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Vespers of 1610, Reviewed

by Joe Shriner

Before the dedicated artists at Marigny Opera House inaugurated their production of Vespers of 1610 on Thursday night, it was clear they had their hands full. So demanding was the project, several directors were necessary, leading months of rehearsal. It was only a week before production that all performers met at the historic church to bring forward a unified work. In his brief introduction, Executive Director Dave Hurlbert repeated his statement that we were to witness a “labor-of-love.”


If last night’s concert proved anything, it was that a combination of ambition and earnestness can go a very long way.


Marigny Opera House’s presentation of Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers offered a terrific tapestry of sounds, light, and color. The historic building, still in the process of being restored, was a perfect backdrop to the New Resonance Orchestra, choir, and dancers, who put on the engaging, 90-minute work.


The impeccably dressed Francis Scully was a delight to watch as he conducted the musicians bouncing on his toes, using sweeping gestures so all 26 musicians could follow. Two violinists, two violists and two cellists were placed in the foreground alongside Musica da Camera member Stuart LeBlanc on theorbo. A brass ensemble played from behind curtains while keyboardist Todd Simmons sat in the very back, often leading each movement with a single note. Led by gifted soprano Mattea Musso, 13 singers in black-tie and black dresses sang together and soloed as the score mandated. Words in Latin and their translation were provided before the show so audiences could follow along.


The incorporation of synchronized dancing, choreographed and directed by Diogo de Lima, marked the beginning and ending Magnificat movement. Throughout the work, dancers would appear for a solo or duet performance. The solos marked the most impressive numbers of the night.


The lighting of the Marigny Opera House also figured heavily in the production, with each movement being presented with different colors. For darker pieces, the lights would fade and a simple projection would grace the top of the church. When the music got brighter, during the brilliant 11th movement, for instance, the lights came up and reveled the orchestra in its richness.


The revival of early music over the last half-century, especially among younger and training musicians, typifies the desire to explore the musical riches of the past while engaging in serious study of authentic techniques. Because Vespers was written before the existence of grandiose theaters, this concert allowed the performers to connect with the audience more directly. This unity of commitment and intimacy was well demonstrated in Thursday's production. It is a holiday concert that warms the soul and embodies the human spirit.


Vespers continues at the Marigny Opera House (725 St. Ferdinand St.) Friday, December 13 and Saturday, December 14 at 8pm. Tickets for general seating are $30 and $20 for students and seniors. For more information, visit the Marigny Opera House’s website or call (504) 948-9998.

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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt

B. E. Mintz

Stephen Babcock

Published Daily