Chorus pro Musica weds music with dance in ‘Les Noces’
Saturday’s performance of Igor Stravinsky's “Les Noces” by Chorus pro Musica and music director Jamie Kirsch, assisted by BoSoma Dance Company, was a couple days early for a June wedding. But that worked, too, given how well the piece might serve as a simulated training session for actual espousals. Stravinsky renders Russian nuptials as a blitz, a percussive, disorienting bombardment of tradition, ceremony, and punishing cheer. In other words, it’s a great wedding.
Stravinsky conceived the work just after firing “The Rite of Spring” into the world, and one can hear how he adapted the elements of that earlier virgin sacrifice — pummeling rhythms, tiled and repeated motives, the strangeness of archaic folklore amplified by avant-garde incitements — to a sunnier, decidedly non-virginal ritual. Saturday’s choreography, by Katherine Hooper and Irada Djelassi, was compact — four dancers (Stephanie Boisvert, Rachel McKeon, Whitney Renfroe, and Tony Tucker) traversing a narrow extension of the Jordan Hall stage — but effectively channeled the score’s industry and obsessiveness: twisting, athletic gestures rippling in imitation through the corps, their physicality close-up and palpable. (Interpreting the ceremonial braiding of the bride’s hair by setting the dancers along ever-shifting, intertwining diagonal paths was especially felicitous.)
The musical end was equally hard-working. Stravinsky’s choice of instrumentation — four pianos (Natsuki Hiratsuka, Hisako Hiratsuka, John McDonald, and Thomas Stumpf) and a battery of percussion — results in a situation that might best be described as gladiatorial: the singers all sang as loud as they could, and sometimes could be heard. What came through, though, was quite fine. The chorus kept the party going with rhythmically energetic, up-all-night industry. Soprano Lynn Eustis maintained serene demeanor and sound; mezzo-soprano Emily Marvosh combined elegance and earthiness with engaging composure. The men, as is often the case at weddings, were more keyed up: tenor Jonas Budris bright and intense, baritone Andrew Garland dark and determined. But Garland brought warm authority to the work’s surprise ending: The festivities abruptly vanish, the groom beholds his bride, and a series of bell-like chords decay into silence. Not every performance can keep an audience’s attention through such a fade-out; this one did.
Kirsch and the chorus (with their usual pianist, Terry Halco) preceded the ceremony proper with some related preludes. The group made hale work of the vigorous, even aggressive rapture of “Awake, O North Wind” from Daniel Pinkham’s “Wedding Cantata”; then smoothly realized Eric Whitacre’s “This Marriage,” an anniversary present in the form of a silky exercise in (symbolically appropriate) parallel harmonies. Three of Bob Chilcott’s settings of “Aesop’s Fables” were similarly mirrored, easygoing performances of easygoing pop ballads, the familiar stories in broad if not necessarily incisive tellings.
Joseph Greggorio’s arrangement of the folk song “Frog Went A-Courtin’ ” was sharper: skillfully refracting the tune into a cappella elaborations while efficiently underlining the pageant of Frog and Mouse’s wedding and their sudden, circle-of-life demise. One of the best things about the arrangement and the performance was how they genially undercut the usual pretense of musical romance, simply by regarding love and death as equally absurd propositions.
Chorus pro Musica
Jamie Kirsch, music director
With members of BoSoma Dance Company
At: Jordan Hall, Saturday