Did you know that before opera became what it is today, it included dressage — people on horseback creating intricate patterns on the floor to music while spectators looked down from balconies? Astonishing — and just one of the fascinating things the audience learned at Sunday’s Early Music concert.
Ars Antigua, in another return engagement at the Barn, once again assembled a wonderful melange of instruments and voices to enchant us. Their performance, The Birth of Opera, took us on a journey through musical time from the early 1600s through the mid 1700s, demonstrating the development of the various operatic elements. Before each piece, Bill Bauer, violinist, provided an amusing and enlightening introduction. And then the real magic began. Playing on period instruments, the musicians made us feel we had gone back in time to the very moments when music changed forever. For me, though, the most deeply compelling points in the concert were those when four unbelievable voices rose in song. And transporting us to a whole new universe was the absolutely incomparable countertenor Terry Barber. Mr. Barber has trained his voice to sing like the highly prized castratti of the period. These men were capable of producing high notes similar to boy singers. Mr. Barber does this, but with the depth and emotions of an adult. To be blunt and unpoetic, it was jaw-dropping. And this is taking nothing away from the solo performances of soprano Kathryn Mueller, whose exquisitely clear voice was a delight in both sadness or joy. Also featured in this concert was former PC resident Joel Spears on the lute. Joel is responsible for bringing us the Early Music series, coordinating with Stan Rosenberg, manager of the Byron Colby Barn.
There has never been a “bad” performance in the Early Music series. But some stand out above the rest. This was one. We will look forward to Ars Antigua’s next performance.
I thought the concert was great! Well worth the price of admission. Good variety of pieces and the narration was very educational for a novice like me. Nice brief intermission. Well attended, and the Barn was warm. I am not a musician, so I can’t attest to the acoustics or quality of playing, but I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
In talking to one of the musicians after the concert we came to learn that people traveled from St. Louis, Indianapolis and Minnesota to play in that concert! I assummed they were all Chicago people!
I thought it was wonderful beyond belief. I always enjoy the Ars Antigua musicians, but the vocals were over-the-top wonderful. I must confess that I adore Handel arias and often have that died-and-gone-to-heaven feeling when I hear them, and I love Purcell, but this concert was fabulous from beginning to end. I walked out thinking it was the best ever–particularly when the tenor and soprano were singing love duets together. But then I remembered how wonderful all the others have been.
I thought the musicians were very, very good, the singers were superb and the whole thing was extremely pleasurable.
I enjoyed the different instruments. I was totally amazed at the range of the male contralto (?), and the blending of his and the lady’s voices was delightful to my ears. One of the last numbers – the zephyrs – really sounded and felt like little breezes playing.
We’ve had Ars Antigua here before, and I find that each time they provide a quite different experience – always professional and moving.
As for Sunday’s concert, let me just add my feeling, as a music lover,
that the concert was wonderful beyond belief. I always enjoy the Ars
Antigua musicians (they visit us every year), but this year they performed
with four vocalists (with a number of countertenor, tenor and soprano
solos and duets) which were, to my ear, over-the-top wonderful. This
concert traced the development of opera from conventional EARLY music to
the baroque, ending with wonderful selections from Handel and Purcell. I
walked out of the Barn thinking this concert was the best
ever–particularly when the tenor and soprano were singing love duets
together. But then I remembered how wonderful all the others have been.
more from Joan Gottschall