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From castles to the streets: A Houston debut about musical life in 17th-century Venice

Poeme Harmonique
Vincent Dumestre's award-winning ensemble, Poème Harmonique, makes its Houston debut on March 9 at Wortham Theater Center, presented by Da Camera and Houston Early Music. 
News_Da Camera_2012-2013 season_Le Poeme Harmonique
The program titled "Venezia dalle Calli ai Palazzi" travels from the ostentatious castles to the meandering streets exploring the bricolage of the City of Masks in the early 17th century. Courtesy of Le Poeme Harmonique

Editor's Note: As part of CultureMap's State of the Arts series, we are highlighting upcoming arts events you won't want to miss. While concentrating on fall, there are some spring events our contributors believe are worth noting now.

A pitch-dark stage only lit by the flickering glow of two ornate candelabras. When the music begins, a deep voice emerges from nothingness. The broken melody develops into a passionate, through-composed aria that follows the emotional contour of the text to the likes of the Verdi or Puccini. 

Except that this work was composed two centuries earlier.

Unless you are an early music junkie, it's relatively easy to stereotype the aesthetic of anything pre-Bach as music that belongs in a church. And yes, though much of what was being composed in 16th and 17th century Venice was sacred, the style veers from any resemblance to the strict structures, rigid rules and standard progressions that Baroque and Classicism were fond of.

 It's time to explore further the mishmash that was La Serenissima during its golden age. 

If Ars Lyrica's performance of Monteverdi's Madrigals of Love and War got under your skin — as it did for me — then it's time to explore further the mishmash that was La Serenissima during its golden age, when, in addition to Monteverdi, composers Biagio Marini, Francesco Manelli and Benedetto Ferrari rocked their music party scene with tunes that were crafted to rouse emotions. 

The way to do so is by penciling in your calendar the Houston debut of lutenist Vincent Dumestre's award-winning ensemble, Poème Harmoniqueon March 9 at Wortham Theater Center, presented by Da Camera and Houston Early Music. The program titled "Venezia dalle Calli ai Palazzi" travels from the ostentatious castles to the meandering streets exploring the bricolage of the City of Masks in the early 17th century.

Better yet, the group's rare period instruments like the theorbo, the lirone, the tiorbino and the arpa tripla will render this experience as authentic as it can possibly be without having to travel thousands of miles away from our own Bayou City. If you can't wait that long, indulge in a video of a Poème Harmonique performance (above). That should whet your musical appetite.

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