Los Angeles Music Preview: LAGRIME DI SAN PIETRO [TEARS OF ST. PETER] (Los Angeles Master Chorale at Walt Disney Concert Hall)

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by Tony Frankel on October 26, 2016

in Theater-Los Angeles


Orlande de Lassus, Europe’s most famous musician during his lifetime, created nothing finer than the Lagrime di San Pietro, (Tears of St. Peter) a collection of twenty spiritual madrigals and one motet. A cycle of intense reflections on the sorrows of St Peter following his denial of Christ, it was assembled shortly before the composer’s death in 1594 and dedicated to Pope Clement VIII. Into this collection, Lassus pours every dramatic nuance and piece of harmonic invention he could possibly muster, hurling the listener through the stages of Peter’s rage, remorse and resignation, and concluding with a motet that presents Christ’s response to the world.


Under the leadership of Grant Gershon, the Los Angeles Master Chorale is presenting this Renaissance masterpiece for two performances only, Oct. 29 and 30, 2016 at Disney Hall. But don’t expect stationary singers. World-renowned director of film, theater and opera Peter Sellars will be directing this emotionally powerful evening. It’s his very first a cappella staging and his most personal work to date.


Lagrime has one foot in this world and one foot in the next world—it’s music written by somebody who is in pain,” says Sellars. “It shares the giant discovery of lighting in Renaissance painting that was echoed in poetry and music: this understanding that light and darkness are deeply intertwined in God’s creation and are necessary for each other. Taken together, they create chiaroscuro. That’s how we perceive depth.”


It’s thoroughly exciting that 21 LAMC singers will transform this 60-minute palpable work into an overwhelmingly passionate performance piece. But remember that this chorale is recognized as one of the best worldwide; even if they stood still I’d be happy. What makes Gershon so special is that he’s got a fantastic feeling of sonority, sound, and rhythm. He always chooses the right voices, who always sing in their best range and timbre; they always have a balanced approach, without cheap effects or superficial emotions.


For this staging, Gershon and Sellars decided to perform with three singers on a part (hence the ensemble of 21). “We wanted the size of the ensemble to balance the need for clarity and transparency of the individual voices with the idea of this also being a community coming together,” explains Gershon. “We also talked about keeping a real simplicity to the whole look and feel, without any set or props or extra performers. Peter’s work with the singers would be complemented by Jim Ingalls’ lighting and some chairs onstage; the wardrobe is basically shades of grey — clothes that look like they could come out of anyone’s closet.”


The main reason for the dramatic staging here is that it will heighten the emotion of an already affecting, impassioned, poignant piece.

Here is a a behind-the-scenes peek at the first staging rehearsal:

Here is Peter Sellars chatting about his approach to Lagrime di San Pietro with the congregation of the All Saints Pasadena on Sunday, October 9:

rehearsal photos by Tao Ruspoli

Lagrime di San Pietro (Tears of St. Peter)
Grant Gershon, conductor
Peter Sellars, director
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Saturday October 29, 2016 at 8
Sunday October 30, 2016 at 7
for tickets, call 213.972.7282 or visit LAMC

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