My Thursday night was queerer than yours; I watched a Korean-American protégé play his violin in a leather thong and a pair of high heels. Last Thursday the violinist Amadeus Leopold, formerly known by his Korean name Hahn-Bin, performed at Royce Hall in an event hosted by the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA. His campy, theatrical show has proven to me that a violin recital, embedded with a sense of humor and grandiose visual elements, can be a compelling visual and aural experience.
What sets Amadeus apart from other violin protégés is his “genderfuck” sense of style that is referential to the queer aesthetics of artists like David Bowie, Boy George, and Madonna. The performance, which included both classical and pop music, involved 18 different outfit changes with each song; costumes ranged from a long, ethereal avant-garde black gown to fierce leopard tights paired with an ironic “Don’t Mess with Texas” T-shirt. After finishing his first act, Leopold melodramatically dropped to the ground and proclaimed “Hahn-Bin is dead! Amadeus Leopold killed him.” By making fun of himself as an entitled, narcissistic artist, Leopold imparted levity to the show that prevented it from being groan-inducing.
Given my inexpertise in classical music, I especially enjoyed his cover of iconic movie soundtrack themes like Young Frankenstein and West Side Story’s “I Feel Pretty.” But perhaps the sweetest moment of the show was at the end, when Leopold, in an homage to Judy Garland, covered “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” As he gracefully drew his bow back and forth, the lesbian couple in front of me embraced and a sickly sweet feeling of romance and optimism entered the hall. Dorothy found her home in Kansas and Leopold has found his home on stage.