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Roll Over, Titian

June 20, 2006
The National Gallery of Art opened a new mega-exhibit on Sunday called "Bellini, Giorgione, Titian and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting" -- and it's a source, says Post critic Blake Gopnick, of "endless pleasure". Can't personally confirm that; we stayed by the pool all day.  Few pleasures, endless or otherwise, in trying to absorb Renaissance subtleties when you're mashed in an opening-day mob. 

But the tie-in concert that night by the NGA Vocal Arts Ensemble was a treat; mucho Monteverdi, some very very fine singing, and an appreciative audience.  And happy to report that someone down at the NGA finally set up acoustic baffles on the stage; it's still almost impossible to see anything in the West Garden Court, but at least the acoustics have been dried out a bit.

It also warmed my cold and critical heart to see a lot of kids there with their parents -- good going, parents! My own little darlings, of course, were elsewhere. More pressing engagements involving horses, beaches and, if I understand correctly, boys. 

rosa_small.jpgAnyway.  The always amazing Rosa Lamoreaux heads up the NGAVAE and took a lead role in the performance.  Two nights earlier she sang in Francesco Cavalli's seldom-staged 1641 opera "La Didone", which Joe Banno covered for the Post. If you get a chance to hear her in just about anything, don't miss it. Your ears will thank you.

Here's the review:

The Washington Post:  Sunday night's concert of Renaissance music at the National Gallery of Art was designed to complement the new exhibit of Venetian Renaissance painting that opened there this weekend. Unfortunately for Titian and the gang, though, the music was so fresh, powerful and compelling in every way that it pretty much stole the show.

Credit for that feat goes to the remarkable Rosa Lamoreaux, music director of the National Gallery Vocal Arts Ensemble and lyric soprano extraordinaire. She assembled a program of works by eight Italian composers from the 16th to early 17th centuries that showcased the explosive creativity of the time -- not just the stylistic innovations but also the remarkable new depths of emotion and dramatic expressiveness.

Chief among the Italians, of course, was Claudio Monteverdi, and Lamoreaux and mezzo Barbara Hollinshead delivered a breathtaking performance of his "Cantate Domino," a virtuosic motet for two voices with viol, theorbo and harp. Much ink has been spilled trying to describe the beauty of Lamoreaux's voice; let's just call it "angelic" and leave it at that. Both she and Hollinshead negotiated this intricate, lavishly ornamented work with ease.

The rest of the program was equally a treat to the ears, from Rossino Mantovano's meltingly sweet "Lirum bililirum," to the sensuous "Il bianco e dolce cigno" of Jacob Arcadelt, to the Monteverdi duet "Zefiro, torna," sung with poignant delicacy by tenors Tony Boutte and Philip Cave. The entire ensemble sang with great elegance, closing the program with a stunning reading of Monteverdi's "Beatus vir," whose surging power and complex drama rang in the ears long after the standing ovation stopped.

Posted on Tuesday, June 20, 2006 at 02:52PM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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