'Yes, I'm that guy in red who performed with Madonna'

The secrets of Russian-Gypsy guitar in Rockport

Sep 04, 2019

ROCKPORT — In Italian, the word Zingaresca means “in Gypsy style.”  On Thursday, Sept. 19, Zingaresca, a unique duo dedicated to the Russian-Romani (“Gypsy”) music, will perform at the Rockport Opera House, 6 Central St., at 7 p.m. Zingaresca consists of the celebrated Vadim Kolpakov, a Russian-Romani virtuoso on the Russian seven-string guitar, and Oleg Timofeyev, the world’s prime authority on the Russian guitar tradition.

Not many people in the West are aware of the quality and magnitude of the Russian guitar tradition associated with the seven-string guitar, which is very different from its “Spanish” equivalent in terms of tuning, technique and repertoire. This tradition started way back under the reign of Catherine-the-Great, and at the end of the 18th century, the Romani performance became the most wanted type of musical entertainment in Russia. The aristocracy of Moscow and St. Petersburg, together with merchants, students and peasants, could not get enough of the so-called Gypsy choirs. The Russian guitar played an important role as the main accompanying instrument, and this was the beginning of a completely independent, virtuosic and nostalgic art of Russian-Gypsy guitar. Of this style, Zingaresca is the leading ensemble in the world.

Vadim Kolpakov was born into a dynasty of Romani musicians and, typically for the Romani families, he received most of his musical training from his famous uncle, Alexander Kolpakov. When Vadim was only 17, he already toured with his uncle around the U.S., in the show “The Gypsy Caravan” that united Romani performers from Russia, Romania, Spain and several other countries. Oleg Timofeyev and Vadim Kolpakov met in Moscow in 2001. Oleg, sponsored by a grant from Fulbright, was conducting research on the Russian seven-string guitar. The two musicians quickly developed several projects and since then have performed together almost every season. The only break they had was in 2009–10, when Vadim was invited to tour all over the world with Madonna.  Madonna’s “Sticky and Sweet” tour featured a segment of Russian-Romani music, and Vadim played, sang and danced.

The show, "The Secrets of the Russian-Gypsy Guitar," is a tour de force of Zingaresca’s repertoire, its collection of the best Russian-Gypsy guitar music, from bitter melancholy to fiery virtuosity. The duo can be heard on three different CD albums, but every time they play, it’s always something different.

Advance tickets are $25 at https://zingaresca.com/tickets/ and at the box office until Sept. 18. Tickets purchased at the door are $30. For more information and tickets, call 230-0055.

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