Australia’s premier period-instrument orchestra, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and leading Australian contemporary circus company, Circa, have again combined forces to bring us English Baroque. They are joined by world-renowned soprano Jane Sheldon to create an impressive ensemble that will please music and circus fans alike and hopefully introduce them to something new.
The score takes us through four scenes covering key arenas for music creation in the Baroque period. Firstly, the Court, with music written for plays, second the Bedroom, with opera music, thirdly the Chapel with music commissioned by the Catholic Church and finally the fairground featuring folk music including the familiar Scarborough Fair. The music created an elegant soundscape which complemented the circus style.
In contrast yet not contradicting the music, Circa’s performers executed boundary-pushing circus acts. It was refreshing to see strong women and flexible men, with a range of skills displayed by all performers. Their movements were expressive and graceful, with a refined quality that defies ordinary circus acts that seek to simply shock and thrill audiences.
That said, they incited many gasps from the audience. There were also moments of humour and clowning, although some where perhaps more designed to give the circus performers a break from their rigorous routine.
The courts and gardens that inspired the performance are reflected in the whimsical backdrop of a blue sky and soft white clouds, the marble-like pattern of the circus performers’ simple costumes and Sheldon’s dress. The blocks used by the circus artists were cleverly used to make the space more dynamic. The title somewhat lacks creativity but at least it’s clear what you’re in for.
The most charming moments came when the circus artists interacted with Sheldon, most of all when she sung from a swing. There were also brief moments where the circus artists fawned over her like faithful nymphs, bringing a mystical air to the piece. More scenes like this, including ones featuring the musicians, would have made the performance more dynamic.
The orchestra was relegated to the side of the stage, quietly watching when they weren’t playing. This was perhaps in part due to the logistical challenge presented by the orchestra being based in Sydney and Circa being based in Brisbane. Overall a delightful performance bound to please a variety of performing arts tastes.
English Baroque with Circa premiered at the Canberra International Music Festival, toured Sydney and Melbourne and the final performance will be at QPAC, Brisbane on Tuesday 21 May 2019 at 7:30pm.
English Baroque with Circa
Melbourne Recital Centre, Southbank Boulevard, Southbank
Performance: Saturday 18 May 2019 – 7.00pm
Image: English Baroque with Circa – photo by Steven Godbee
Review: Sophia Dickinson