The Spirit of Space: a ZAIA Album Review

Reviewing a soundtrack album is especially precarious if you haven’t seen the show the music was written for. Without knowing how the music sounds in the show and fits into the shows action there is no way to know if the CD is a proper representation of the new creation or another “interpretation” with lots of artistic liberties.

Though I have seen the program and heard about the show from others who have seen it, let me say up front I have not traveled to Macao to see ZAIA. So take my comments with a grain of salt. But I like this CD very much.

What I find most impressive here as much as the music is the way they recorded it. Unlike in recent years where Cirque CD producers have in several cases chosen to “re-interpret” a shows music or use local Montreal musicians, ZAIA composer and CD producer Violaine Corradi has chose a more “traditional” route. There is so much right about the direction and production – the process, if you will – I’m inclined to enjoy the CD just as much for the stand that’s been taken as the music contained within. Consider:

* The CD is plenty long, at more than 74 minutes one of the longest in the Cirque canon.

* Corradi has chosen (much to her credit IMO) to use the musicians from the show creation process, the current ZAIA band and vocalists. With additional keyboards from Corradi and the occasional string section (from Hong Kong) the sound is full. This is a point that can’t be emphasized enough; in this writer’s opinion it is the creation musicians who add much to the final sound of the music so should always be the first chosen to appear on CD. While of late Cirque has used only a show’s creation vocalists (and even then not always), this is a refreshing return to form.

* The music was largely recorded inside the Venetian Hotel ZAIA Theater in Macao (with additional recording in Hong Kong). This helps insure that the music sounds on CD mostly like it does in the show itself.

These reasons are in large part why this CD sounds to these ears more like a true show soundtrack than a “re-arrangement” – harkening back more to the CD’s of shows like Alegria and Dralion than Varekai and Zumanity. There is a very heavy feminine influence with both show singers being women. There is also a multi-instrumentalist woodwind player in the band which, as in Corradi’s score for Varekai, brings a variety of sounds to the party.

While the first song, “Noi” with its Italian flavor made me think I had made the mistake of playing the Corteo CD by mistake, it quickly got back on more familiar ground. Much of the music is reminiscent of Dralion and Varekai (both of which were also composed by Corradi).

Those songs that remind me of previous Corradi works include (note we are again back to unpronounceable words in a made-up language for song titles):

* Hatahkinn and Caelestis -reminiscent of Dralion

* Aquilex, Comissatio and Gaudiumni – reminiscent of Varekai

Some songs stand out. “Adrideo” continuing the Italian flavor from “Noi”. “Ardor Oris” with its tango feel while somewhat out of place still adds variety. “Aequor Oris” features an uplifting, triumphant chorus. “Temperatio” kicks in a dance rhythm in more of an ambient style, and wouldn’t be out of place on the “Delirium” disk.

The music is generally very melodic, certainly stamped with the Violaine Corradi style. After listening to the CD, you feel you have a taste of the show and want to see it. Unlike some of Cirque’s other soundtrack productions of late, that’s a refreshing change. It makes a worthy addition to the library of Cirque du Soleil show soundtrack. One can only hope that the Rene Dupere-composed music from ZED (which I *have* seen) is treated with as much care.