REVIEW: The Song Company Presents LOVE IN VENICE

 Sex, Comedy and… Classical Music?!

By Anastasia Russell-Head

Early Baroque music – madrigals, the sweet harmonies of Monteverdi, purity of sound, tra-la-la-la-la, etc… A bit twee, all sweetness and light, we might think?

…Oh no, it’s all about sex!

With racy lyrics involving “blazing ardour”, “biting teeth”, “thrusting darts” and lots of “death” (think metaphorically), it really helps to have the translation of the original Italian at hand to fully appreciate Monteverdi’s “erotic” madrigals!

Supplied with comprehensive program notes (with full translations) we were treated to an aural feast last night at the Melbourne Recital Centre’s intimate Salon, in The Song Company’s inaugural Melbourne subscription concert: Love in Venice. The first half of the program featured eleven of the aforementioned madrigals, performed with exquisite beauty and precision by the six seasoned singers of the company. Special mention must be made of sopranos Susannah Lawergren and Anna Fraser, whose performance of the duet O come sei gentile was one of the many highlights.

From the sublime to the ridiculous – the focus after interval changed to comedy. Including props, puns, crazy accents and general hilarity, the performance of Adriano Banchieri’s (1567-1643) A Boat from Venice bound for Padua conjured some genuine belly laughs from the audience – not what you generally expect from a classical music concert!

Just as Shakespeare and other literary figures are still relevant in the twenty-first century, so too can be the music from the past. This concert served to illustrate that humour from seventeenth-century Italy can still be funny in Melbourne in 2012, and that human lust and love hasn’t really changed that much in 400 years. The Song Company is to be commended for this accessible, high-quality and extremely enjoyable production. I just wish the audience were encouraged more to clap between songs!

The Song Company’s Love in Venice was performed at the Melbourne Recital Centre on March 12, 2012.

Clive Birch (bass), Richard Black (tenor), Mark Donnelly (baritone), Anna Fraser (soprano), Lanneke Jones (mezzo), Susannah Lawergren (soprano) and Artistic Director Roland Peelman. With Tommie Andersson (lute/theorbo/Spanish guitar) and Laura Vaughan (lirone/gamba).

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