Mixing theatre and baroque music – Moliere in America.

Mixing theatre and baroque music – Moliere in America.

The whole idea started during a Pacific Baroque Orchestra concert few years ago when I had the chance to meet and become great friend with Michael Jarvis, the harpsichord player. I was part of the ensemble performing an artistic fencing choreography during the concert. The show went very well and we started to brainstorm about doing it again with more in depth approach: mixing theatrewith music from the 17th century. Molière (January 15, 1622 - February 17, 1673) is to the French as Shakespeare is to the English and is considered one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature. At his time, Moliere worked often with Luly, one of the most prominent musician of the Louis the XIV court. It was then a natural choice to choose this particular playwright with music performed on original instruments: two baroque violins, one viola da gamba, one violone and one harpsichord.

The whole idea was to bring the audience back to an old theatre in France in the 17th century. For that I was fortunate to happen to train in a historical fencing school, The Academie Duello. A great chat with Devon Boorman, its founder, lead to have access to its beautiful armory, a vast brick wall space, with swords hung on the wall right downtown Vancouver.

In choosing Sganarelle, or the imaginary Cuckold for the play, we opted for the play the most performed during Moliere’s life. The story revolved around Sganarelle, his neighbors and his wife. Gorgibus wants his daughter, Celie, to marry a rich man, Valere, instead of Lelie, whom she loves. Celie, lamenting this turn of events while her beloved is away, faints. Her maid catches her and calls out for help. Sganarelle, who happens to be passing, runs over to hold Celie while her maid runs for aid. Sganarelle's wife, however, sees him holding Celie and suspects the worst. She finds a portrait of Lelie, dropped by Celie when she fainted, and admires his good looks. Sganarelle returns and sees his wife gazing at the portrait, and he too suspects an affair. They argue and run off just as Lelie arrives home, after hearing rumors of Celie's wedding plans. 

What an amazing feeling when we started hearing the musicians rehearsing few days before the premiere, yes we were back to the 17th century!

The show opened with a baroque music concert in the first part and after the intermission the atmosphere went full blast into comedy mode watching the actors going crazy with the ups and down of rumors of adultery and quiproquo so famous in any play by Moliere.

The after show gathered cast, crew and spectator in a wine and cheese. 

After this great success, the show is the development mode to be performed in Los Angeles.

Editor-in-chief and founder of the Frenchman Mag.