How appropriate that conceptual artist Diamanda Galas is making a rare visit to the area Halloween week, given that her use of double meanings, metaphor and satire in her work have led many to dub her as the “diabolical diva.” Galas’ 1981 debut album, “The Litanies of Satan” (Mute), became an underground cult classic among heavy-metal fans who interpreted her spine-chilling use of solo voice, tape and electronics to re-create “the emeraldine perversity of the live struggle in Hell” as a literal exercise, when in actuality the work was a setting of the poem of the same name by nineteenth-century French poet Charles Baudelaire. An established pianist and operatically trained bel canto singer with an extraordinary four-octave range that extends from contralto to coloratura, sometimes in a single bound, Galas is a true original with a voice that can express an infinite variety of vocal textures and timbres that can have a chilling effect on listeners and which has been used to great effect across a wide variety of horror film soundtracks and even the climax of Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ.” None of us who witnessed it will ever forget her 1991 “Plague Mass” for victims of AIDS here in which the climax had her literally shrieking in terror as she washed her naked top half in blood. One of my colleagues actually ran from the venue in cold fear, saying that, “I don’t know what that woman is doing up there, but I don’t want any part of it.” Galas’ last appearance here in 1994 had her singing a cabaret act as only she could with Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, and this current two-night appearance of two separate programs has her performing her highly theatrical “Guilty, Guilty, Guilty,” a program of “tragic and homicidal love songs conjuring shattered love, blinding obsession and howling melancholy” on Thursday night and her “Songs of Exile” on Saturday, featuring Greek Rembetika songs, the virtuosic vocal tradition of the Amanedhes, improvised lamentations from Asia Minor and the Middle East, as well as Galas’ own songs set to the words of exiled poets from around the world. (Dennis Polkow)
At the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, (312)397-4010. This production is now closed.