Review of Okunev Sisters in “I, Spry”

February 28th, 2011 by Maria received Comments Off

Sometimes one stumbles on real talent by accident and there is nothing to do but embrace it.

I had put a bulletin out for extras for my dramatised documentary I, Spry. Of the 70 people who applied Maria Okunev mentioned in passing that she could sing. From that simple email, Maria and her violinist sister, Anna, became unexpected stars of the film. With 1950’s hairdos and stunning costumes, these gorgeous sisters transported audiences back to the Sydney’s Russian Social Club with cabaret renditions of Dark Eyes and Moscow Nights.

Throughout the production, I became so enamoured with their astonishing talent, I needed to see them live. In a late night performance in Surrey Hills, Maria and Anna’s quartet, the Marianna Ensemble, gave an engrossing and authentic glimpse into Russia through music and song. With Blake Keep on guitar and Richard Savery on clarinets and saxophone, their repertoire was centred on masterpieces of Russian folklore with a rich diversity of styles from gentle folk, to cabaret and elaborate semi-operatic suites. Piece de resistance – the tender, hypnotic and lingering songs composed by Maria, herself.

What versatility, style and passion they bring as they transport us to a parallel universe from behind a cultural Iron Curtain, revealing a humanity and lust for life in musical form that we in the West were denied for far too long.

Peter Butt

25 Feb 2011

Posted under: Press

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