Review: Baroque Orchestra, Pro Arte Singers, dancers magically tell Lully’s story

Baroque Orchestra, Pro Arte Singers, dancers magically tell Lully’s story

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer | pjacobi@heraldt.com
April 24, 2012

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A notable collaboration it was, the weekend’s production, twice performed, of “Lully: Glory without Love?”

Nigel North, sans lute, stood before the Baroque Orchestra, its members closely gathered to a side and rear portion of Auer Hall’s performing space. He stood and he conducted for most of an uninterrupted hour and 45 minutes the operatic music of Jean-Baptiste Lully. Operatic music meant he had singers to contend with, too, in this case the Pro Arte Singers. And he had dancers from the Ballet Department. North and his musicians did all that on two afternoons, Saturday and Sunday. This reviewer watched and heard the Sunday version.

The results were magical, not only for the music heard but for how the concert was packaged. Two guests helped put the production together. Actor/writer/stage director Mace Perlman developed the concept, which was to unite the life and music of Lully, the favored composer of Louis XIV. No, not only unite life and music but show how Lully’s operas came to reflect a lifelong struggle to please his king and how the king used Lully’s works to help him emotionally balance ever-present power with the need to feel loved.

Perlman wrote a script relating that story. On stage, he delivered it with great charm and inviting theatricality. He and his fellow guest, choreographer Catherine Turocy, head of the New York Baroque Dance Company, trained the singers, particularly those with solo parts, and five dancers, to move, to gesture, to pantomime in period manner.

There were masks to add mystery. There were costumes to add environment. There was atmosphere that brought a consuming quiet to the hall as excerpts from a series of Lully stage works — those tragic and those comic — came once more to life, works more than three centuries ago the affectionate gifts of a composer to his king, some now rarely exhumed treasures: “Psyche,” “Alceste,” Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme,” “Armide,” “Atys,” “Isis,” and “Bellerophon.” The selections were skillfully and intriguingly tied together, with Perlman’s narrative as bridges.

The Baroque Orchestra sounded awfully good and, with Nigel North conducting, interpretively immersed. The Pro Arte Singers, prepared by William Jon Gray, were right on target and beautiful to hear. Coached musically by Paul Elliott and in French by Alison Calhoun, the soloists from within the Pro Arte ranks took to their often arduous assignments with intelligence and obvious desire to honor Lully. They were sopranos Jessica Beebe, Christine Buras, Alicia DePaolo, Jenny Ji-Sun Kim, Katherine Polit and Kathryn Summersett; tenors Benjamin Geier, Andrew LeVan, William Lim and Lyon Stewart, and baritone Daniel Thomas Lentz.

The dancers — Jennifer Drettmann, Elizabeth Edwards, Liara Lovett, Melissa Meng and Madeleine Ohman — were all grace and picture perfect, like visions from an imagined past.

 

Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2012

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