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Lord Byron’s Don Juan @ 2016 Adelaide Guitar Festival Review

Published in Music  
Spanish guitar melodies seduce one great Scot.

The tagline for this year’s Adelaide Guitar Festival is 'strumming to every beat'. This is intended to convey that the programme is a broad church, welcoming both the traditional and the alternative.

Lord Byron’s Don Juan, featuring guitarist Karin Schaupp and actor/ director Tama Matheson is an amalgam of both the traditional and the alternative; the poetry of Lord Byron and classical Iberian compositions are fused into a new work that defies classification. It is neither a play nor a concert; not a poetry reading or a musical.

Innovation poses risks, but the rewards can also be bountiful when new worlds are discovered. By melding two art forms together, it is possible to expand the reach of both beyond their traditional audiences; guitar aficionados are exposed to Byron and vice versa.

There is the risk, though, that the two fan bases are like oil and water; they do not mix. Rhythm and melody, though, are essential to the delivery of both crafts, preventing any jarring juxtaposition.

In assessing the balance between the two genres, though, the scales were tilted towards the poetry, with the guitar providing accompaniment and interludes for the most part. The material offered by both artists was of such intricate complexity that shifting attention from one to the other was like spinning plates; unlike tapas, it was perhaps too much to digest.

The performances of both Matheson and Schaupp were exquisite; Matheson was the embodiment of the cynical Scottish rogue, delivering withering bon mots and poignant soliloquies; Schaupp enraptured with her fleet fingers.

The work, as a whole, though, could benefit from some trimming and adjustment in parts. Lord Byron himself acknowledged his predilection to aimlessly wander down tangential pathways; a few of these divergences could have been eliminated.

When travelling to strange and foreign lands, it is inevitable that some things will be lost in translation. Don Juan is not a flawless romantic conquest, but still a passionate tryst.

3 and a half stars.
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