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Brokeback Mountain, the Opera

Missa sopra "Ecco sì beato giorno" in cinque corri divisa

* Notes *
Alessandro Striggio's Missa sopra "Ecco sì beato giorno" in cinque corri divisa had its American premiere this evening at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley. The evening began with His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts playing three pieces from 1618 by Giovanni Battista Grillo (c.1565?-1622): Canzon Quarta, Canzon in Ecco, and Sonata Prima. These were interspersed with Toccata Cleopatra a8 and Toccata Athalanta a8 by Aurelio Bonelli (c.1569-1620) and Canzon Sol Sol La Sol Fa Mi, a8 (1608) by Giovanni Gabrieli (c.1559-1612), all of these played by two organs and two harpsichords. The latter had a sing-song children's chant quality that was both eerie and charming.

Davitt Moroney found Striggio's Great Mass at La Bibliothèque nationale de France in 2005, as it only listed in the library's catalogue without a title, being for four voices, and written the composer "A. Strusco." The piece is actually for 40 and 60 voices, that is, five choirs of 8 people, and augmented by 4 people per choir for the Agnus Dei 2. Moroney added a plainchant Pater noster before the Agnus Dei, and a plainchant Ite missa est/Deo gratias after.

The piece is lovely, it starts off with a glass-like clarity and proceeds to become more and more liquid, dissolving into waves of sound. Moroney used five different ensembles for his singers: Magnificat, Philharmonia Chorale, the American Bach Soloists, Schola Cantorum San Francisco, and Perfect Fifth. The choirs were arranged in a semi-circle, clumped by ensemble, with the contrabass sackbutt, violone, organs, and harpsichords in the middle, and the rest of the sackbutts and cornetts lined up at the back. The balance of sound was fine, everyone was remarkably together. The intoners, tenor Edward Betts and baritone Jeffrey Fields were both strong.

* Tattling *
The Berkeley Festival & Exhibition Web site lists both performances of Striggio as sold-out, but there were a few tickets left. Every seat did look taken, and the audience was exceedingly well-behaved. There were some whispers and a few scattered coughs.

Bloggers Jennifer Young (Sonnenatmenden Erde) and Celeste Winant (Choralista) were both on stage singing.

At the end the applause was very enthusiastic, people stamped their feet, and synchronized clapping even emerged. The encore was the Agnus Dei 2.