Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 22: Carmina Burana

My husband and I experienced a performance of "Carmina Burana" performed by the USM Concert Band and Chorus in Portland this afternoon--the perfect way to spend a rainy Earth Day. This stirring piece of music was composed by Carl Orff in the 1930s, based on a set of 13th century secular German poems collected in 1847 by Johann Andreas Schmeller (according to my program)--a veritable palimpsest of artistic traditions.
While I was familiar with the intro piece (O Fortuna) from its use in a significant scene in one of my favorite movies, "Excalibur," I had no idea that that was just a small part of a 25-part cantata focused on the lusty energies of spring, eating and drinking in a tavern, and, well, sex. Apparently those 13th century poems were written by defrocked monks.
Our enjoyment was enhanced by a translation included in the program, which helped us figure out that the tenor soloist's only part was a song about being a roasted swan about to be eaten. He had a beautiful voice--as did all three soloists--so this seemed a bit unfair, but perhaps singing the part of the cooked swan in "Carmina Burana" is considered a plum role in the voice performance world.
Spring's glory rides in
on percussion crescendos,
a chorus of love.

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