Blue Heron Celebrates the Magnificence of Italian Madrigals with “Tasso & Wert”
A new program featuring dramatic scenes and lyrics by the Italian poet Torquato Tasso set to music by the Flemish composer Giaches de Wert, alongside madrigals by Adrian Willaert, Cipriano de Rore, Luca Marenzio and others
With pre-performance lectures by music historian Emiliano Ricciardi, and dramatic recitation in Italian and English by actors Alessandro Quarta and Jade Guerra
(For Immediate Release, Boston—February 6, 2024) Blue Heron continues its multi-year exploration of the Italian madrigal with “Tasso & Wert,” a new program featuring dramatic scenes and lyrics by the Italian poet Torquato Tasso (1544-95) set to music by the Flemish composer Giaches de Wert (1535-96) and others. Taking place on Saturday, March 23 at 8pm at First Church in Cambridge, the performance also includes a pre-concert talk by expert music historian Emiliano Ricciardi at 7pm, who will discuss how Tasso’s poetry shaped the literary landscape of the time, its influence extending also to the visual arts and music. At 7:30pm, Blue Heron welcomes the Handel and Haydn Society Youth Choruses Chorus of Tenors and Basses, Dr. Kevin McDonald, conductor, for a special pre-concert performance. Both pre-concert events are free to ticket-holders.
Ricciardi also leads a “Spotlight Session” on February 28 on Zoom on the musical reception of Tasso’s poetry, exploring the cultural and social conditions that made Tasso’s poetry so influential.
Torquato Tasso was arguably the most prominent poet of late sixteenth-century Italy. His poetry—which includes his magnum opus, the epic poem Gerusalemme liberata, as well as a substantial collection of lyric poems and the pastoral play Aminta—shaped the literary landscape of the time, its influence extending also to the visual arts and music. Late madrigal composers were especially fond of Tasso’s poetry, producing hundreds of settings, some of which stand out for their innovative musical features.
Tasso and Giaches de Wert, who certainly knew each other and may have been friends, were born about a decade apart, moved in the same circles in northern Italian courts, and were leading figures in the aesthetic development of poetic and musical drama that would eventually lead to the emergence of opera. Both were inspired by one of the great performers of the age, the Italian singer and harpist Laura Peverara (or Peperara), a member of Ferrara’s famous concerto delle donne.
“I’m thrilled to put together this entirely new program focused on the poetry and music of two of 16th-century Italy’s most wonderful creators, building on the intensive work Blue Heron has already done on Italian declamation and rhetoric in earlier repertoire,” said Blue Heron’s artistic director, Scott Metcalfe. “And we couldn’t be more delighted that Blue Heron’s singers will be joined once again by two most compelling speaker/actors, Alessandro Quarta from Rome (in Italian) and Jade Guerra from Boston (in English).”
A feast for lovers of poetry and music, the program will also include madrigals by Adrian Willaert, Cipriano de Rore, and the astonishing Luca Marenzio.
Concert and Event Calendar Listings:
Blue Heron: Tasso & Wert
Saturday, March 23, 2024, 8:00 PM
First Church in Cambridge, Congregational (11 Garden Street, Cambridge)
Blue Heron’s multi-season exploration of the Italian madrigal continues with a new program featuring settings of dramatic scenes by Torquato Tasso, with music by the great Giaches de Wert and others, and dramatic recitation by speakers Alessandro Quarta (in Italian) and Jade Guerra (in English). A feast for lovers of poetry and music, the program will also include madrigals by Adrian Willaert, Cipriano de Rore, and the astonishing Luca Marenzio.
Torquato Tasso (1544–95) was arguably the most prominent poet of late sixteenth-century Italy. His poetry shaped the literary landscape of the time, its influence extending also to the visual arts and music. Late madrigal composers were especially fond of Tasso’s poetry, producing hundreds of settings. Free pre-concert talk by Emiliano Ricciardi (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) at 7:00 pm.
At 7:30pm, Blue Heron welcomes the Handel and Haydn Society Youth Choruses Chorus of Tenors and Basses, Dr. Kevin McDonald, conductor, for a special pre-concert performance, free to ticket-holders.
Spotlight Session with Emiliano Ricciardi: Torquato Tasso & the Italian madrigal
Wednesday, Feb. 28, 7:00 pm, Online via Zoom
In this talk, music historian Emiliano Ricciardi explores the musical reception of Tasso’s poetry, discussing the cultural and social conditions that made Tasso’s poetry so influential and examining how composers reacted musically to his work. Emiliano Ricciardi is Associate Professor of Music History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He holds a PhD from Stanford University, which he completed in 2013 with the support of an ACLS/Mellon fellowship, and an MPhil from the University of Cambridge. In 2015 he was a Lauro de Bosis postdoctoral fellow in the history of Italian civilization at Harvard University. His main research area is the late Italian madrigal, with an emphasis on the settings of Torquato Tasso’s poetry.
About Blue Heron
BLUE HERON has been acclaimed by The Boston Globe as “one of the Boston music community’s indispensables” and hailed by Alex Ross in The New Yorker for its “expressive intensity.” The ensemble ranges over a wide repertoire from plainchant to new music, with particular specialties in 15th-century Franco-Flemish polyphony and early 16th-century English sacred music, and is committed to vivid live performance informed by the study of original source materials and historical performance practices. Blue Heron offers a catalog of twelve recordings and is the only group outside of Europe to receive the Gramophone Classical Music Award for Early Music (2018). Blue Heron’s CD Johannes Ockeghem: Complete Songs, Volume I was named to the first Bestenliste (Quarterly Critics’ Choice) of 2020 by the prestigious Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik (German Record Critics’ Award). Its multi-season project to perform the complete works of the great 15th-century composer Johannes Ockeghem, Ockeghem@600, wound up in March 2023, making Blue Heron the only ensemble in North America, quite possibly anywhere in the world, to have accomplished this feat.
For more information and photos, go to www.blueheron.org.
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