The thing about Lady Gaga (Stefani Germanotta) is that she’s got it. She’s got it all. The truly great, the performers that are remembered hundreds of years beyond their passing, are superb journeymen who, over their lifetimes, with determination, focus, grit and practice have mastered their craft. As an Italian, I see Gaga’s work, effortless as it is, organic as it can be the ultimate in sprezzatura. There’s an ease to the agony of her preparation. The care she takes with her craft comes from the women and men who came before her, who learned, in Italy to make something from nothing, and that something had better be superb. Her work is the alchemy of the mystical, the reverence for our church rituals, combined with the pain of our experience. Gaga could be a seamstress or a furniture designer or a chef, or a baker- what she touches becomes art. She believes in what she is doing, and you are safe in her heart and arms as she tells stories through song. Gaga is a singer who can sing any genre, she has the power and the pipes, but she also has the emotional heft that makes a tune become an aria. She makes sounds when she sings that you only hear in nature- the trill of a bird, the nuance of the soft vibrato of a hummingbird, the lilt and phrasing akin to the purr of a kitten. She has control of her instrument and she is not stingy with it. Sometimes I sense singers hold back, but I can not imagine a moment where Gaga might rest in performance. She wraps the notes around one another, sometimes a warm blanket, other times an unfurled flag that snaps in the wind but always, the voice is silky and emotional.
Gaga gives credit to the songwriters before she sings the song. Cole Porter. Gershwin. Kander and Ebb. The generosity of this simple act of recognition reminds all of us that the writer creates the music and lyrics that the performer sings. Without the writer (and she too, is a magnificent songwriter) there is nothing. Her performance unfolds like an ancient kyrie written by a monk- layered and textured over time, with an everlasting message. There is something sacred about Gaga.
At 35 she is at the beginning, and yet, you have a feeling that she lived many lifetimes. She can be light or she can be weary. She is the perfect partner for Tony Bennett- if he scats, she creates a runway of melody that underlines his truncated delivery. You observe real affection between them. As Gaga explained in the first half of the show, when she was onstage with the orchestra, (building the dramatic tension until Tony came out) she told him, upon first meeting him that she was a tramp, and he said, “You’re not a tramp, you’re a lady playing a tramp.” And that right there, is the pith of this super couple. He understands her, he embraces her approach and style and mastery. He understands the truth of her, which is all any of us want. To be heard. To be understood. To know that the person we are working with is both a high wire aerialist and a safety net. The creative life needs both to soar.