OzAsia Festival Review: Destinations


Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre

Reviewed 21 October 2021

A combination of large, projected graphics and acid-like imagery pair mesmerisingly with the balance of Belle Chen’s classical piano and eclectic electronica, transporting her audience to other-worldly destinations.

OzAsia Festival-goers and passionate Adelaide music-loves have been lucky to have had the opportunity to witness Belle Chen, one of Australia’s leading contemporary Asian-Australian artists, perform at the newly renovated (and utterly fabulous) Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Chen’s arrangements combine the beauty and perfection of classical piano with a more avant-garde electronica, from the unique tunes of a xylophone and eerie synth, to the inclusion of sampling recognisable sounds of nature.

Along with mastering the keys, the inside of the piano also becomes an instrument to the performer, as, throughout the night, she leans over and begins gently plucking the interior piano strings. Synths are also brought into the musical mix, adding a mysterious, other-worldly feeling to the performance, as though the audience has awoken on another planet. The addition of captured natural sounds, from calming bird calls to the rushing and gushing of water, assist in taking us to the destinations Chen has pictured when composing these works.

Although Chen’s exceptionally diverse scores do not necessarily require visuals to ‘make’ the performance, her choice to include them is a welcome addition, enhancing the experience through another of the audience’s senses. The music pairs beautifully with the large-scale projections, which dance to the pace of the music; dramatic highs and deep lows in one piece are mimicked by the moving graphic outlines of mountains and valleys, and pink sea anemone float gently back and forth as a softer melody lulls the crowd.

A defining point is when Chen’s piano playing becomes dark and ominous, as the visuals of bright orange and yellow embers flicker next to her. In the moment, it feels like a warning of the death and destruction that fires can bring, especially here in Australia. The unnerving altering projections of chameleon’s, frog’s and miscellaneous reptile’s eyes above the pianist is also a strange and unpredictable highlight of the performance.

A mention must also be made of the glorious Welcome to Country ceremony that, quite literally, had the crowd on its feet, all thanks to the talented and charismatic ladies from The Women’s Voice – and this was their first time on stage in front of a large audience!

Adelaide has been truly lucky to have had the opportunity to let Belle Chen guide them on a sensory journey through various worlds with her unique musical compositions, quick pianist-fingers and acid-like, colourful visuals – the stage at Her Majesty’s Theatre may never see a greater pianist again.

Reviewed by Georgina Smerd

Season Ended – One Night Only

Rating out of 5: 4.5

#Adelaide #OzAsiaFestival #OzAsia #HerMajestysTheatre

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