My first hologram
I hadn’t seen a hologram-based show before. I hadn’t seen a proper human hologram before period. I’d heard about the Tupac and Michael Jackson ones a few years back, and they looked rather spectacular — especially Jackson and his dozens of background dancers — but, until you’ve seen it live, you can’t really tell how good, how real, it actually feels.
Then came the O.D. — for Original Diva — Maria Callas. Despite passing away fairly young — and quite a while back: 1977 — she has imprinted the history of classical music in a way no other female singer has before or since, and possibly one male singer: the much more recently departed Luciano Pavarotti. All I had to work on until now, as an 80’s child, were recordings of her whose quality was not always impeccable, and grainy black and white Youtube videos.
Yet, the legend was already there: this powerful soprano, who sort of did things her own way rather than the “traditional” way — interesting notion in the classical music realm — gained and lost weight, had a very public love life and an untimely death… in other words, all the usual perks of a pop star’s journey. Only she was still, in the end, a remarkable lyrical singer, and her newly created hologram only highlights that.
I was able to witness it first hand this week in Paris, where “she” was performing with a real flesh and bones orchestra and conductor to accompany “her”. The result was quite remarkable, despite my earlier skepticism: visually, the illusion was not very far from perfect, which is arguably harder with an artist whose only video recordings are decades old. More importantly, though, the sound was properly outstanding. The whole point of having a hologram is that the voice is recorded — duh — which means you can adjust it to the right volume to fit perfectly with the orchestra and the room.
Which this “Hologram tour” readily did: Callas’ voice comes out as almost pristine, although based on 40 or 50-year old recordings. That alone is an accomplishment to be applauded. As a performance, the quirky little additions of Callas’ changing wardrobe and interaction with the conductor — an excellent, very pregnant, conductor — added a touch of amusement to an otherwise rather touching experience.
All in all, this “Callas Hologram tour” is a really nice surprise as it goes quite beyond the nostalgia factor and offers a truly excellent musical performance. A great way to first experience hologram technology: not sure Tupac’s vocal range would match that…