Past Event

Ensemble Origo: "Motets, Madrigals, and Moresche"

October 8, 2015
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
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Orlando di Lasso's Music for the Commedia dell'Arte at a 1568 Wedding

Musicologist and conductor Eric Rice offers a 30-minute talk at 7:00 p.m. and a concert at 8:00 with Ensemble Origo, the early music group that he directs.

Co-sponsor: Columbia’s Department of Music.

On 22 February 1568, Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria married Renata of Lorraine, and the ensuing celebration occupied the Munich court for nearly a week. The renowned composer Orlando di Lasso was charged with planning the music and theater for the occasion, including a series of commedia dell’arte presentations. His 1581 Libro di Villanelle contains a number of works whose texts are associated with the commedia dell’arte, and Massimo Troiano’s 1568 Dialoghi relates many details of the proceedings, including some musical ones. Taken together, these works allow for a reconstruction of some of the elaborate music that followed the wedding, including several madrigals and six moresche, carnivalesque Neapolitan dance-songs that represent the speech of African slaves. Though the non-Neapolitan portions of the texts of these works were long believed to be onomatopoetic gibberish, recent scholarship has revealed it to be Kanuri, the language of the Bornu Empire in the Lake Chad region from which many African slaves came to Naples. Lasso’s moresche are noteworthy for the sophistication of their rhythm and texture; rhythmic play stems from the texts themselves, while the complexity of the texture throws the racially- and sexually-charged dialogue into high relief, increasing the effect of the caricature for the Munich court’s audience. The music — performed by singers, recorders, sackbuts, and violas da gamba — invites us to consider race relations, commerce, and their effects on the culture of early modern Naples and Munich. The concert will be preceded by a thirty-minute pre-concert talk.

Ensemble Origo's aim is to present vibrant performances of early music (from the Middle Ages through the baroque) that reflect the context in which the repertory was originally produced and heard; “Origo” is Latin for “earliest beginning,” “lineage,” or “origin.”