SPLENDOR SONIC CIRCUS at Theater Carré in Amsterdam

Last night at Amsterdam’s Theater Carré more than fifty performers invited us to conquer every cavity of the theater amidst an ocean of electrifying sounds.

In celebration of Splendor’s 10th anniversary, musicians and dancers of the circus shook the stage (quite literally) as they took the audience on an adventurous journey through Classical, Jazz, Western, Eastern and even new experimental musical arrangements.

In one of the opening acts, Jonathan Alvarado singing Luna Rossa in Italian impressed us with his vocals. Further on, the chaotic Circus Galop played on piano by the three hands of Antoni Baryshevskyi, Daria van den Bercken and Gerard Bouwhuis was not only remarkable but also amusing as each player seemingly ‘fought’ for the spotlight. Meanwhile, the textural additions of the Vox Humana choir and the drumming of a tap dancer, distinguishable among Splendor’s orchestra, left the audience in awe by all sounds woven within the music. Although not a stereotypical circus with clowns and lions, the versatility and energy of the performers successfully created the ambience of one.

Starting out with minor ‘laboratory’ experiments in a bathhouse on the de Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat of Amsterdam in 2013, Splendor has manifested itself into a riveting social hub for novel and unprecedented ideas. Splendor furthermore proves to us that music heard in one performance does not need to be defined and anchored to one specific style or genre. From jazz, the world of pop, to the Arabic sounds of Jawa; from accordions to clarinets, musicians break the conventions of the music world and allow the audience to marvel at the unexpected.

Splendor also bases itself on the idea of independence from an appointed artistic director and the influence of any political institutions. It aims to thrive solely on the creative ideas of each musician to determine the direction and atmosphere of the music, which no doubt was witnessed last night. The occasional implementation of experimental music combined with theatrical lighting, for instance, unexpectedly converted the eloquent royal theater into an underground techno nightclub. As performers also mingled among the audience during the show, the assumedly chic air of the Carré further felt delightfully informal and casual. Particularly when the ringmaster had no fear asking those seated in the front row, “what alcoholic drink have you [already] had this evening?”

In one evening, Splendor not only constantly surprised us, but successfully breached the invisible barrier one usually feels between the untouchable performer on stage and the audience member as the silent and passive observer. As the show concluded, all came together to grab a drink and converse the night away.

Even if you may have certain assumptions before coming to the show, be prepared to be dazzled and encounter the unexpected. Splendor performs at least once a year and is highly recommended to everyone. They additionally organize workshops for all ages so keep an eye out and don’t miss out!  Anja Herrmann    24th September 2023