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A CurtainUp Berkshire Report on the Boston Early Music Festival's
The Boston Early Music Festival's annual appearances at Tanglewood afford a rare opportunity to experience fully staged Baroque operas under the energetic and able co-direction of Paul O'Dette and Stephen Stubbs. This year several openings along my regular theater beat kept me from attending the two performances of Jean-Baptiste Lully's Thésée staged at the old concert hall Friday, June 22nd and Saturday June 23rd. I was particularly interested in Lully since many of his operas and ballets were created in collaboration with a man known to all theater goers, Molière. Fortunately I did catch the Festival Orchestra's Sunday afternoon concert featuring works by Rameau and Cherambault with vocals by sopranos Kendra Colton Ann Monoyios and tenor Howard Crook who were also leading players in the opera
Fortunately an early music enthusiast from New York, Anita Gersten, who made a special trip to Tanglewood to see Thésée, sent us the following report:
This "Tragédie en musique" is a fairy tale about an aging King (Aegeus) bent on marrying his ward (Princess Aeglé) who loves the title character. Another powerful princess (Medée) wants for herself and banishes the Princess to a hellish desert. Eventually King Aegeus recognizes Thésée as his long-lost son and gives his blessings to his marrying Princess Aegle. That leaves the enraged Medée to attempt a final plot to undo the happy wedding but the goddess Minerva intervenes. In this year of 2001, the tragedy tilts toward the comic with some of the projected translations of sung interchanges producing loud chuckles.
As usual, the Boston Early Music's creative team has succeeded in mounting a dazzling visual spectacle for Lully's rich score. Choreographer Lucy Graham and stage director Gilbert Blin kept the five acts moving with eye-catching tableaus and entertaining dances. Robin Linklater created a suitable fairy-tale setting for the 37-member cast -- all gorgeous in Anna Watkins' costumes.
The singing was most notable for its fine ensemble sound though Laura Pudwell's acting and singing made the villainous Medée, the performer who consistently got our attention and admiration with her acting and singing. Admirable as the overall singing was, the true star of this production was the period orchestra with the engagingly pure sound of its assorted and beautifully played period instruments.
The early music festival reports that this is the first fully staged professional production since 1789, and a first for the United States. Judging from the Saturday night audience, there are lots of thoroughly modern young people who relished this opportunity to take a musical trip back to another time and style. Some of the older and more traditional opera goers in the audience seemed to find the performance too long and stylized for their tastes. Obviously, not all opera fans are alike.
For details and tickets to Boston Early Music Festival concerts call 617/661-1812 or visit their web site