Live Review: Natalya Plays Studio Ghibli – The Concourse, Chatswood (03.08.19)

If you have heard of Asian music of ANY genre, or know a little bit about Japanese animation, it is very likely that you have heard of Studio Ghibli.

The famed animation studio, started in 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki, has created many classic and timeless movies, as well as beautiful scores and soundtracks. Hello Asia! was given the opportunity to attend Natalya Plays Studio Ghibli last Saturday for a night of music, charm, and all things Ghibli – with a splash of Chopin!

As the night began and the curtains rose up to reveal Natalya, she began by taking us through scenes of Spirited Away’s ‘Day of the River’, with hints of a Chopin-style dotted throughout the piece. An introduction followed this, where Natalya shared bits-and-pieces of herself and the Ghibli stories, glimpses of her personality showing through her detailed speech and mannerisms.

The night continued on with pieces from Wind of the Heart, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Laputa Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Howl’s Moving Castle, before a short intermission.

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, Tales from the Earthsea, My Neighbour Totoro, and Princess Mononoke filled the second half, before an encore of Spirited Away, where Natalya noted that just as the night began with a feature from the film, so it should end as a full-circle.

Throughout the night, it was clear that Natalya genuinely and wholeheartedly loved and appreciated the Ghibli work. The emotions and passions she conveyed while talking about the films or about the music was felt throughout the audience, and she did extremely well in capturing the essence of Ghibli, playing its music and talking about each piece.

The Chopin style, while surprising to me initially, eventually allowed me to love each piece more tenderly, and understand the incredibly high skill level and commitment needed to play each song. Chopin exposed our listening to different styles we would never have imagined would be combined with Ghibli, and different sections of the music that I would not have appreciated fully beforehand.

And while it was evident that Natalya was quite nervous (sections of the talk felt quite lengthy, and it was possible to cut them short), and a piano concert may not be the best place as a forum for political views and opinions which was shared throughout the night, Natalya still did a wonderfully amazing job in sustaining audience energy and passion through the concert.

Whether you are a piano fanatic, or have never been to a classical concert in your life, I do believe it is well worth attending a show like this. Natalya played beautifully throughout the night, capturing the audience through her music and taking us along the adventure she was paving through Ghibli, and I definitely look forward to seeing her again.