A Tentative Probe into Vitas’ Art
Written by Modigliani & Translated by Susan
There is no denying that Vitas now enjoys overwhelming popularity in China.
The style of Vitas’ music falls somewhere between “high art” and “pop art”. On the one hand, he demonstrates a virtuosic command of vocal techniques no inferior to that required for classical operas and he has an extraordinary vocal range that spans nearly five octaves. On the other, the lyrics feature fairly catchy rhymes that make his songs amicable and endearing. In the field of pop music today, which is almost dominated by the young, Vitas is only one of them, a singer in his twenties. However, he managed to rise to fame pretty early, that is, over seven years back and during this time, his style, apparently, has undergone tremendous, even fundamental, changes, judging from all the albums released and major live concerts he has given. The writer herein approaches the analysis of Vitas’ art in the light of the music videos of the title tracks of his albums released in chronological order, including “Opera #1”, “Opera #2” from Philosophy of Miracle (2001), “Smile!” and “The blissful guru” from Smile! (2002), “Star” and “Mama” from Mama (2003), “The Bird of Happiness” from The Songs of My Mother, “A Kiss as Long as Eternity” from the album bearing the same name, “Lucia Di Lammermoor” and “Shores of Russia” from Return Home I (2006), and “Crane’s Crying” from the latest album Return Home II(2007).
“Operas No. 1 & 2” seem to constitute a symbol. The two songs are from the same album and look so similar in the name. Despite this, the ideas that the two music videos convey form a sharp contrast-- “Opera #1” depicts an extraordinary person worshipped by his pious followers whereas “Opera #2” a marginalized person suffering from grave loneliness.
These two music videos of utterly different styles reflected the very two sides of Vitas, a singer who had just made his debut on the Russian stage. In “Opera #1”, the singer, fully aware of his astonishing gifts, has a feeling of defiance of the earthly world; on the contrary, in “Opera #2”, he is all gentle and elegant, showing compassion for the mankind. Miraculously, these two seemingly contradictory sides co-existed in the singer.
These seemingly contradictory styles appeared again in the following album Smile! “The Blissful Guru” inherited the mysterious and enigmatic style of “Opera #1”, continuing with the portrayal of “the extraordinary person”. The only difference was that the identity of Vitas was changed from a hierarch into a guru, no longer feeling unparalleled in the world. Meanwhile, Smile! was completely a story of “an ordinary person”, with focus on the depiction of his emotional and mental states.
The writer holds that in terms of appearance, these two years was the period when Vitas enjoyed his supreme beauty. His eyes sparkling with transparent comeliness exerted particular fascination on others, and that belongs only to a pure and naive child.
After Smile! (2002) was a distinct transformation in style.
A transformation in an artist’s style usually takes place for a reason. Due to the limited resources available, the writer does not know what exactly it was that led to this change. However, judging from the songs released during this period, the influence of the famous artists such as Alexandra Pakhmutova was noticable, yet the death of Vitas’ mother was the major reason.
No one likes misfortune, but a man has to go through the vicissitudes of life before he matures. “Star” and “Mama” were created by the singer, suffering gravely from the bereavement of his deeply-loved mother, the very closest person ever to him. There was less flaunt in these two songs: the heart-piercing countersoprano part was immersed with emotions. His voice, so pure as if filtered, ravishes the ear with heart-rending grief. However, rather than a hysterical emotional catharsis, Vitas expressed “grief without being hurtfully excessive”, in Confucius’ words. Vitas’ music perfectly blends passion, inebriating lure, reason and faith. His belief in eternity bestows his works a touch of transcendece over ephemeral earthly life.
His performance in these two music videos exerts gripping infulences on the viewers and he virtually creates an atmosphere of chilling melancholy only with his facial expressions.
Generally speaking, a man like Vitas who holds fast to his faith never abandons himself to despair, to which the fact that “The Bird of Happiness” was listed as the first track in the album The Songs of My Mother may well serve as a testimony.
So far, the music video of this song stands out with a unique look, virtually being a collection of footages of his live recitals. Filled with triumphant joy and burning enthusiasm, the music video of “The Bird of Happiness” looks, in a sense, like a “school report” of a straight A student to his late mother. The album The Songs of My Mother contains Vitas’ renditions of the time-honored Russian folk songs; hence the widespread popularity since its release.
After the previous two albums with a focus on “telling his own life stories”, Vitas returned to impersonation, that is, playing a given role in the music video. His viewers were delighted to notice his acting, demonstrated in the music video of “A Kiss as Long as Eternity”, more mature and expressive than that in “Smile!”.
“A Kiss as Long as Eternity” and “Shores of Russia” contained a lot of traditional Russian elements. The architectures that appear in the former feature spacious halls, cool colors and simplistic grandeur, so much so that one takes no more than one look before he can recognize the distinctive Russian architectural styles. This trait becomes more noticable when compared with the indoor scenes in previous music videos, such as “Opera #2” and “Smile!”. It was also delightful to find his baritone and bass richer and smoother than fbefore.
In the year 2006, Vitas presented his new music videos: “Crane’s Crying” and “Lucia Di Lammermoor”. Seeing from the lyrics alone, one may readily mistake “Crane’s Crying” for a typical love song. However, the music video is a tribute to love of a much broader sense, that between husband and wife as well as parents and children. Vitas, in the music video, is an angel of love, witnessing the joyous moments enjoyed by three generations in a family over time.
“Lucia Di Lammermoor” is the most famous and popular of Gaetano Donizetti’s operas. Its popularity was further enhanced with the exquisite performance of the Blue Diva in the movie “The 5th Element” (1997) staring Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich. After its premiere in 1835, the aria was sung by innumerable singers around the world. Vitas’ version, adapted with stunning creativity, however, stands out from its peers with his exraordinarily gifted voice and breath-taking voilin obbligato. Even his hardcore fans, who are so familiar with his voice, would be seized immediately with amazement at his voice in bel canto operatic style: so beautiful yet sonorous, so mellow yet forceful, just like a stream of mountain spring, so limpid and lush with breathless flexibility.
All in all, a brief look back on his works reveals his nonstop innovation and boundless creativity. As his audience, we have every reason to expect more spectacular works from this prominent artist we all have been waiting for.
It is our sincere hope that Vitas lives up to his motto: “Veni, Vidi, Vinci (Latin)”, or “I came, I saw, I conquered” in English.