It didn't take very long after hearing Tarja Turunen's voice for the very first time before I had fallen completely in love with her. Not only had she introduced a new musical concept to me--operatic vocals over heavy-metal music, but I loved her on-stage demeanor, style of dress, creativity and artistic sensitivity as well.
So associated was she with being an integral member of the popular Finnish symphonic-metal band, Nightwish, that it was likely, hard for affectionados to picture her doing anything else. After all, it seemed like a perfect match--well, perfect until fans learned that it actually hadn't been. The bad news came unexpectedly back in the autumn of 2005. That's when, after performing and recording a concert at Hartwall Areena in Helsinki on October 21 of that year, Tarja suddenly found herself outside the band that she had helped co-found. That's when fans had to wonder what would become of her. Would she make it as a solo artist? Would she stick with doing metal or would she instead, focus more in the classical realms?
Of course, at this point in time at least some of these questions have been answered as Tarja has released several solo albums since 2006, which include Henkäys Ikuisudesta, a Christmas-oriented LP, My Winter Storm and What Lies Beneath; the latter two returning closer to her metal roots. She has also released two live albums, which include Act 1: Live in Rosario and Live in Luna Park. A sampling of the music from these collections, as well as her EPs should be more than enough to convince any enthusiast that her solo career is doing just fine.
It's Act 1: Live in Rosario that I want to talk about however, as I had the pleasure of watching nearly two hours of that concert just yesterday. The best way for me to describe that DVD/concert is by saying, oh my God! The performance (actually there were two) took place at the impressive Teatro del Circulo in Rosario, Argentina during March of last year and both the CD and DVD/Blue Ray recordings were released in August.
This concert has everything. It begins with a four-minute neoclassical intro called If You Believe, during which the owner of the DVD first receives an introduction of sorts to both Tarja's band and the adoring fans who live in the country that she now calls home. Once she and the other musicians take to the stage however, there is little doubt as to what direction the music will take. This is symphonic metal at its best--thunderous chords and rhythms in perfect balance with her powerful but emotion filled voice. There are moving cello and lead guitar solos even as the keyboards belt out symphonic harmonies. Mike Terrana's drum solo is truly a sight to behold as is the performance of an instrumental entitled, Little Lies, during which two or three guitarists trade off on lead solos. During the middle of the program things calm down temporarily for an acoustic set; but before long, the metal starts anew. There is even a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D-minor, which eventually segues into Gary Moore's Over the Hills and Far Away, a tune Tarja formerly performed with Nightwish. Most of the song selection includes material from both My Winter Storm and What Lies Beneath, but this incredible performer also added some new material, which will likely be on her next album. Then of course, what would a performance by Tarja be without a rendition of the ever popular Nemo?
Words do not describe how much I enjoyed my two hours watching Act 1: Live in Rosario. I am truly convinced that Tarja Turunen is an artist extraordinaire who has found a group of musicians more than capable of helping her excel in her chosen craft.
A word of warning: As I read some of the reviews of this concert at Amazon.com, I notice several complaints that the Blue Ray versions of the event didn't play. Apparently, most of these were created using the European Blue Ray and DVD formats, which are incompatible with most players used in the United States. So, if you decide that you'd like to own a Blue Ray copy of the above-mentioned event, you might want to make sure that it will work on your player. Otherwise, it might be safer to go with DVD..