Jeannette Sorrell, artistic director of the Baroque orchestra Apollo’s Fire, says the lyrics in Baroque master Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 are pretty hot stuff.
That’s because the evening prayers are composed around the sensual poetry of the Song of Solomon.
“The lyrics are very sexy, actually. You’ll be surprised at how sexy it is, even though it’s in the Bible,” Sorrell said.
The 90-minute piece for soloists, chorus and orchestra has been a signature of Apollo’s Fire for 15 years. The masterwork was so well received in an Apollo’s Fire national tour last year, the Cleveland-based group is going on tour again, sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, to bring the radiant piece to more audiences.
Four local performances will precede the November tour, kicking off with a 7:30 p.m. show Friday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Akron at 1361 W. Market St. That will be followed by performances at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, St. Mary of the Falls in Olmsted Falls and First Baptist Church in Shaker Heights Saturday, Sunday and Nov. 7.
Thirty-eight singers and instrumentalists then will take the show on the road to the University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana, the University of Michigan, University of Florida, Houston Early Music, University of Texas, University of California-Berkeley and Stanford University.
The Latin lyrics printed in the program speak to some adult experiences, Sorrell said: In Nigra sum (I am black but beautiful), a slave who is invited to the king’s bedroom describes in poetic language what happens there.
Monteverdi, who lived at the end of the Renaissance period, is the best known of the group of Italian composers who founded the Baroque style.
“Monteverdi was really a giant and everybody else was dwarfed in his shadow. He had an incredibly strong creative vision to just imagine a new style of music,” Sorrell said of the revolutionary composer.
Several theories exist as to why he composed the Vespers of 1610. The most plausible to Sorrell is that Monteverdi, court composer for the Prince of Mantua, Ferdinand Gonzaga, composed the work for his boss’s huge royal wedding.
“Monteverdi’s job was to write some fantastically splendid music for it,” she said.
Period instruments that Apollo’s Fire’s Baroque specialists will play include the theorbo, a very long-necked lute that Sorrell calls “a cross between a lute and a giraffe”; the sackbut, an early version of the trombone; and the cornetto, which is a cross between an oboe and a trumpet.
Akron’s performance will be preceded by a talk from Italian Renaissance and Baroque specialist Marica Tacconi of Penn State University at 6:30 p.m. Her lecture is titled Venice and Mantua at the Dawn of the 17th Century.
Cost is $20-$68, free for full-time students at the Akron performance, underwritten by the GAR Foundation. Call 216-320-0012 or see www.apollosfire.org.
Sorrell said Friday’s performance is an alternative to Halloween events that will be well worth it: “I think this is a much more interesting way for you to spend your Halloween than sitting around at home waiting for the doorbell to ring.”
Intimate play at Civic
None Too Fragile, celebrating its second anniversary at Pub Bricco in the Merriman Valley, is excited to revive its powerful psychological drama On An Average Day at its biggest venue to date — the Akron Civic Theatre — Wednesday.
That’s not to say the intimate drama by John Kolvenbach will be swallowed up in the huge Civic. The two-man play will be performed in the Club @ the Civic series, with the audience sitting right on stage in the middle of the tense action.
None Too Fragile just ended a revival of the show at Pub Bricco, featuring co-artistic director Sean Derry and Mark Mayo reprising their 2012 roles as Robert and Jack. In this story, long-estranged brothers Robert, a victim of years of neglect, and Jack, who seemingly has it all together, take the audience through a mysterious story full of twists and turns.
Derry and Mayo, who met a decade ago when they performed in A Streetcar Named Desire in Willoughby, first appeared in Akron together in the Bang and the Clatter’s inaugural The Late Henry Moss by Sam Shepard, a story about two emotionally scarred brothers and their estranged father.
“It was something that hit close to home for both of us,” Derry said.
Kolvenbach’s On An Average Day is a play in a similar vein that some compare to Shepard’s True West, but with a lot more depth and heart, Derry said. None Too Fragile remounted the show as a last-minute substitute for Neil LaBute’s In a Forest Dark and Deep after an actor in that show had a family emergency.
Howard Parr, executive director at the Akron Civic Theatre, noticed that None Too Fragile actively promotes other small Akron theaters on its website, and asked the adventurous indie theater if it would like to collaborate.
Derry, who described None Too Fragile as a “small theater doing big things,” said Civic audiences will now get to experience the power of a small, intimate, moving play in Akron’s grand historic theater.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to bring an Off-Off-Broadway show to Akron Civic Theatre audiences,” he said.
The show will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Cost is $20. Call 330-253-2488, 800-745-3000 or see www.akroncivic.com.
Magical Theatre Company will continue its Halloween performance tradition with the world premiere of a collection of spine-tingling short stories, The Monkey’s Paw and Other Unexpected Endings, at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Classic stories with unearthly endings will range from Guy de Maupassant’s The Necklace to Ray Bradbury’s All Summer in a Day. Audiences 10 and up are recommended. Tickets cost $9-$11. Call 330-848-3708 or see www.magicaltheatre.org.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com. She is also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj.