With Dancing at the Palais, Ars Lyrica Opens Its New Season with a Feast for the Senses

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Ars Lyrica teams up with New York Baroque Dance Company to deliver a spectacular season opening performance

The audience in attendance at Zilkha Hall/Hobby Center for the Performing Arts for Ars Lyrica’s Dancing at the Palais was spellbound by the ensemble’s highly anticipated 2019/2020 season-opening performance. Played and danced to perfection, the concert presented instrumental suites from two of the Baroque period’s most colorful operas. Both were first performed at the Palais-Royal in Paris, which was created by Cardinal Richelieu and embodied the French monarchy’s commitment to music. Putting the steps to the music were the capable dancers of the New York Baroque Dance Company (NYBDC).

Ars Lyrica’s artistic director, Matthew Dirst, directed the full orchestra and accompanied on harpsichord. NYBDC’s artistic director, Catherine Turocy, choreographed the delicate dances. Turocy, a dancer and pioneer in historical choreography, technique, and movement, has directed several notable period productions throughout the United States and in Europe. She will return to Houston later in the season for Ars Lyrica’s production of Dido and Aeneas by Purcell. 

The featured suites were from the operas Hésione, by André Campra, and Les Indes galantes, by Jean-Philippe Rameau. During the entire program, Dirst held the audience in the palm of his hands while directing and playing. Attendees also thrilled to the sight of the lavishly costumed dancers and to their enactment of the reconstructed Guillaume-Louis Pécour’s choreography of Hésione and Turocy’s original choreography of Les Indes galantes.

Prior to the performance, Dirst, Turocy, and John S. Powell, Professor of Music at the University of Tulsa, who provided the score and orchestral parts from his edition of Hésione, engaged with the audience for a preconcert talk. Afterward, a VIP reception was held with the 2019/2020 season artists in attendance.

Ars Lyrica’s 2019/2020 season, entitled National Treasures, will feature six concerts that explore iconic moments in diverse European cultures. Its scope spans from 17th- century Venice to early 19th-century Madrid. The wide range of musical styles and genres are accompanied by dance, visual art, and dramatization and illuminate defining moments in French, Italian, English, German, and Spanish cultural history.

With its opening night spectacle, Ars Lyrica further fulfilled its mandate of bringing Baroque music played on period instruments to Houston. Aided by NYBDC, the ensemble also transported Houston’s music and dance lovers back to a time when this artform was all the rage for refined European ladies and gentlemen. Perhaps, too, if only for one night, those entranced by the scene felt like they were part of a golden moment from the past.

About Ars Lyrica Houston

Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston (ALH) presents a diverse array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments. Its local subscription series, according to the Houston Chronicle, “sets the agenda” for early music in Houston. The company also appears regularly at major festivals and conferences. ALH’s distinctive programming favors Baroque dramatic and chamber works, and its pioneering efforts have won international acclaim.

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