David Byrne debuts opera

Former Talking Head man continues residency

David Byrne showcased 20 new songs from his disco opera about former Filipino first lady Imelda Marcos at Manhattan‘s Carnegie Hall last night (February 3).

The suite, titled ‘Here Lies Love’, and written with contributions from Fatboy Slim, had only been performed in Australia, last April.

It was the third evening of Byrne‘s four-night ‘Perspectives’ series at the fabled venue. “This is quite a place to audition a whole lot of new material,” he joked, before the set began. The former Talking Heads leader played with his touring band. For the last quarter of the show, horn and string sections joined, as well.

Sung mostly by Joan Almedilla (as Marcos) and Ganda Suthivarakom (as Estrella, the hired woman who raised her), Byrne filled in other vocal parts, including Imelda‘s late husband, the President of the Philippines, Ferdinand. Drawing on Marcos‘ love of disco, the songs grooved hard, including the driving ‘Dancing Together’.

For lyrics, Byrne used sources such as inscriptions in Marcos‘ high school yearbook (‘Rose of Tacloban’), as well as a bizarre speech she gave to the United Nations (‘A Whole Man’). After a standing ovation, Byrne reprised the former as an encore, singing it himself.

“Her story is the timeless story of power, politics, and psychological needs,” Byrne wrote in the programme. “(Our own recent history is overflowing with unmet psychological needs. God help us when powerful people act out their issues on a world stage!)”

“Eventually, this song cycle wants to evolve into something somewhat undefined but surely more theatrical,” he noted.

The full set was:

‘Here Lies Love’

‘Every Drop of Rain’

‘You’ll Be Taken Care Of’

‘Rose of Tacloban’

‘How Are You?’

‘A Perfect Hand’

‘Eleven Days’

‘When She Passed By’

‘Walk Like A Woman’

‘Don’t You Agree?’

‘Men Will Do Anything’

‘Never So Big’

‘Please Don’t’

‘Dancing Together’

‘The Whole Man’

‘Solano Avenue’

‘Order 1081’

‘Seven Years’

‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’

‘Here Lies Love (Reprise)’

‘Rose of Tacloban’

Byrne‘s series concludes tonight with a performance based around a single drone.