Saturday, February 13, 2010

The triumph of "Love"

I simply don't have time this morning for a full review of Handel and Haydn's "Zest for Love" program, which repeats on Sunday, but I felt I had to write a few lines to try to persuade anyone who might be on the fence, or who hasn't yet thought of this as a potential Valentine's Day treat, to by all means go. The concert is another musical "salon" from this always-experimenting company, though not everything in it is strictly musical: there are also spoken texts, all from Shakespeare, delivered by actors from the Huntington Theatre. The musical program, assembled by conductor Laurence Cummings, is mostly madrigals (and mostly Monteverdi, with Shakespeare at left), but also features two wonderful instrumental obscurities: a passionate Quarta sonata from Dario Castello - marked by fierce bowing from violinists Christina Day Martinson and Susanna Ogata - and an absolutely gorgeous Ciaconna from Tarquino Merula. The Shakespeare readings, subtly directed by Peter DuBois in an unexpected fit of maturity, were often superb - actor Lee Aaron Rosen in particular impressed (even more than he did in All My Sons); this performer could have great Shakespeare in him, given the chance. The H&H singers, particularly Teresa Wakim and Lydia Brotherton, were in fine form, and while diction was at times a bit blurry, the musical balance was usually exquisite. Perhaps most importantly, the evening's theme - "love," of course - was hardly given the swoony treatment one might expect on Valentine's Day; indeed, this counts as one of the deepest statements on that hallowed emotion I've heard in some time. The juxtaposition of Shakespeare's verse and Monteverdi's madrigals even opened a new window for me onto the Bard - but more on that later. For right now, just go. Tickets for the Sunday afternoon performance at Sanders Theatre are available here.

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