Emma Shapplin's Tel Aviv concert left a great deal to be desired

The French songstress put on a tight performance that was unfortunately marred by technical issues that seemed to throw her off balance, literally at times

Ilan Levinsohn|
French soprano Emma Shapplin's long-awaited return visit to Tel Aviv last week, her first since 2019, was a rollercoaster, to say the least, wigwagging between spine-chilling highs and some pretty awkward lows.
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  • Performing in front of a full house at Charles Bronfman Auditorium, the concert was marred by technical issues that seemed to throw the singer off balance, literally at times.
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    Emma Shapplin performs at Tel Aviv’s Charles Bronfman Auditorium, January 31, 2023
    Emma Shapplin performs at Tel Aviv’s Charles Bronfman Auditorium, January 31, 2023
    Emma Shapplin performs at Tel Aviv’s Charles Bronfman Auditorium, January 31, 2023
    (Photo: Ilan Levinsohn)
    Shapplin took to the stage wearing a gorgeous long, blue ballgown, complemented by a black waist belt, but her floor-length outfit quickly proved to be her undoing. From time to time, she seemed to nearly trip over the extra bit of fabric at the back as she shuffled around the scene.
    Her headset microphone compounded her miseries as the chanteuse looked like she stumbled on the cord a couple of times, creating a whole obstacle course under her feet. I might not be some tech whiz, but I'm pretty sure that wireless options have been available on the market for quite some time now.
    Her earphones also seemed to give out intermittently, leaving her unable to hear herself over the orchestra, the chorus, and the drummer.
    All these put together made for a pretty uncomfortable sight for me as a spectator, and certainly for Shapplin as a performer, who stood frozen in place in a cumbersome position for much of the show's first act, with one hand holding onto her dress and the other pressed up against her ear. Her visible discomfort was only amplified for the crowd on the two big screens mounted above the stage.
    Nevertheless, Shapplin's undeniable talent still managed to shine through with tight vocal performances of some of the more familiar numbers off her oeuvre, such as the haunting "Da Me Non Venni", the ethereal "The Hours on the Fields", and the more ambient "Sur L'eau", woven together with newer tracks, such as "Addio Io Tremo" off her latest studio album "Venere".
    The orchestra then segued neatly to what is easily her most recognizable song, "Spente le Stelle", to the sound of thunderous applause from the crowd.
    As an aside, the drummer was a big plus, putting on a spirited performance that wasn't too typical of an opera concert and was more reminiscent of that old viral YouTube clip showing a dad rock band whose drum player upstages his bandmates by a mile.
    When the lights switched on for the break, the audience was left wanting for more since the first half of the show didn't quite live up to expectations.
    After the restart, the second act opened with a short and soothing piano interlude played by the conductor.
    Shapplin then retook the stage after discarding her clumsy ballgown in favor of a much more comfortable black smock dress, accessorized along with heavy bijouterie. She definitely looked more mobile and serene after that wardrobe change when she delivered one of her more vocally flashy songs, which I personally did not recognize but enjoyed thoroughly.
    And it seems I wasn't the only one who appreciated the ostentatious performance. In the interim between songs, one fan sprinted down the aisle downstage and handed Emma a big bouquet of white tulips to the sound of the crowd's cheers and laughter.
    Shapplin reciprocated the nice gesture with a heartful performance of "Silenzio". Her soulful delivery toward the end made my friend and I go "wow" at least a couple of times.
    After singing another new song called "Signor Mirate", Emma left the stage abruptly for a couple of minutes. In the meantime, the orchestra played a lovely little piece. She then returned to the stage after yet another quick change, wearing an all-black outfit comprised of a boxy jacket, tight leggings and platform heels.
    She resumed the action with a couple more songs, such as the majestic "Celtica", before ending with "La Notte Etterna".
    "You know, you really mean something to me. You're in my heart," she told the crowd before she back-stepped off the stage as spectators repaid her love with a round of roaring applause.
    After about a solid minute of clapping in unison, the songstress returned to the stage for an encore with... "Spente le Stelle"... which was nice but... we've already heard that one tonight.
    All in all, Emma Shapplin put on a solid performance that night. No question. And I can't say I didn't enjoy the show. But this time around, the devil truly was in the details.
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