The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Madison Bach Musicians, with dancers and guest vocal soloists, will perform a tragic Purcell opera and comic Bach cantata this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon | April 2, 2018

By Jacob Stockinger’

This coming weekend the Madison Bach Musicians — an acclaimed local group devoted to period instruments and historically informed performance practices — will present a double bill that features the tragic opera “Dido and Aeneas” by British composer Henry Purcell (below top) and the comic “Coffee” Cantata, BWV 211, by Johann Sebastian Bach (below bottom).

Both performances take place in the Atrium Auditorium (below in a photo by Zane Williams) of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive.

On Saturday, April 7, there is a 6:45 p.m.  lecture by MBM founder and artistic director Trevor Stephenson followed by a 7:30 p.m. performance.

On Sunday, April 8, there is a 2:45 p.m.  lecture by Trevor Stephenson followed by a 3:30 p.m. performance.

Purcell’s vivid and eloquent operatic masterpiece, Dido and Aeneas is based on the tragic love story told in Book IV of Virgil’s epic Latin poem “Aeneid”and is depicted in the 1815 painting (below) by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin.

The performance of the Baroque opera uses a full baroque orchestra.

In addition there are three guest singers as soloists: Chelsea Shepherd (below top) as Dido; Elijah Blaisdell (below middle) as Aeneas; and Nola Richardson (below bottom) as Belinda.

Adding to the production are dance sequences, all coming together thanks to the collaboration of director David Ronis (below top in a photo by Luke Delalio) of the University Opera; Karen McShane-Hellenbrand (below middle) of the UW-Madison Dance Department; and Baroque-performance specialist conductor and UW bassoonist Marc Vallon (below bottom in a photo by James Gill).

J. S. Bach’s witty Coffee Cantata will add some mischievous fun to the program.

This work suggests that perhaps Johann Sebastian himself was a coffee enthusiast at a time when coffee was sweeping the Continent and often seen as a sinful new fad.  “Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter than muscatel wine! I must have my coffee….” sings Lieschen in an aria that you can hear in the YouTube video at the bottom.

Bach even premiered and performed many of his works at Zimmermann’s Coffeehouse in Leipzig, which he frequented and which is depicted below in an 18th-century engraving by Georg Schreiber.

As usual, MBM artistic director Trevor Stephenson (below) will offer his insightful and entertaining commentary on these two diverse masterworks in his lecture preceding each concert.

Tickets are $38, $35 for seniors and $10 for student rush tickets at the door if the concert is not sold out.

Advance tickets are available at the Willy Street Coops East and West. More information about the production and tickets can be found at madisonbachmusicians.org


2 Comments »

  1. Dido and Aeneas, a love story about the Queen of Carthage and the Trojan military hero, was written sometime toward the end of the 17 century, probably in 1688 or as early as 1683. It is considered a Baroque masterpiece by Henry Purcell.

    It was performed sporadically in the 18th and 19th centuries until 1895 when students at the Royal College of Music in London revived it for Purcell’s anniversary.

    It was first performed in the USA as late as 1923 but has had many subsequent performances due to the growing popularity of Baroque music.

    There are many fine recordings of this work including:
    René Jacobs and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (1998);the Taverner Consort and Players on Chandos (1981); Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert (1989); and Emmanuelle Haïm and Le Concert d’Astrée (2003), a recording which won a Grammy award for best recording in opera.

    This Purcell work is a terrific choice and it will be nice to see it performed in Madison especially since Madison has so many fans of early music.

    Comment by fflambeau — April 2, 2018 @ 3:33 am

    • Here’s a terrific YouTube of Dido’s Lament one of the songs in this opera. Beautifully sung:

      Comment by fflambeau — April 2, 2018 @ 4:17 am


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,190 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,047,187 hits
%d bloggers like this: