For some musicians, performing is just stepping onto a stage, singing into a mic, playing a guitar, hitting a few drums — or whatever else — and walking off. That’s not the case for singer Siri Vik.
Born and raised in Eugene, Vik treats her emotive performances more like musical theater or performance art than anything else. But that doesn’t mean her voice comes second.
Vik, now in her 11th year of teaching voice classes at Lane Community College, grew up singing opera until she realized its fiercely structured style was too constricting.
“To sing classically — it’s such a physical endeavor,” Vik says. “You have to be an elite athlete of the voice.” Her 14-year-old self was too immature to dedicate the effort that opera requires, Vik says, so she started funneling her energy elsewhere.
“I just started to turn my attention to musical theater and cabaret, to a grittier vocal expression, a way of singing that did not depend on the pristine beauty of the voice. I felt free.”
Although she still incorporates parts of her past style into her performances, it’s a mishmash of genres — jazz, singer-songwriter, alternative, cabaret and the like — where Vik resides.
“For a long time,” she says, “I’ve just been a singer and performer who doesn’t have a niche. I have some skills that cross pretty versatile lines, but that can be a curse as much as it is a blessing.”
Her art’s diverse nature certainly fits into Femme Fatale, her upcoming show that runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 28-30, at The Shedd.
Split into three distinct sets, Femme Fatale is a multi-faceted production including, of course, Vik’s singing, accompanied by a seven-piece ensemble as well as film noir clips and spoken word.
The show’s variety not only spans across media but within the music itself. Her selection includes older pieces like “Habanera” from Bizet’s 1875 opera Carmen but also songs from artists such as Björk, Velvet Underground, Tom Waits and Laura Mvula.
“That all-over-the-place quality, it has a real purpose here in making connections across genres, in making connections about Femme Fatale,” Vik says.
The vague idea behind Femme Fatale, she says, was a complicated one to portray.
“I thought, there’s a lot of room in that subject and there’s a lot of atmosphere,” Vik says. “Everybody has an idea of what femme fatale is; it’s sort of incomplete and at many times misguided.” The French expression refers to a cultural sterotype of a woman who uses her charms, sometimes lethally, to control others.
At first, Vik found the idea of this mysterious, alluring and fatal female character to be misogynistic. After digging into feminist theory and film theory and watching a ton of film noir, she realized that the idea of the femme fatale is more than just a reusable trope. Femme fatale can represent a larger critique of identity, self-projection and the idea of the “Other.”
“She’s almost like a blank canvas that people can place their ideas onto,” Vik says of the femme fatale. “That’s what was most interesting to me — how the desirer of her, or the woman who’s envious of her, is essentially setting themselves up for the fall because of what they assume about her in the beginning.”
Watching Vik perform, it’s clear that she immerses herself into whatever she’s taking on. Whether she’s belting out vocals from her operatic past or letting an intimate whisper sneak from her lips to the mic, Vik’s performances are extremely emotional. But, she says, what comes off as onstage confidence is more art than reality.
“Performing terrifies me. It’s hard for me,” Vik says. “So where I find the freedom is to just dig deeper and deeper and deeper into the emotion and into the message. When I try to paste on an impressive — either performing or vocal — style, it just doesn’t seem to work.”
Luckily, authenticity is probably just what the vast, vague and varied nature of Femme Fatale needs.
Siri Vik and company perform Femme Fatale at 7:30 pm Friday and Saturday, April 28-29, with a matinee performance 3 pm Sunday, April 30, at The Shedd. Tickets are $16–$34 at theshedd.org.