Our first concert this season (September 14, 2012, 7pm at Caruth Auditorium) features The New York Baroque Dance Company. Catherine Turocy, stage director/choreographer of NYBDC, answered a few questions about the program.
Catherine, you are performing two pieces by Claudio Monteverdi. What is “Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda” about?
It is an opera scene or cantata. It is a romance set against the backdrop of the First Crusade and was first performed in 1624. Tancredi, a Christian knight, spars with a Saracen and only finds out at the end, as the Saracen is mortally wounded and asks to be baptized, that his opponent is a woman, Clorinda.
Yes! There is actually a complex and deep love between the couple who came from warring families and different religions.
What was the basis for your choreography?
Monteverdi himself includes a description of the production with the musical score. His descriptions of the combat are graphically illustrated in the music. They are matched by the actions of the dancers who are the doubles of the singing Tancredi and Clorinda.
So the plot and emotions are expressed through both the singers and dancers?
Exactly. The music contains passion and conflict beyond the words of the libretto. I have illustrated the music with the gestures, breath and attitude of the dancers.
How about the second piece on the program? “The ballo of the ungrateful ladies”- what a title!
According to the score, the stage set consists of a Hell’s Mouth, the entrance to the Underworld. Venus and Cupid visit Pluto, King of the Underworld, and complain that Cupid’s arrows are no longer effective on the proud ladies of Mantua who are scorning their lovers.
Well, what’s Pluto supposed to do about it?
Cupid asks Pluto to bring the spirit of the ungrateful women who rejected love up from the Underworld to show what fate awaits those who spurn love/marriage. Pluto agrees and the spirits emerge.
That is indeed a fascinating topic. How did you bring this onto the stage?
My interpretation was inspired by an eyewitness account. He said that the costumes looked like flames.
Oh, because we are dealing with the hell’s mouth, right?
Yes, the Underworld. The witness also vividly described the many different emotions that were demonstrated in the dancing.
Which emotions, for example?
Grief, desperation, pity, tenderness, rage, fury… I have created a dramatic interpretation of the music, knowing that Monteverdi was at the cutting edge of a new theater form based on the ancient Greek drama, the opera. This ballo was composed one year after “Orfeo”, and was first performed in 1608.
Catherine, thank you very much for these enlightening comments. A lot of detail- oriented research goes into staging these Baroque pieces. We can’t wait to see both of these interesting stories come to life right here in Dallas on September 14!