This is the latest joyous, astonishing collaboration, their third, between the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Circa that had the audience in raptures. Don’t miss it. The audience did not want to breathe or blink in case they missed something.
It is an inspired pastiche by Paul Dyer and Yaron Lifschitz, with music from 16th and 17th-century England and featuring the beautiful voices of sopranos Jane Sheldon and Lauren Stephenson.
The set design by Yaron Lifschitz, Libby McDonnell and Richard Clarke is inspired by the idea of a clipped formal garden at a stately 17th-century mansion : a green covered area represents the manicured lawn .The middle area has tumbling mats , there is a large blank screen at the back used for projections and a huge hoop. Various sized white plinths (which also become props) are included and the Circa cast are carried on as statues hidden under drapes. Peter Rubie’s lighting design is dramatic and atmospheric.
It is perhaps, sort of like A Midsummer Night’s Dream – our Titania being Jane Sheldon who magically brings the statues ‘alive’. Sheldon appears in a striking red and black gown that includes a floral design. The Circa cast are costumed in silvery grey costumes that ripple in the light.
The show is divided into four scenes – The Court; The Bedroom: The Chapel; and the Fairground.
From a musical point of view ,dynamically led by Paul Dyer , the Brandenburg were ‘in their element’ – the Baroque is the musical era they specialise in , with the inclusion of infrequently heard works by Handel and Purcell and a salute to Corelli and Dowland as well as a collection of traditional songs .
Sheldon’s glowing, almost rippling, transparent tone was magnificently suited to these Baroque pieces. Special mention must be made of her performance of Gentle Morpheus from Handel’s Alceste for example. Her duet with Lauren Stephenson in Handel De torrente in via from Dixit Dominus is another soaring highlight. Other memorable musical featured segments include the moving Adagio from Handel’s Organ Concerto in G minor op 4 no 3 and the rendition of Scarborough Fair.
At the opening night in Sydney, unexpected behind-the-scenes dramas demanded last minute cast changes for Circa.The audience was eventually informed, but would not have known otherwise. Jessica Connell, Scott Grove, Amanda Lee, Gerramy Marsden, Alice Muntz, Noah Nielsen and Jake Silvestro of Circa held us spellbound with their death defying, seemingly impossible feats of strength, tumbling, balancing and juggling (doing the splits while balanced on two people’s heads) split second precision and timing are required. Also included are aerial hoop acrobatics , hula hooping , and trapeze work. At various points the Circa cast writhe in a swirling, sculptural mass or move in fluid, moulded lines .For one segment there is gentle audience participation with a few audience members dragged up on stage when the Circa members ‘dance’ with them .
A dazzling, awe inspiring performance.
Running time roughly 90 minutes no interval
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Circa in British Baroque runs at the City Recital Hall 8 – 17 May in Sydney, with performances in Melbourne on May 18 and 19, and in Brisbane on May 21 .
Dowland Behold a wonder here from The Third and Last Booke of Songs or Aires
Purcell Curtain Tune from Timon of Athens, Z 632
Purcell Overture from King Arthur, Z 628
Purcell Thanks to these lonesome vales from Dido & Aeneas, Z 626
Handel Gentle Morpheus, son of night from Alceste, HWV 45
Handel De torrente in via from Dixit Dominus, HWV 232
Handel Organ Concerto in G minor, Op. 4, No. 3, HWV 291: Adagio
Traditional The Gartan Mother’s Lullaby
Traditional Hole in the Wall