English Baroque with Circa - The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Circa. Llewellyn Hall, 7.30pm, Thursday May 2, 2019.
In this premier performance to mark the opening of the Canberra International Music Festival, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Circa proved that the non-verbal languages of music and physical theatre can combine to tell transcendent tales.
Attention to detail was evident in all aspects of the production. From the informative and visually luscious program to the evocative cloudscape projected onto the stage back-cloth; in every note, in the costumes and in every lyrical acrobatic move, careful planning was evident.
It was hard to know where to look throughout the evening, as the physicality of the musicianship was as enticing to watch as that of the Circa performers.
This fully integrated musical theatre experience represents a further step for the Brandenburg Orchestra, who have refined their earlier exploration of this kind of partnership. It was an added pleasure to watch Canberra circus performer Jake Silvestro rise to new technical heights.
It was an added pleasure to watch Canberra circus performer Jake Silvestro rise to new technical heights.
What a feast of musical delights were offered! Alex Palmer's English Overture introduced the prevailing whimsical atmosphere as each Circa member was carried, statue-like, on stage and placed on a plinth before leaping into life.
The program was divided into four scenes depicting aspects of 16th, 17th and 18th century life in a way that communicated directly across the centuries. Scene One, The Court, was dominated by the elegantly energetic music of Henry Purcell, as the Circa players leapt and twisted, spun and flew in and out of each other's arms, embodying the webs of intrigue and attraction of courtly life.
Scene Two - The Bedroom - again drew on Purcell for inspiration: Overture in C minor, Air in C minor, The Triumphing Dance from Dido and Aeneas; Ritornelle in D minor, Thanks to these lonesome vales, Dance in D minor, again from Dido and Aeneas, and closing with Handel's exquisite Gentle Morpheus, son of night, from Alceste.
To this accompaniment, the Circa players entwined and stretched, bent and were propelled into sensuous tableaus and solo stardom. The diabolo routine performed by Noah Nielsen was pure poetry.
Handel and Corelli's music set the mood for Scene Three - The Chapel. De torrente in via from Handel's Dixit Dominus was sublime with the ethereal voices of sopranos Jane Sheldon and Lauren Stephenson reflected in the entwining bodies of Ela Bartilomo, Alice Muntz and Giulia Scamarcia.
Bartilomo continued the enchantment in her solo ascent and swirling descent on the suspended Corde Lisse, accompanied by the Adagio to Handel's Organ Concerto in G minor.
The final scene - The Fairground - was a banquet of traditional songs and tunes overlayed with juggled cigar boxes, a swinging soprano, an impossibly giddy giant hoop routine, breathtaking combinations of human towers, chin-balancing of orchestral instruments and a delicately sinuous upside-down-on-a-handstand ballet by Scamarcia.
As the last of the human towers folded downward, the final notes sounded and the audience rose to its feet, it was easy to believe that for one night we had all been lifted with the artists to touch eternity.