If audience members attended Camerata Nova's The Full Monte Sunday expecting a musical rendition of the 1997 British hit film about unemployed steel workers forming a male striptease act, they came away surprised -- but likely not disappointed.
What they did get to witness was a first-class performance of Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610, Vespro della Beata Vergine, sung by 20 voices, including soloists, complete with a 13-piece orchestra of mostly period instruments.
In the second of two weekend performances, an eager crowd of close to 500 was riveted to every one of the 26 movements -- a credit to Camerata Nova (CN) and conductor Ross Brownlee. The Vespers may be over 400 years old, but they can move! From tenor Michael Thompson's glorious and powerful opening lines to the final triumphant cadence, the work hummed along with nary a hitch, thanks to solid solo work, gorgeous choral sections and richly textured orchestral playing.
Guest singers Marni Enns, soprano, Kirsten Schellenberg, mezzo-soprano, tenor Doug Pankratz and bass, Kris Kornelsen performed quite dependably throughout the program. Veteran Derek Morphy hasn't lost a step, still commanding at 70-something, but many of the most impressive soloists stepped out of the choir itself.
Alto Dan Peasgood had the most prominent role, initially in the motet, Nigra Sum, a passionate and revealing "concerto," the first of four based on love poetry from the Song of Solomon. Peasgood embodied the piece, aptly conveying a range of emotion, his unique timbre and expressiveness assured and convincing.
It was a treat to hear an orchestra with so many early instruments -- not something Winnipeggers hear often. The cornettos are nothing short of extraordinary -- a combination of several instruments yet sounding like no other. The sackbuts added resonance. The string players paid great attention to authentic detail and the portative organ and theorbo brought true 17th-century flavour to the entire program.
This production was a massive undertaking, a labour of love and a great success.
The Full Monte
- Camerata Nova
- Westminster United Church
- April 7 Attendance: 492
- 4 1/2 out of five