Jane Zhang: The Diva Dance. The song impossible to sing for a human being.
It was October 11, 2015, and Jane was celebrating her birthday “in concert” in Chengdu, the city that gave birth. And what a concert! The title was “Beloved – Jane Zhang and Her Friends“ and in fact many were the friends who accompanied her on stage, including the legendary John Legend, Chris Botti, one of the best trumpets in the world and the famous composer and orchestra director Tan Dun.
These three names alone would have been enough to make the evening one of the most unforgettable and instead of guests there were others who performed with Jane, but what happened did not expected: the symphonic orchestra starts to play the notes of “Il Dolce Suono” from Gaetano Doninzetti‘s “Lucia di Lammermoor“. The lyrical air is taken from third act, second scene of the opera, also known as “Mad Scene“.
Jane appears on the stage in a wonderful long dress and begins to sing the famous Doninzetti’s air, of course in Italian. The audience is incredulous, the interpretation is sophisticated, the voice is powerful, precise, crystalline and gives a feeling of purity to those who listen. It’s a difficult piece but Jane interprets it as if he had always sung opera.
Jane Zhang Diva Dance: an alien on stage
Then, at the end of the song, the surprise in surprise: the orchestra’s rhythm section starts playing and there the audience realizes that it does not end there. It’s happening the impossible, are the notes of “The Diva Dance” that in fact in the movie “The Fifth Element” by Luc Besson follow the Donizetti’s lyrical air in the rendition of “Diva Plavalaguna“.
And there’s no way: Jane starts to sing the piece specifically written to not being sung by a human being because physiologically impossible! After the theater broke into an applause.
The song was composed in 1997 by French composer Éric Serra at the request of filmmaker Luc Besson so that it becomes the highlight of the film. In the movie the actress who played the “Diva Plavalaguna“, the alien, was Maïwenn Le Besco, at that time Éric’s girlfriend, but the voice was that of the Albanian soprano Inva Mula and many musical passages were improved for obvious reasons with the help of a sound sampler.
When Éric Serra showed for the first time Diva Dance’s score to the soprano, she smiled at him, pointing out that some sentences were impossible to sing, because the human voice cannot jump between notes so far apart on the music scale as it was written on the score. Therefore those notes were sung separately and then the recorded tracks were superimposed. Listening to the song there are some moments when you can clearly feel it.
The Diva Dance: the composer Éric Serra reveals all the backstage
For those who have some doubt about what I’m saying I report the text of an interview with Éric Serra published last year on the French magazine Trax Magazine:
When the scene was filmed Inva Mula was a young talented soprano, and her manager was the former agent of Maria Callas (editor’s note: Michel Glotz). Today she’s among the top ten soprano of the world.
In order for the scene to work, we needed a voice that looked alien, so I composed something that no human being could sing: I deliberately wrote very low notes followed by high notes at such a rate that couldn’t be sung, so the idea was that I would arranged everything with the sampler.
Before that I had never worked with an opera singer, so I didn’t imagine the singing ability that soon I would have appreciated. I thought that only 60% of the song was playable. In the studio, before she even taked off her overcoat, she began to sing by reading the score. I was dumbstruck. The beauty of the voice and the perfection of her singing made me shiver down my spine. Yet she was just “humming”. I couldn’t believe it.
We sat down and then she began to sing for real. I was overwhelmed: he sang 85% of what I thought was technically impossible.
Afterwards I sampled her voice and changed it a bit. Today it may seem trivial, but at that time many wondered how I had succeeded. When I explained how I would do it, who listened didn’t understand, but they trusted me.
On the day of hearing for approval of work, I was impressed. I had in front of me the former agent of Maria Callas, the Austrian orchestra conductor Herbert von Karajan (editor’s note: nowadays considered the greatest conductor of all time) and a wonderful soprano. Excellent people of a musical environment I knew little, but for which I felt nothing but admiration.
Changing the voice of the soprano made me feel like a child playing with something sacred!
I made them sit in front of my console, I was terrified! After the first hearing both turned and asked me, “Can we hear it again?” After the second turned back, they were amazed. They asked me: “How did you do!?”
They couldn’t understand how I got those notes that it was not possible to sing. They were like kids.
Jane Zhang Diva Dance
I have heard over the years dozens of Diva Dance cover (search on Youtube and you will find many) and I must say that the vast majority of them clearly shows the skill of the performers. Actually you cannot approach “Lucia di Lammermoor” or “The Diva Dance” if you aren’t technically prepared to do so.
But the fact is that none of the versions I’ve heard comes close to the original. On the other hand, as we have said, the original itself is a “fake”, in the sense that it’s the effect of a considerable post-production work.
Well, Jane’s rendition is the best ever made, approaching the original more than any other. I agree with the fact that there’s still missing some note, especially in quick phrases, but to date there’s no human being that can succeed.
On the other hand, Jane is a “coloratura soprano”. Technically speaking she is a spinto soprano who can sing any style of music and thus she has got us used in this way over 12-years career, going from pop to classical, from rock to blues, passing through jazz and R & B, but listen to lyrical rendition and then a “Extraterrestrial” rendition has stunned me a lot and must have surprised even the same Éric Serra who, having seen and above all heard his performance in the concert “Jane Zhang and Her Friends“, he felt the need to write a post on his Facebook page to congratulate her.
Éric Serra congratulates Jane
I quote from the text of the post:
A huge bravo to #JANE ZHANG for her interpretation of #THE DIVA DANCE !
Of the countless versions I have heard, for the most part in TV Talent Shows worldwide, hers is the most impressive as Jane Zhang managed to recreate certain musical phrases and reach certain notes that I had intentionally composed to be performable by only an alien. It was precisely the intention subtextually conveyed in #LUC BESSON ’s script.
And so Jane Zhang enters in first place of the “DIVA DANCE CHAMPIONSHIP”, a concept spontaneously generated online that, I must admit, very much amuses me !
What to say ? If Jane Zhang is called “Dolphin Princess” a reason there will be … do not you think?
Coming soon …
Soon I’ll show you how Jane “exercises” in singing to be able to perform performance at this level and I’ll give you many details on the concert of which we have seen the fragment “The Diva Dance”.
“Il dolce suono” from “Lucia di Lammermoor”, Gaetano Doninzetti
Il dolce suono mi colpì di sua voce!
Ah, quella voce
M’è qui nel cor discesa!
Edgardo! Io ti son resa. Edgardo!
Ah! Edgardo, mio!
Si, ti son resa fuggita io son da’ tuoi nemici.
Un gelo mi serpeggia nel sen!
Trema ogni fibra!
Vacilla il piè!
Presso la fonte meco t’assidi alquanto.
Si, presso la fonte meco t’assidi.
Copyright of images for “Beloved” concert: ShowCity Time Production.