GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — The drama and emotion of the Italian cantata takes center stage when the early-music ensemble Tragicomedia performs on Sunday, December 9, 2 PM at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center.
“Tragicomedia: A Baroque Holiday Celebration” is the second concert in the 2012–13 Close Encounters with Music season. This festive performance features a soprano and bass-baritone accompanied by rarely heard Baroque instruments such as the mandolin, lirone, chitarrone and viola de gamba. The program includes 17th- and early 18th-century cantatas by George Frideric Handel—whose compositions represent the pinnacle of the cantata form—as well as Barbara Strozzi, Francisco Guerau, Agostino Steffani and Carlo Arrigoni.
The 17th-century aesthetic style of dramatic contrast known as tragicomedia was the inspiration for the ensemble’s cofounders, musicians Stephen Stubbs and Erin Headley, who formed the group in 1987. Since then, Tragicomedia, under Stubbs’ direction, has explored every musical genre from lute song to fully staged Baroque opera, in repertoire ranging from Monteverdi to Bach. Many of the group’s recordings, for EMI, Virgin, Hyperion, and Harmonia Mundi USA, have won prestigious prizes, and the ensemble has appeared annually at the Boston Early Music Festival since 1997.
Love, longing and betrayal are common subjects of the Italian cantata, which moved from the church to the stage in the 17th century. “Burning sighs/Fly forth from my breast/Attempting to restore my lost love,” Steffani wrote in “Tengo per infallibile,” a cantata for soprano and bass. In a more cynical mood, Strozzi took women to task for their flightiness with lyrics such as “Women never make/A true promise./So it goes, he has much more/who hopes for nothing.”
The December 9 concert features soprano Mireille Asselin, bass-baritone Douglas Williams and musicians Paul O’Dette (lute), Headley (viola de gamba) and Michael Sponsellor (harpsichord). For this event, Catherine Liddell will be stepping in for Stubbs on the lute.
For more information about Close Encounters with Music and its 2012–2013 concert schedule, visit www.cewm.org.
Close Encounters With Music (CEWM) stands at the intersection of music, art and the vast richness of Western culture. Entertaining, erudite and lively commentary from founder and Artistic Director Yehuda Hanani puts the composers and their times in perspective to enrich the concert experience. Since the inception of its Commissioning Project in 2001, CEWM has worked with the most distinguished composers of our time—Paul Schoenfield, Osvaldo Golijov, Lera Auerbach, Kenji Bunch, and John Musto, among others—to create important new works that have already taken their place in the chamber music canon and on CD. A core of brilliant performers includes pianists James Tocco, Adam Neiman, Walter Ponce and Jeffrey Swann; violinists Shmuel Ashkenasi, Yehonatan Berick, Vadim Gluzman and Toby Appel; harpsichordist Lionel Party; clarinetists Alexander Fiterstein, Charles Neidich; vocalists Dawn Upshaw, Amy Burton, Jennifer Aylmer, Robert White, Lucille Beer and William Sharp; the Vermeer, Amernet, Muir, Manhattan, Avalon, Hugo Wolf quartets, and Cuarteto Latinoamericano; and guitarist Eliot Fisk. Choreographer David Parsons and actors Richard Chamberlain, Jane Alexander and Sigourney Weaver have also appeared as guests, weaving narration and dance into the fabric of the programs.
Close Encounters With Music concerts are broadcast on WMHT-FM, and weekly broadcasts of “Classical Music According to Yehuda” are broadcast on WAMC Northeast Radio and at www.wamc.org.
Ticket Information for “Tragicomedia: A Baroque Holiday Celebration”
Tickets, $40 (Orchestra and Mezzanine) and $30 (Balcony), are available at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center box office, 413.528.0100; through Close Encounters With Music at 800-843-0778; or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscriptions are $185 ($160 for seniors) for a series of 6 concerts, and include a free subscribers-only exclusive event, a Midwinter Fireside concert at Ventfort Hall on February 23 with the Amphion String Quartet. Visit www.cewm.org. Performances are supported in part by a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
2012-13 Close Encounters with Music Calendar
October 20 “Dually” Noted: Music for Four Hands
November 4 Peter Rosen’s film Shadows In Paradise
December 9 Tragicomedia: A Baroque Holiday Celebration
February 24 Midwinter Fireside Concert: The Amphion String Quartet
March 3 Conversations With… Ben Luxon
March 23 An Evening with Eliot Fisk
April 20 Grand Piano Trios I: Schubert & Schoenfield
May 18 Grand Piano II: Mozart, Beethoven and Ravel
June 8 Nordic Lights: Grieg Revival