Gut feelings and madrigals in anarchic musical theatre

Gesualdo

De Warme Winkel, Nederlands Kamerkoor

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Incredible stories abound about the Italian composer and prince Carlo Gesualdo. Apparently, he had a whole forrest felled because the rustle of its leaves disturbed him when he was composing, and he also murdered his wife and her lover when he discovered their adultery. He tortured animals and servants, suffered from depression, and his mistress was a witch. Yet he composed heavenly madrigals which are still part of the repertoire. Nederlands Kamerkoor, one of the world’s greatest choirs, and anarchist theater company De Warme Winkel explore this paradox in a musical theatre performance that becomes a quest for the sublime.

background information

De Warme Winkel and the Netherlands Chamber Choir (Nederlands Kamerkoor) are to present the world premiere of Gesualdo at this year’s edition of the Holland Festival. This new “oeuvre production” 

is the latest result of a genre developed by De Warme Winkel, in which the dramatists try to capture and present both the life and work of an artist as well as the spirit of the times in which he worked. Earlier works in the genre include Gavrilo Princip (Holland Festival, 2014) and Majakovski/Oktober (2017). 

Gesualdo represents a quest for the extraordinary, a search for that which evokes both horror and fascination, an increasingly everyday occupation in our time as we gaze in enthralment at the spectacle of Trump and North Korea — never before have we been so attracted and repelled.

Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613) was himself a living embodiment of the extraordinary. An Italian composer and prince, he wrote wondrous and breathtakingly beautiful music that sounds modern even today. He was, at the same time, famous for the absolute madness that surrounded his life. Not only was he said to have had an entire forest chopped down because he found the rustling of leaves distracting to his composing, but he is also reputed to have killed his wife and her lover upon discovering their adultery. He tortured animals, subjected himself to regular whippings by his staff, suffered from depression, and had a witch for a mistress. 

So vivid is his music, however, that it is almost impossible to listen to without picturing the horrible death his wife met at his hands. Period costumes are juxtaposed with faeces in the hallway; violent screams vie with angelic voices, pain with pleasure, art with nature, science with superstition.The Renaissance is a new subject for De Warme Winkel, which is somewhat surprising given the collective’s fascination with the spirit of cultural awakening, their love of art, and the bizarre contrasts that arose in the period of transition from the Middle Ages to the modern era. Those contrasts and contradictions defined the zeitgeist: audiences were witness to radical happenings in the arts — poetry, literature, paintings rich with chiaroscuro — and in the lives of artists themselves. People like Gesualdo, Caravaggio and Torquato Tasso were as eccentric, impossible, and monstrous as human beings as they were brilliant as artists. 

The Netherlands Chamber Choir, for its part, considers Gesualdo an old friend, having performed the Italian composer’s work fairly regularly throughout its eighty-year history. Tido Visser, the choir’s managing director, is one of the most highly respected authorities on the composer’s life and works, and, as a singer, has recorded Gesualdo’s complete madrigals for the Globe label. It’s been a fervent wish of his to collaborate with De Warm Winkel with the aim of shedding new light on the phenomenon that is Gesualdo. Harry van der Kamp (preparation) is, in addition to being a former member of the Netherlands Chamber Choir, the founder of the renowned madrigal ensemble the Gesualdo Consort.

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biographies

De Warme Winkel is a theatre collective comprised of actors Vincent Rietveld, Mara van Vlijmen and Ward Weemhoff, and was founded in 2002. The group often collaborates with guest actors, directors, 

artists and musicians, and its members share a love of history and a fascination with our turbulent and polymorphic era. Their performances are energetic potpourris that see the actors play with style, shape, clichés, icons and expectations, and the group have staged productions in unusual locations and settings ranging from squats and thrift stores to regular theatre festival stages at home and abroad. De Warme Winkel seeks to shed light on the essence and beauty of its chosen subjects by means of playfulness, wit and tightly orchestrated tumult.  In 2017, the group staged its self-proclaimed magnum opus, De Warme Winkel speelt De Warme Winkel, in which the actors re-enacted Pina Bausch's choreography from Café Müller. It won them the Prijs van de Kritiek (an award bestowed by theatre critics) and the Regisprijs (an award for the most spectacular theatre performance of the season). De Warme Winkel premiered Gavrilo Princip at the 2014 edition of the Holland Festival, and staged Privacy in 2016 in collaboration with Wunderbaum, the actors’ ensemble. 

The Netherlands Chamber Choir was founded in 1937. In addition to its own concert series, the choir frequently collaborates with renowned ensembles such as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Asko | Schönberg, La Fenice and Le Concert Lorrain. They have released more than seventy-five recordings on CD, many of which have garnered awards. Peter Dijkstra has been the choir’s chief conductor since 2015. His predecessors include Felix de Nobel, the choir’s founder, Uwe Gronostay, Tõnu Kaljuste, Stephen Layton and Risto Joost. Education and participation is a vital part of the choir’s mission. The Netherlands has thousands of amateur choirs and numerous youth choirs, and the Netherlands Chamber Choir provides coaching and workshops, and “adopts” choirs as supporting acts for their concerts. The choir has been a regular guest at the festival since 1949. Recent festival performances include Spiral Mass (2014), The Book of Sand (2015) and Het nieuwe Babylon (2017).

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Credits

idea
Tido Visser, De Warme Winkel
concept,performance
Vincent Rietveld, Mara van Vlijmen, Ward Weemhoff, Florian Myjer, Marieke de Zwaan
vocals, performance
Nederlands Kamerkoor
costume
Bernadette Corstens
musical supervision
Bo Koek
technical production
Hans Peter Hulscher
production coördination
Carry Hendriks
production management
Joppe Kos
rehearsals
Harry van der Kamp
stage manager
Niels Runderkamp
design
Marloes and Wikke
sound
Will Jan Pielage
light
Prem Scholte Albers
light technician
Jeroen Veer
soundtechnic
Jannes Noorman
technical intern
Rutger Bouwman
choirproduction
Annelot Rijkaart
planning and sales
Marloes Marinussen
marketing and publicity
Pauline Hunse and Sanne van de Kraats
deskmanagement
Thomas VandeWalle
production
De Warme Winkel, Nederlands Kamerkoor
in co-production with
deSingel, Holland Festival
with support of
Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Stichting Zabawas

This performance was made possible with support by