Above: songstress Siri Vik (Photo by Paul Carter)
By Randi Bjornstad
By now, Eugene soprano Siri Vik is well known for her interpretations — not impersonations — of some of the most talented and enigmatic female singers of the 20th century, including Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf and Nina Simone.
However, while Vik’s latest show onstage April 28-30 at The Shedd Institute for the Arts also delves into the trials, tribulations and talents of tuneful women, this concert is a departure from her previous efforts.
Called “Femme Fatale,” Vik’s latest musical foray examines a categorization of women that is shrouded in — depending on the point of view of the onlooker — mystery, fantasy, envy, sometimes even fear.
“Putting this show together has been intense,” admitted Vik, whose petite frame and and fragile features topped by a tousle of bleached-blond hair belie her ability to belt out an anthem to rival the indomitable Ethel Merman or, more currently, Beyoncé Knowles.
“At the end of every season, I’m sure I’m going to take a break, and then something always seems to come along,” she said.
This time it was The Shedd’s artistic director, Jim Ralph, “who floated the title, ‘Femme Fatale,’ and asked me what I thought,” she recalled. “I could see where he was coming from, but at first I thought it might be a dead end, because the concept seemed to be based on misogyny.”
But Vik nonetheless was intrigued, “and I started doing some reading, and I watched a bunch of ‘film noir’ movies, which often have a femme fatale character,” she said.
What really sold her on the concept was dissecting the characters and the plot in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 movie thriller, “Vertigo.”
“I realized that the character Kim Novak played was something of a femme fatale,” Vik said. “She was admittedly involved in a great ruse, but she also at the same time was victimized by her overwhelming need for love.”
Vik’s insight both reflects the common definition of femme fatale — an irresistibly seductive woman who destroys the men she enchants — and expands it to get past its obviously misogynistic aspect to examine the societal reasons that women end up in that kind of manipulative —and manipulated — position.
“What I began to see was a kind of extreme and destructive romance on both sides, not just the woman’s,” Vik said. “The man has an ideal that he demands the woman to become to fulfill his own fantasy, and she is so eager to be loved that she goes along with it to gain what she wants.”
By the end of “Vertigo,” she was weeping, Vik said. “He’s punishing her for having deceived him by pretending to be something she wasn’t, and she’s saying she went along with what he wanted because she wanted him to love her. They’re both caught.”
Her show examines through song the fundamental, perennially replayed question of the nature of love and the lengths people will go to get what they perceive they want in another person to satisfy their own longing.
The music in the three sets ranges from opera arias to movie scores to pop songs, from Giacomo Puccini to Cab Calloway to Bob Dylan, all woven together with Vik’s trademark narrative of research and perception.
“I started with a list of hundreds of songs,” she said, then pared it down with the help of a friend and fellow singer into broad categories of instrumental portrayals of the femme fatale, songs from a man’s point of view and the self-versus-other aspect of love.
It was hard to come up with a close for this concert, Vik acknowledged, but she finally settled on a song by Laura Mvula, “That’s Alright,” a paean to both love and personal identity.
Because of the wide array of songs and themes, “Femme Fatale” includes more costume changes and staging than some of her other one-person shows.
Vik will be accompanied on her 18 songs by a seven-piece ensemble that includes pianist Nathalie Fortin; Jesse Cloninger on reeds; guitarist Jack Radsliff; violist Sean Flynn; Dale Bradley on cello; Niels Miller on string bass; and percussion by Alistair Gardner.
When: 7:30 p.m. April 28 and 29; 3 p.m. on April 30
Where: Jaqua Concert Hall, The Shedd Institute for the Arts at Broadway and High streets in downtown Eugene
Tickets: $16 to $34; available at the box office at 868 High St., 541-434-7000, or online at theshedd.org/
Details: Cabaret and regular seating; full bar open during performances; video clip of Laura Mvula’s “That’s Alright” online at https://yhoo.it/2qjDvaH