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BWW Reviews: White-Hot Antonacci Captivates White Light Festival with ERA LA NOTTE at Lincoln Center

Live from New York, it's soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci! Lucky for us. Antonacci is considered one of those distinctive, uncategorizable singers who show up every once in a while to excite and inspire us, but never quite find the broader acceptance they deserve. Thus, she doesn't sing at the Met and we have to hold on until performances like "Era la Notte," which was on display twice last week at Lincoln Center's White Light Festival. To say she captivated the audience would be an understatement.

Masters of the early Italian Baroque

"Era La Notte" is a performance piece created by Antonacci and director Juliette Deschamps, culled from music by early Italian Baroque composers: Giramo´s Lamento della Pazza, Monteverdi´s Lamento d'Arianna, Strozzi´s Lamento and, finally, Monteverdi´s Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. (Transitional music is by Marini.)

You can tell by the names of these songs that this is not a light-hearted evening. This is not the Baroque of trills and thrills, but one of lament-filled texts that call for (that overused term!) a "singing actress," with the emphasis on "actress," to bring them to life.

Every nuance of the characters

Antonacci has been doing this piece for going on 10 years and she knows every corner of the music. This is not singing that astounds with its beauty (in this music, anyway), but chills with its remarkable understanding of every nuance of the characters. Indeed, her nano-insights into the music are key to the great success of the evening--which lasts just over an hour but provides audiences with a sumptuous feast to chew upon. No one goes home hungry.

It begins with a mad scene from Giramo that makes Donizetti's Lucia seem lucid. The fragment of Monteverdi's Arianna--whose lover has left her sola, perduta, abbandonata--is filled with incredible sadness. Antonacci switches gender for the Strozzi, where she portrays a man angered by his lover's disinterest.

Antonacci pulls out all the stops

Finally, the soprano plays all the parts in Il Combattimento, from Monteverdi's Eighth Book of Madrigals, a story of a Christian knight who accidentally kills his lover. Antonacci pulls out all the stops in this 18-minute monodrama about the downside of love, collapsing at the end in a pool of water, as the backdrop curtain of candles is doused (the scenic and lighting design and costumes by Cecile Degos, Dominique Bruguiere and Christian Lacroix, respectively, brought distinctive work that felt just right with the music.) The instrumental soloists of Les Siècles provided memorable accompaniment for Antonacci.

Looking back, I might have wished for a few lighter moments to break the unabiding sadness, but I guess the characters portrayed don't have much to smile about. Gazing out into the Rose Theatre, it was clear that the audience surely did.

Hey, Mr. Gelb, how about bringing her to the Met? Maybe "Era La Notte" as part of a triptych with Poulenc's LA VOIX HUMAINE and Schoenberg's ERWARTUNG? (Okay, I'd settle for two.)


Photo: Anna Caterina Antonacci in Monteverdi's Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda.

Photo credit: LoLL WILLEMS (

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From This Author Richard Sasanow