Perennia on the Hermes Series at the Mark Twain Library
A note from Sarah:
My personal process as an artist is to excavate meaning from the text and allow it to completely influence how I deliver the music a composer like Barbara Strozzi has written. As a musician-interpreter, I am using the text and music to discover and bring to an audience the life of a character.
What I do is simply working backwards from what a character says (text) and how they say it (music) into their minds and intentions, and bring those characters to live on stage.
Mark Twain, on the other hand, as the creator of characters, worked the other way. He knew his characters inside and out, and heard what those characters said and how they said it, then wrote that down.
Why is this important?
It's important because the unity of text and music belongs in a library!
I am so proud to have been invited to propose a concert of Barbara Strozzi's music to you. Being brand new to Redding, I would love to share her brilliant and beautiful music with my new community.
Why this program?
Barbara Strozzi was the single mother of four by choice, and the illegitimate daughter of librettist and poet Giulio Strozzi, finally legitimized in his will, and faced a glass ceiling that we women these days could not even imagine, and at the time- wasn't glass at all. Strozzi made a living composing by publishing collections of her music under her own name. She came under intense scrutiny by her male contemporaries and was often slandered, claiming she was a courtesan, when she was not. She simply did not have the time for a second career with the amount of work she was putting into Venice.
Strozzi rose above her given circumstances to become the clearest voice we now have from women in the arts in 17th-century Venice. She is not a well-known composer, and I have dedicated my voice to interpreting and bringing to life her music, which is the finest monody (melody over instruments) of her generation.
With all the headwinds that could have stopped her, she still mastered her craft, and exceeded her male counterparts, with no apology. Her legacy invites any person who has a creative desire within them and is afraid to express it to follow her lead, silence the noise, and go for it.
From the Program
First is a recording of a live performance of Barbara Strozzi's stunning piece L'Eraclito Amoroso, or Hercules in Love, wherein Strozzi sets a text of someone who believed their lover to be faithful and was bitterly betrayed. The character has held it in for long enough, and finally blurts out the whole story to their friends in this aria.
Udite amanti la cagione, oh Dio,
ch'a. lagrimar mi porta:
nell'adorato e bello idolo mio,
che sì fido credei,
la fede è morta.
Vaghezza ho sol di piangere,
mi pasco sol di lagrime,
il duolo è mia delizia
e son miei gioie i gemiti.
Ogni martie aggradami,
ogni dolor dilettami,
i singulti mi sanano,
i sospir mi consolano.
Ma se la fede negami
quell'incostante e perfido,
almen fede serbatemi
sino alla morte, o lagrime!
Ogni tristezza assalgami,
ogni cordoglio eternisi,
tanto ogni male affliggami
che m'uccida e sotterrimi.
Heraclitus in Love
Listen you lovers, to the cause, oh God,
of my weeping:
in my handsome and adored idol,
whom I believed to be faithful,
faith is dead.
I have pleasure only in weeping,
I nourish myself only with tears.
Grief is my delight
and moans are my joys.
Every anguish gives me pleasure,
every pain delights me,
sobs heal me,
sighs console me.
But if that inconstant traitor
denies me constancy,
at least let my devotion serve me
until death, o tears.
Every sadness soothes me,
every sorrow sustains itself,
every ill afflicts me so much
that it slays and buries me.
Translation by Richard Kolb
Next we have one of my very favorites, E giungerá pur mai, a setting of a powerful text about the character's struggle to overcome hopelessness.
È giungerà pur mai
È giungerà pur mai alle linea crudele de miei lunghi tormenti
il punto (ò forse)
fatte son senza fine
le mie ruine terminerà gia mai d'agitarmi il destino
d'affligermi la sorte
nò, nò, nò, nò
il sol de miei guai fine è la morte.
Troppo Barbara è crudele
è la stella che tiranna mi
con danna a rei martiri son tributi di ciel.
Pianti e sospiri son troppo severe
le luci beate son troppo guerriere.
Due ciglio in arcate
ond'io ferite (ahì lasso)
senza speranza di salute (Oh Dio)
bersaglio a doppio telo son morto
in vita e disperato in cielo.
Ah sì, deh vieni ò morte
à consolar mia vita
chiuderò gl'occhi al fine
in sempiterna notte
à dispetto del ciel d'amore a scorno.
Se dico che deliro chiamo
la notte è m'ha ferito il giorno.
Sì, sì, vieni o mio bel dì
mentre amando avampo e moro
che crudel così anco Barbara t'adoro.
Così folle d'amore
parlava nò ma delirava un core
quando per trarlo il cielo
da Barbara prigione consigliolo à partire.
Che non si vince Amor che col fuggire.
Text by Giuseppe Artale
And it will grow ever still
The cruel line of my endless torments
will never reach their end (or perhaps?)
they are made without end,
daughters of eternity,
my misfortunes will not cease to agitate my destiny
to afflict my luck,
no, no, no, no
then the only end to my sorrows is death.
Too barbarous and cruel is the star
which despotically condemns the accused
to martyrdom, the weeping and sighing
are tributes from heaven,
the blessed eyes are too severe,
the arched eyebrows too fierce.
For this, wounded (poor me!),
with no hope of salvation (dear God!),
target of a double arrow,
I am dead in life and despairing in heaven.
Oh yes, oh come, oh death
to console my life,
I will close my eyes in the end
in an eternal night
in spite of the heavens, for a love scorned.
If I say I am delirious I call the night
and it is the day which has wounded me.
Yes, yes, come, oh my lovely day, loving in which I am consumed and expire for
in spite of your barbarous cruelty I adore you.
In this way, a heart crazed with love
did not speak, no, it ranted,
when to free it, the heavens
from so barbarous a prison counseled a leave-taking,
for Love is not vanquished but by fleeing.
Translation by Richard Kolb
Here's a taste of a thrilling sonata from our program by G.A. Pandolfi Mealli Op. 4 No.2 "La Viviana" played by our violinist Sarah.
Finally, an audio recording of the 4th movement of a thrilling instrumental piece from our program by one of Barbara Strozzi's contemporaries, Nicola Porpora. Skip to 10:10 in to start at the 4th movement.
Photo by Vincent Tullo for The New York Times
To sing is to breathe love into the world.
When we co-create art where each artist's unique creative gifts are celebrated,
When we give voice to the lost, the broken, the forgotten, and the invisible through our music,
Art becomes a model for greater world peace.
Sarah is blazing the trail for contemporary interpretations of baroque monody. Her singing has been praised for its “clarity, precision, and power” and her interpretations lauded as “transformational.”
Sarah specializes in interpreting the music of Barbara Strozzi. Perhaps the most accomplished and masterful composer of her generation in Venice, Strozzi rose above her given circumstances as a bastard child and unmarried mother of three in 1600's Venice to become a published composer and is now the clearest voice we have from all 17th-century women in the arts.
we are Perennia. We play with vibrancy and passion, and our concerts are approachable and fun. Between us, we've come from the historical performance programs at Juilliard and Yale, and have been nominated for 5 Grammy awards, appeared on over 15 recordings, and have performed with premiere festivals and ensembles, including the esteemed Utrecht Festival in Amsterdam, the Verbier Festival in Sweden, Les Arts Florrisants, Boston Early Music Festival, Trinity Baroque Orchestra and Choir, Washington National Cathedral Baroque Orchestra, Carmel Bach Festival, Oregon Bach Festival, and Dan les Jardins de William Christie in France.