By Robert D. Thomas
Southern California News Group
Any doubts as to the power and importance of the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s presentation of Orlando Di Lasso’s Lagrime di San Pietro (Tears of St. Peter) were certainly laid to rest this weekend at Walt Disney Concert Hall (I heard the Sunday evening performance).
Conducted by Grant Gershon, directed by Peter Sellars, with sensitive lighting by James F. Ingalls and costumes by Daniele Dominique Sumi, the LAMC’s offering of this Renaissance-era work has become one of the most important pieces that the ensemble has presented in its 53-year history.
That renown figures to increase substantially during the next couple of years when the MC takes the production on the road around the world, beginning this June at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival and then in 2019 in London and Paris (with other sites to be announced).
The physical production is part of the unique aspect of this presentation. There was no seating in the balconies or the bench seats, so the crowd numbered at perhaps 1,300. The floor was flat and there were 21 chairs (12 on the right and 9 on the left) for the production’s singers and actors during the last 10% of the performance.
Di Lasso originally set the work for seven voices but Gershon decided that seven voices wouldn’t carry throughout the hall. The ensemble’s size proved highly appropriate. Of the 21 singers two years ago, 17 were in the hall again last night, along with four newcomers. The costumes were street-people accurate and everyone, including Gershon, were in bare feet.
The piece, using a text by Renaissance poet Luigi Tansillo, was set in 20 madrigals and a Latin motet and refers to the St. Peter’s three-time renunciation of Jesus Christ. The music itself is gripping but Sellars’ production adds an additional element to the story and the music. He also acknowledged the glory of Disney as a performing space, calling it “a magical, beautiful place,” although, one wonders how well the production will translate to future halls and/or outdoor spaces on tour.
The Chorale members, who memorized nearly of the music and all of the staging, sang beautifully as an ensemble and sustained the tension of the drama superbly. Gershon moved around the singers as he conducted and made highly effective use of silences in between the movements. Projected English translations enabled everyone to follow the flow easily and the 85 minutes sped by with astonishing and rapid fluidity. It was a memorable evening.
(c) Copyright 2018, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.