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sed/otb: works by castello, monteverdi, and goebbels


Works by Castello, Monteverdi, and Goebbels
March 4–6
image by Claire Cowie, courtesy of On the Boards
 An editor’s mistake leads a writer to an interesting experience and a great review: another winner by Terra Leigh Bell…

A little background before you start: Seattle Early Dance’s website promoted a Monteverdi opera, with choreography by Anna Mainsbridge…so this editor forged ahead blindly and blithely contacted Terra Leigh, who has a passion for the early stuff… —Rosie

By Terra Leigh Bell

I was caught off guard when I saw that something from Seattle Early Dance was being shown at On the Boards.

But the On the Boards website, in some places, said it was showing a piece by German composer Heiner Goebbels, and in others a Monteverdi opera performed by the Seattle Chamber Players.

As it turns out both were true.

But there was no dance, early or otherwise. Somehow I walked into a modern interpretation of the baroque followed by an avant-garde piece of music by an avant-garde composer; this, having expected dance from the Jane Austen era.

But the wonderful part is this: classicist that I am, with all my terror at discovering what I had gotten myself into, the evening was fascinating and delightful. The first half consisted of a short piece of music by baroque composer Dario Castello called “Sonato Decimasesta,” followed by the Monteverdi opera “Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda,” or “The Battle of Tancredi and Clorinda.” The second half was a suite called “Songs of Wars I Have Seen,” by Heiner Goebbels, a setting for words by Gertrude Stein about her time in Paris during the World Wars.

The Seattle Chamber Players were, as always, spectacular. Castello’s “Sonata Decimasesta” was lovely and performed with verve. And the singers for the Monteverdi piece were excellent as well. I particularly enjoyed tenor Ross Hauck, who narrated the story of the battle between the lovers Tancredi and Clorinda.

But the real event of the evening was Heiner Goebbels’ piece “Songs of Wars I Have Seen.” I can probably safely assume that few readers have heard anything by Goebbels – from what I have read his work has not made it over to the States very much – which makes my job of describing it nearly impossible. I suppose that I would say that it did what I would like modern music to do – it never shied away from doing something in a new and different way, but it didn’t completely abandon the sheer pleasures of music. And on top of that, it provided what felt like a perfect setting for Stein’s words: at times frightening, often quite comical in an unsettling way, but with an overwhelming sense of the sheer beauty of sound.

I don’t know if anything like this will come back to On the Boards, but I will say that for anyone who has an interest in new composition, I would highly recommend checking Goebbels out. He works with a lot more than just music, as he is a stage director as well and demands a lot of his performers. The result is truly a whole piece of theater. I used to believe very strongly in the idea of “the complete art work,” and then I saw one too many awful examples of it. Goebbels reminds you of why it really is a good idea, but only in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing.