Live from Carnegie Hall: Chavela Vargas
On November 27, Ely Guerra, Eugenia León, and Tania Libertad perform a tribute to the legendary singer Chavela Vargas. Vargas's 2003 performance at Carnegie Hall is next up in our summer-long Live from Carnegie Hall series of albums that feature artists and music from Latin America.
Artist: Chavela Vargas
Album: Chavela at Carnegie Hall
Label: Tommy Boy
Date Recorded: September 15, 2003
Fun Fact: Chavela Vargas's previous visit to New York City was almost a half century before her 2003 concert.
On September 15, 2003, Stern Auditorium was sold out for An Evening with Chavela Vargas, La Reina de la Cancion Mexicana, marking Vargas's Carnegie Hall debut. In her early 80s at the time, it is the only appearance to date at the Hall by the Costa Rican–born singer who—over the previous half century—had become a celebrated social and musical rebel, and interpreter of rancheras, boleros, and corridos.
Introduced that night by actress and director Salma Hayek, with whom she had worked on Hayek's Frida Kahlo biopic, Vargas—Kahlo's clandestine lover at one time—wore her trademark poncho that she used almost as a prop throughout the concert. It was "like a wall or a pair of wings," according to The New York Times.
Among the songs Vargas performed that night were "La Macorina" and "La Llorona"—two that are very closely associated with her style and history. Each song was performed as a mini-opera, dripping with tragedy, humor, death, exhaustion, merriment, love, desire, and real life experiences—sometimes within the single song.
From listening to the album and reading The New York Times review—"The audience did not want to let her go, bringing her back for encore after encore"—it is clear that she had everyone in the palm of her hand throughout the show. In fact, the originally scheduled performance time had to be extended by half an hour.
Later this year, the producer of the 2003 concert (and the November 27 tribute), Claudia Norman, will write an insider's account of the concert, explaining how it came about, the accelerated planning, Vargas's emotions, the musicians she met beforehand, and the audience's reaction.
Chavela Vargas performs "La Macorina" and "La Llorona" at her Carnegie Hall concert in 2003.