April 28, 2010

Great photos from our March Concert with Jordi Savall!

Until last week, we didn't know that our friend Frank Wing stopped by in March to snap photos of Jordi working with the orchestra during rehearsal. Check them out.

An influential afterlife: Exploring Orlando Furioso Part 3

Michael Wyatt joins us for the final post on Orlando furioso (read Parts 1 & 2):

A mere summary does little justice to the dazzling linguistic and conceptual texture of Ariosto’s great poem, elaborated in almost 40,000 lines through a complex network of narrative threads and a cast of thousands.

"The Sorcerer Altante Abducting Pinabello's Lady" by Nicolas Poussin (French, 1594–1665)

Orlando furioso was one of the run-away publishing successes of the early modern period. The poem appeared in almost fifty separate editions in Italian in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (many of them reprinted many times over), but the Furioso has exercised an equally strong attraction translated into foreign languages. By the early twentieth century, there had been almost ninety versions – partial and complete – in French, twenty-nine in Spanish (it is one of the few books Don Quixote saves from his bonfire of the vanities), some twenty in Russian, thirty in German and eighteen in English. There have been translations of Orlando furioso into Czech, Latin, Hungarian, Portuguese, Dutch, Polish and Hebrew; the first Asian translation seems to be the one published in Japanese in 2002.

En Espanol!

Ariosto’s poem has had an equally rich history of re-elaboration in other forms, giving rise to a veritable industry of literary imitations and responses, visual representations and adaptations for the theater, film, television and radio. Handel wrote three operas to libretti based on the FuriosoAlcina, Ariodante, and Orlando – and composers as varied as Francesca Caccini, Lully, Porpora, Vivaldi, Rameau, and Haydn have found in Ariosto a deep vein of inspiration. Ariosto’s enduring fascination is evident today in the chivalric repertory of the Sicilian puppet theater, the opera dei pupi, a tradition that emerged on the island in the early nineteenth century and continues to be practiced today by several companies in Catania and Palermo.

April 19, 2010

Seven Centuries of Tradition: Exploring Orlando Furioso Part 2

While our April concerts are over (read the reviews), we are not done with Orlando just yet. Michael Wyatt joins us again:

Orlando furioso is the continuation of an earlier, unfinished, epic poem, Orlando innamorato (Orlando in Love), written in the late fifteenth century by another Ferrarese courtier, Matteo Maria Boiardo, both texts drawn from a wild mix of popular tales and cultivated literature that had developed over almost seven centuries in several linguistic and cultural traditions, encompassing both the Arthurian legends of Britain and the stories which had grown up around the figure of Hrolandus (Roland in French, Orlando in Italian), an obscure eighth-century French warrior.

The principal narrative axes of Ariosto’s poem are two. In the first, Orlando – chief among the Emperor Charlemagne’s Christian knights in the fight against the Saracen Agramante, King of Africa – is rejected by Angelica, daughter of the King of Cathay (China), goes mad, and in the process all but loses France to invading Islamic forces. Orlando’s tortuous return to sanity is only achieved late in the poem, after his English cousin and comrade-in-arms, Astolfo, travels to the moon where the wits of the insane are preserved in jars, watched over there by St. John the Evangelist. The second narrative crux concerns the ever-frustrated love of Ruggiero – Saracen champion and Orlando’s nemesis – for the Christian lady-warrior Bradamante, and the apparently countless impediments blocking their destiny – foretold early in the poem by the magician Merlin – to establish the Este dynasty.

The poem thus links the medieval struggle of Christians and Muslims, refracted through a complex web of history and mythology, with the contemporary reality of early sixteenth-century Italy, itself suffering at the time from a devastating succession of foreign incursions.

Prints by Gustave Dore.

April 8, 2010

Meet Goldilocks

Today, in the San Francisco Chronicle's "Props" column, Joshua Kosman profiled the harpsichord with a stage presence that can only rival its owner – our Music Director Nic! Here "Goldilocks" is in a photo taken shortly after she was built in 1996:

Written in his spare time: Exploring Orlando Furioso Part 1

In our last blog post, we mentioned Stanford University's symposium "Mad Orlando's Legacy," which will explore the immense impact of the epic poem Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto, which also happens to be the source material for our April concerts featuring Handel's Orlando. To help us explore the connection between the Renaissance poem and the baroque opera, Michael Wyatt (Associate Director of the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Stanford University) joins us for a three part blog post. His first is about the author of this epic poem with it's own epic story:

Though now recognized as one of the towering figures of Italian Renaissance culture, Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) spent his working life in the service of the Este lords of Ferrara. This city, north of Bologna, is now a sleepy university town but in the early modern period was at the cross-roads of a vast European struggle to gain control of the Italian peninsula, and Ariosto’s great epic poem, Orlando furioso (Mad Orlando), registers these conflicts in multiple ways.

Ariosto was born into a minor aristocratic family and studied both law and classical literature, but the premature death of his father exposed the precariousness of the family’s financial situation and compelled Ludovico into the role of bread-winner for a large clan, first as a diplomat, then as the governor of Este-controlled territories in the isolated mountainous region of the Garfagnana (to the north and east of Lucca), and finally back in Ferrara as master of ceremonies and entertainments for the Este court.

As with so many other major Renaissance writers, Ariosto’s extraordinary literary work was accomplished amidst other – frequently onerous – responsibilities, and Orlando furioso slowly took shape over the course of three decades. First published in 1516, Ariosto continued tinkering with his poem and brought out expanded versions of it in 1521 and 1532. In addition to the Furioso, Ariosto wrote other poetry – in both Italian and Latin – and he was among the first to write stage comedies in a European vernacular language. A series of Satires provide biting send-ups of some of the most prominent figures in Ariosto’s world (including the reigning pope, Leo X, or Giovanni de’ Medici).