Trombonist does stand-up comic’s take on venerable kids’ folk tale

Latvian National Opera (LNO) orchestra trombonist Vairis Nartišs premiered his one-man show ‘Sprīdītis – 111 years on…’ at the LNO’s New Hall Friday, a daring multi-media satirical extravaganza that almost didn’t see its second act start due to a technical glitch with the accompanying video projection.

However, the approximately slightly more than half-capacity audience cheered the altogether audacious broadly interpretive performance of Latvian literary matriarch Anna Brigadere’s children’s play about the prodigal son who travels the world seeking elusive ‘fortune’ only to realize ‘there’s no place like home’, at hearth and heart.

Nartišs reimagined the character as a now 111-year old man with sockfulls of outdated ‘lats’ currency, a haggard nagging wife and a gumption to head back out into the world and rescue the princess from the devil at the hapless king’s request.

Dropping not always necessarily coherent political references to the mugs of former Latvian premier/finance ministers and a tangent on Michael Jackson’s pied-piperesque fascination with children, Nartišs pushed the envelope of musical theatre and stand-up comedy, using loopers and interacting conversational video projections of himself at the Tērvete Nature Park and parodizing a dead-pan news anchorman speaking to Sprīdītis live by mobile phone to get his reaction to episodes in the story.

The episodes include a study in self-mutilation and enduring torture, as well as the universal theme of making the giant Lutausis dance himself to oblivion with the help of the magic wand (a tv remote-control device) and flute-horn.

Sprīdītis’ child’s magic flute has grown over the century into an enormous alphorn, which he embellishes with his trademark trombone, flugelhorn and looping device for beat-box rhythm effects, not to mention prerecorded soundtracks as he travels the world’s mountaintops and metropolises before again realizing he was better off where he started.  

Members of the audience included luminaries like LNO director Zigmārs Liepiņš and singer Mirdza Zīvere, actor Rolands Zagorskis, Riga Dom Boys’ Choir conductor Jānis Ernštreits, and composer Andris Dzenītis.

Nartišs is an educator, enthusiast and entrepreneur as well as an artist and author who wants to promote the brass orchestra instruments to young people as an enthralling musical challenge to pursue.

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