The Anglo-Americans

By Platt, Russell | The New Yorker, November 7, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Anglo-Americans


Platt, Russell, The New Yorker


Perhaps the refined tastes of Boston's large academic audience account for its welcoming embrace of period-performance practitioners. Whatever the reason, New York has nothing to compare with the Boston Early Music Festival, which, for several years, has been releasing recordings on CPO that allow music lovers to enjoy its exquisite work. Boston is arguably the most Anglophilic of our large cities, and it was only a matter of time before the group (which has recorded operas by Lully and Charpentier) got around to John Blow's "Venus and Adonis," a gem of English opera that predated--and influenced--Purcell's celebrated "Dido and Aeneas."

Blow's opera, inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses, was designed as a masque for the entertainment of King Charles II, and its prevailingly light tone (the revels of the hunt in which Adonis is killed are given more emphasis than the hero's death itself) may have prevented Blow from writing a showstopper aria like Purcell's "When I Am Laid in Earth"--if, indeed, he could have matched the sheer genius of his young protege. But what the opera lacks in depth it makes up in sheer ingenuity and charm, attributes nimbly exploited by the Boston group's directors, the lutenists Paul O'Dette and Stephen Stubbs, and the assembled company, which includes such standout singers as Amanda Forsythe, Tyler Duncan, and Mireille Lebel in the leading roles. …

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