpler purple and light blue looks, finishing in a velvet-bodiced, deep green dress with kelly and violet trim. While she changed outfits and eight shoes to match, Fernandez and Chacón each serenaded us with solo sets; at the center of the 90-minute concert they shared a chatty, casual interlude in which they traded the guitar back and forth for sketches of songs played by one while the other clapped and stamped.

Fernandez’s solo turn was the evening’s highlight: Gorgeous phrases wrapped in impossibly intricate nets of grace notes had me convinced his right hand had 20 fingers. When he finished, he looked up solemnly, his face blank, as darkness fell on the stage.

La Lupi and Chacón were an order of magnitude more theatrical, charging each and every movement and note with proof of anguish collected throughout a lifetime. (La Lupi’s face is wildly animated and takes some getting used to.) Given the intimacy of the venue and simplicity of stagecraft, more subtlety would’ve been welcome. In addition, Cervantes’s auditorium could’ve supported this show entirely unplugged, or at least with half of the too-heavy amplification—the trio’s most heated moments were painfully loud and slightly distorted. One gets the sense these artists are used to grander concert halls. Nevertheless, theirs were thoroughly committed and at times profoundly moving performances.

La Lupi performs March 4 and 5 at 7pm at Instituto Cervantes Chicago as part of Chicago Flamenco Festival 2011. Master flamenco classes with La Lupi are March 4 and 5 at 1:15pm and open to all levels. Festival programming, including a four-part documentary film series Tuesdays at 6pm ($5 suggested donation), concludes March 29.

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