Hostsonaten:  Alive in Theater
  • Performance
  • Musicianship
  • Production (audio)
  • Stage Production
  • Re-listen-ability

Being a fan of the various projects of Fabio Zuffanti, I was very excited to recently get my hands on a copy of Hostsonaten’s latest, a live CD/DVD combo entitled Alive in Theater. For those unfamiliar with Hostsonaten, you’ll find many similar tendencies to MdC in that it clearly resides within the domain of symphonic prog and has a strong focus on the development of motifs to propel the album forward song after song. Fans of the band can expect a live recording worth picking up in the form of this latest release, performed, recorded, and filmed at Teatro Verdi in Genoa, Italy.

First and foremost, I would like to say that I primarily consider this a live album package with the DVD as a bonus rather than the focus. I give two reasons: firstly, in my opinion, the mini-lp style packaging rather than a DVD case hints that this is first and foremost a CD release. Secondly, while the DVD is very enjoyable to watch, the filming is not so stylized as many modern concert film releases (mostly a camera fixed at the back of the room alternating with one towards the side). The overall impression when viewing, therefore is more akin to sitting in the concert hall watching the performance from a fixed position rather than the numerous techniques of zoom, pan, close-ups, etc. that we might normally associate with a concert film. In terms of the audio CD, what we get is a very well recorded and produced live performance, in fact, one that is superior to the album version, which is saying a lot.

That said, the DVD is a solid bonus and very enjoyable due to the fact that it presents a visual addition to the artistic impact of the music by way of costumes and dancers. The fact that it drew my attention to particular singers and really allowed me to visualize them as characters, not just a voices, made for a much deeper listening experience. For example, seeing the entrance of the winged albatross and Corvaglia directing the tale to the wedding guest provided a very nice image to the sounds of Zuffanti’s band. As the tale progresses and the icebergs slide out onto the stage it’s quite fun to see him tell of the Mariner’s travails in a sea of darkness just prior to the emergence of Simona Angiolini (the Albatross) in a ray of light as she descends as a symbol of the Mariner’s luck. Seeing the young Mariner then emerge to slay the Albatross to the backdrop of Corvaglia’s heartfelt/lamentful vocals was quite the powerful moment, if I do say so myself.

There were a number of other highlights from the stage production as well. Gianmarco Farne did a solid job presenting a young Mariner that was brash and controlling, and his solo at the end of “Part 2” was phenomenal as he passionately built a repeating motif which culminated visually in the Mariner having the Albatross hung on his neck, as represented by the dancers actually laying Angiolini on his burdened back. However, the highlight of the film for me was to be found in “Part 4” as Simona Angioloni takes center stage as soloist. Angioloini brilliantly portrayed her part as the Albatross, delivering a performance that was passionate in movement, expression, and interactions with other characters, at times desperate, and always emphasizing the narrative/interpretive aspect of the role. As if this wasn’t enough, the shift to a dramatic and peaceful entrance of the Moon, as played by Carlotta Ferre, who capitalizes on dramatic movements and serenity of costuming, coupled with the band’s powerful return, full of Mellotron choirs and slow but driving rhythm, all ensured that the production would go out with a bang.

If I have any complaints, it would be that the togetherness of the dancers was inconsistent at times, but then again, there were many great moments and the quality of audio for the live recording is superb in and of itself. In fact, I would dare say that in terms of audio this version sounds much huger and more alive than the original studio recording. Fans of the album certain should not miss out on this performance.

Overall I would certainly recommend this release to fans of symphonic prog, particularly those with an interest in the Italian scene. Not only would I say that in terms of a live CD it is exceptional, but many of us pretentious prog nerds certainly enjoy anything and everything that bands do to push their art beyond the mundane. In this case Mr. Zuffanti has gone above and beyond to call of duty and actually assembled a very enjoyable production, and hopefully continues to do more of this sort of thing in the future.