The idea of recreating an accademia musicale (private concert) at the home of Roman artist/patron Pier Leone Ghezzi in 1723 and putting on works that might have been played at such an event is an intriguing one. Add to that that we were promised caricatures; Ghezzi being a noted pioneer of the form. Marco Cera, who conceived the show, seemed to be onto a good thing.
What we actually got wasn’t exactly what I expected. There were the musicians, including noted baroque soprano Roberta Invernizzi, impersonating Ghezzi’s guests; from Vivaldi to Farinelli, with Cera himself as Ghezzi. But there was also Ghezzi’s servant, played as Harlequin, acted by Dino Gonçalves. The show was heavy on Harlequin’s cheeky chappy clowning which was, as the lemur put it, like “watching Jerry Lewis channelling Roger Rabbit”. Not really my thing.
Then there were the caricatures. I think I was expecting a live caricaturist doing the actual performers. Oddly had Tafelmusik asked I could have got my BIL Mark to do just that. What we actually got was a projection of a hand retracing Ghezzi’s drawings; which are admittedly rather good though it’s distracting watching them come to life while also trying to concentrate on the music. This was especially true of “Farinelli”. Why is his head so tiny and his feet so big? Why is he holding an aardvark with a stick up its ass? And so on…
All that said the music making was of the highest quality and it was a chance to hear pieces by the likes of Vinci and Goldoni(*) alongside the better known Vivaldi. There was some fine violin playing from Elisa Citterio, channelling Vivaldi; especially the Sonata in G Major for two violins where she was joined by Geneviève Gilardeau, playing a pupil at Venice’s Ospidale di pièta. Felix Deak appeared to good effect as Bononcini in his Sonata prima for cello and continuo. Ms. Invernizzi appeared as both Faustina Bordoni (for a woman in Rome in 1723 could only sing at a private gathering) and Farinelli (cue “nuts” jokes). She sang arias by Porpora, Vinci, Broschi and Pergolesi in fine style with lovely ornamentation. In the final Pergolesi number, Lieto cosi’ talvolta, she was joined by Cera on oboe to good effect. Patrick Jordan on viola, Alison Mackay on bass, Lucas Harris on lute and Charlotte Nediger on harpsichord rounded out a really crisp ensemble. Let’s say it again, the music was really good.
So, it was a cool idea but it didn’t quite work for me as executed. If you do feel the urge though, there are further performances tonight through Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3.30pm. Trinity St. Paul’s of course.
(*)I have actually seen an entire opera by Vinci and, rather oddly, an opera about Goldoni (sort of).
Photos when I get them.
With all due respect to your ramblings, in writing about what you may have expected from the Harlequin Salon without having researched the raison d’être of Marco Cera’s creation through the numerous blog articles on Tafelmusik’s website on this project concerning Ghezzi and Harlequin, and their relevance in Marco’s vision, I would suggest that your review is off the mark, or at least, misguided. Criticizing Ghezzi’s caricatures of 18th c. personages, including Farinelli (small head), as recreated by Mr. Cera in the style of Ghezzi, and “expecting” instead caricatures of the musicians on stage may be your own personal desire and vision for this concert, but I fail to see the relevance of your argument in terms of what was intended and clearly outlined in the programme notes, and in Mr. Cera’s interviews on the Tafelmusik website and elsewhere (cf James Strecker).