If you missed the performance of “Carmina Burana,” you missed a unique musical treat. I took in the performance at the Casella Theater at Castleton University on April 30. This is one of my all-time favorite choral works and this performance did not disappoint. The Castleton Unversity Chorale, Rutland Area Chorus, Cimonetti Treble Ensemble of Mill River and accompanists hit every note, cadence, pause and pitch just right, to my ears.
Indeed, the Saturday performance received a standing ovation. Composed in 1936 by Carl Orff, “Carmina Burana” is challenging piece, with wildly varying rhythms, tongue-twisting lyrics, lavish use of percussion, and visceral intensity. The choruses navigated the libretto without missing a beat, shifting between secular Latin, Middle High German and Old French. Even without knowing those languages, listeners could perceive the changes in scene and mood.
The tavern scene includes a roast goose being served on a platter, interpreted with aplomb by tenor Jackson Aubuchon, who delivers the goose’s lament a cappella in falsetto register.
The work is an adaptation of medieval texts (loosely) translated as “Carmina burana: profane songs sung by soloists and chorus accompanied by instruments and also magical images.”
The opening theme is the fickleness of fate, represented by the Wheel of Fortune that endlessly rotates between pleasure and suffering and, in medieval secular belief, rules all existence on the earthly plane.
The selections then move on to springtime when the Earth comes alive once more and the lust for life is reborn. Rollicking drinking songs in the tavern relieve the sorrows all people have in common. The mating season commences, with desire and disappointment together; all Deadly Sins are cast aside; the court of love celebrates sweet surrender. The collection wraps with a tribute to Venus and returns to the full-throated opening theme in “O Fortuna,”
Julia Purdy, Rutland