Schwetzinger Zeitung, Montag 27. September 2004

Fascinating Dance Theatre from the Court of Louis XIV, the Sun King

TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO with "The Tromba Marina Virtuoso" at the Mozartfest Schwetzingen

Thilo Hirsch and his TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO performed the most exquisite Baroque dance theater last week at the Rokokotheater Schwetzingen (Hirsch is the founder of the group, and appeared in the title role of Jean-Baptiste Prin) […..]. Under the imaginative direction of Hirsch, the tragicomic story of the only known trumpet marine virtuoso J.-B. Prin (1668-1743) is presented […..]. Hirsch’s acting was superb as he explained the construction and sound of the trumpet marine. The characteristic feature of the tromba marina (played in masterly fashion by Hirsch) are the resonance strings at the inside of the instrument’s body. […..] Smooth performances of Harlequin, Harlequina and Pantalone in a Commedia dell’Arte Scene. The story gained intensity in a gloomy prison scene danced by torturers and Zanni in the Bastille. After Prin’s forced exile in the West Indies, one of the evening’s dancing highlights was the scene on the ship –the successful struggle of the sailors with the wild storm was shown with acrobatic jumps and artful pantomime. At the end of his trip, Prin arrives in the jungle where he meets African slaves and identifies in their "Ungurungu" the origins of the trumpet marine. The evening convincingly ends with a dance dialogue between the cultures (music: J.Ph. Rameau). With inventive choreography, props, and imaginative costumes, TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO took the audience along on a journey to bygone times. An unforgettable tribute to the tromba marina.

Basler Zeitung, Dienstag 17. August 2004

Baroque Rapture

Delightful: The Dance Theatre Production „The Trumpet Marine Virtuoso" by TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO (Basel)

TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO presented the busy life of a baroque musician: Jean-Baptiste Prin (1669-1743) was promoted by his father to become the only known virtuoso on the "Trompette marine", this curious string instrument whose sound is produced using flageolet technique on a single long string that runs over a vibration bridge – a sound resembling that of a muted trumpet. Prin’s playing on this instrument appears to have been so masterful that his career took him all the way to the court of the sun god Louis XIV. However, after years of slander and defamation Prin was forced into exile in Mexico.

The flavor of a comedy

For years, TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO (directed by Thilo Hirsch) has been a master of its trade in reviving ancient musical times with sensuous and colorful productions. Their latest piece once again is delightful musical theatre. No doubt, the educational aspects of the production were intentional, but these were neatly woven into the skilfully constructed monologue (screenplay: Christopher Zimmer and Thilo Hirsch). When we were given a stilted courtly introduction to the complexities of the art of Baroque dance; when the panic-stricken Prin, fearing punishment and torture, recites the whole store of knowledge of the time; or when we were explained various baroque torture methods or the political situation in Mexico - the flavor always remained that of a comedy, cleverly connecting the individual scenes.
          Even the somewhat risky final scene was convincing: Here Prin’s encounter with dancing African slaves is presented as the birth of multiculturalism.
          Of course, as in any baroque music theatre there was the inevitable storm scene, an idyllic moon-and-stars ballet, a wonderful "theatre within the theatre" scene of a commedia dell’arte rehearsal (the performance of which brings out the opposite of the result intended by the jealous director), and even a magnificent courtly dance by the sungod himself, ritualised all the way to the trembling of the fingers. The performance of the dancers was elegant, strong, and deeply touching to the present-day audience.

Dramatic Music
In addition to a "Concert pour la Trompette marine" by Prin himself, music by the Baroque masters was played, including Lully, Marais, Forqueray, and of course Jean-Philippe Rameau. A perfect match in this setting, Rameau’s music is always dramatic, and carried the musicians and, thereby, the audience to a state of Baroque rapture.

David Wohnlich

Schwetzinger Woche, Donnerstag 30. September 2004

Der Meerestrompettist

[.....] The dance group (Barbara Leitherer, Irene Pedrotti, Dietmar Vonwiller and, in particular, Bernd Niedecken), stylistically hit a golden, Baroque home run. […..] The Baroque orchestra played music that complemented the action on stage, composed by Marais, Lully, Prin, Rameau and Forqueray. The musicians were superb, and were able to display their incisive qualities and clear sound in a wide range of situations: in lyrical soloist passages and classical dance pieces of the time, and also in full dynamic orchestral interventions "with trumpets and drums" and the dramatic concluding dance of the African slaves. The marvellous costumes were made by Gigliola Vinci und Clara Sarti (La Scala/Milan) […..]. Overall, it was a precious jewel of a performance which the audience acknowledged with a hurricane of long lasting applause.


Fränkischer Tag, Mittwoch, 29. September 2004

Baroque Dance Art

TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO from Basel at the Schwetzinger Rokokotheater

"TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO" is a traveling theater, which for years now has been been performing at nothing but the most beautiful historic theaters of Germany. […..].
          Thilo Hirsch, the group’s director and tromba marina player, never misses an opportunity to give the evening the flavor of a comedy, but always managing a convincing balance between historical fact and entertainment. The dancing king: unbelievably beautiful costume and choreography (Barbara Leitherer, dance teacher at the Schola Cantorum)[.....]. Special word of praise for the imaginative and ever changing costumes, but particular praise for a fantastic ensemble of musicians who played historic percussion instruments, violins, bassoon, harpsichord, theorba, viola da gamba, and recorder on a magnificent level – nothing unusual perhaps for musicians coming from the capital of old music with its Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.

W. S.

Orpheus Oper International 11/2003 

Gotha/Ekhof Festival– A Win with Telemann

... Completely satisfying was the performance of "Don Quixote." The young Baroque theater ensemble TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO from Basel created an imaginative, colorful stage spectacle. Telemann’s opera, supplemented by several dances, was scenically so imaginatively and lovingly presented that it was a joy to behold. Musically, too, the performance was a delight. All the participants, some of them singing and dancing several roles, performed under the direction of Thilo Hirsch with perceptible vitality and a joy that was infectious.

Karin Coper

Sonntag-Aktuell (Ulm), 16 September 2001

Magical playing and dancing, sonorous singing, historical instruments, splendid Baroque costumes: 

...With the seldom-performed "comic chamber-ballet opera" by G. Ph. Telemann, the ensemble TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO from Basel provided a magical, much-applauded finale to the Sebastian Sailer Days. In the sold-out Mirror Hall of Obermarchtal Monastery, they offered a real eye catcher and plenty of Baroque.... Specialists in Baroque and Renaissance music, it is hardly surprising that with their splendid voices and pantomimic, theatrical pizzazz the members of the ensemble were able to find exactly the right approach for Telemann’s music. Tumultuous applause.

Christa Kanand

Basler Zeitung, 21 August 2001

A huge crowd on the weekend at the premiere of the comic chamber-ballet opera "Don Quixote, the Knight of the Lion" by Georg Ph. Telemann in the English Department of the University. 

...The chamber-music, dance-theater ensemble "TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO" carried the festive audience away to a baroque world full of adventure and beset with mental torments. To come right to the point: A marvelous production by Thilo Hirsch, full of magic, grace, and humor. A charming, imaginative, witty summer delight.

Christa Mosimann

Basler Zeitung, Monday, 26 October 1998

Amorous Dance Entanglements

If music be the food of love, then "TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO", a Baroque chamber-music/ dance-theater ensemble, had the right recipe on Friday evening to whet the audience's appetite. Under the title "If music be the food of love" or "Amorous Delight and Viol Tricks", the Baroque piece presented on the stage of the Marionette Theater on Münsterplatz dove into the magic of the golden age between the Renaissance and the Classical period. Where marionettes usually spin their threads, historically costumed actor-musicians revealed the broad spectrum of all the fine arts with their intricate-enchanting scenes. These were framed by romantic sounds from the pen of Henry Purcell through Claudio Monteverdi to the highly ornamented compositions of Michel Pignolet de Monteclair. What visibly opened the hearts of the audience, and came to their ears in pure, clearly defined intonation, and polished vocal refinements, overcame "Fileno" (Thilo Hirsch, tenor) and "Lilla" (Araceli Fernandez, soprano) - during an amorous tête-à-têtè - like golden rain. Yet the brazen "Colombina" (Barbara Leitherer, soprano/dance) attempts to foil the dalliance, with its interludes in commedia dell'arte style, so that the steadfast nobleman, with his true love in mind, remains obstinate and erect in his "culottes." An allegorical hurly-burly in the entanglements of love, hate, and vengefulness comes about, scenes full of black humor at which one can grin or even laugh loudly.
        A dazzling piece of pure theater that - under the direction of Thilo Hirsch and with the refined sounds of the viola da gamba and lute, played by Agileu Motta - was literally chock-full of scintillating dance, pantomime, and vocal treasures.

Eva-Maria von Sauer

Thüringer Allgemeine, 30 July 1999


Baroque Pleasure with "TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO" at the Ekhof Festival Gotha in Schloss Friedenstein provides a wonderful ambience for the small theater troop from Basel that is making a guest appearance here under the auspices of the Ekhof Festival. Behind the title "If music be the food of love" or "Amorous Delight and Viol Tricks," it is easy to recognize Master Shakespeare. If music be the food of love, there is no skimping here. The actors of "TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO," five young musicians who are entirely at home in dance and singing, have dedicated themselves to the music of the Renaissance and the Baroque. The timbre of the historical instruments create in the musical citations from distant centuries an idea of the magic of these epochs of art. It is fascinating how well Molière and Shakespeare get on together, and how well the music of Monteverdi corresponds to that of Purcell or Monteclair, sometimes harmonically flirting, sometimes providing interesting contrasts. Smooth transitions are provided for by that busy master of ceremonies Arlecchino, who makes it hot not only for his Colombina. The Baroque chamber-music/dance-theater ensemble takes the theme "Amorous Delight and Viol Tricks" quite literally, arranging scenes and musical citations into an exciting collage. The whole is a loose weave of hovering narrative threads, with a dusting of Italian humor as well as smoking-pistol "English humour." Passionate "Dialoghi amorosi," held in check by Cupid's arrow, bring good spirits to both players and audience.
        The timbre of the historical instruments and the vitality of the commedia dell'arte form an artistic symbiosis with the enchanting scenery, which does not fail to make an effect.

Lilo Plaschke

Schwäbische Zeitung, Friday, 23 July 1999

Ulm Summer Music Days / A Shot from the Gamba 

NEU-ULM - Munich native Thilo Hirsch, who enjoyed a rounded musical education, had an idea in 1996: He founded the ensemble "TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO" with the goal of performing Renaissance and Baroque music in its original sense of a "theatrical entertainment". Peter Bücheler discovered the illustrious ensemble in Basel, and immediately engaged it for the 25th Ulm Summer Music Days. In Edwin Scharff House in Neu-Ulm they presented "If music be the food of love" (Amorous Delight and Viol Tricks), a Baroque chamber-music dance-theater, to an enthusiastic audience. Even the use of historical instruments such as the viola da gamba, chitarrone, and lute for the performance of music by Monteverdi, Caccini, and Purcell up to that of Michel Pignolet de Monteclair offered great pleasure. But the framework in which this time-honored music was presented provided the evening's fascination. In the footsteps of commedia dell'arte, texts by Molière and scenes by Shakespeare were performed in conjunction with song, dance, and fascinating instrumental contributions.
        Three backdrops mounted on large frames, opened one after the other, show the respective scene of action. Custom-made, contemporary costumes, accurate to the last detail, created the requisite atmosphere for the four scenes. Already the first piece, "Ghirlande amorose," put the audience in a good mood. Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream was the background for the second scene, which was just as successful as the third, based on the theme of "English humour," with music by Thomas Ford and Tobias Hume. The playing of the reconciled pair, Captain Hume and Mrs. Hume, was splendid. The latter had shortly before shot her rival, namely with a viola da gamba. Sitting behind her, it soon becomes obvious who calls the tunes here.
        The last scene is entitled "Fête Champestre." The enchanting introduction with music by Marais and Monteclair, to which the shepherdess Lisette plays and dances a sarabande ("Les folies d'Espagne"), is followed by pitch-black drama. Enthusiastic and well-deserved applause for the visitors from Basel.

Barbara Percovac

BADISCHE ZEITUNG, 25 September 1998

„TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO": The burlesque, turbulent side of the Baroque

That the musical epoch of the Baroque also had a burlesque, turbulent, entertaining, and theatrically effective side was shown on Saturday evening in Weil's Old Town Hall by "TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO," which was founded in 1996 by Thilo Hirsch.
        In the first scene, "Ghirlande amorose," it quickly became clear: It did not have to do with deep, existential feelings. The fundamental attitude was that of light, playful virtuosity. Fileno disguised himself as Vespone, became involved in a brilliant vocal duel with Lilla (Araceli Fernandez), which then - as Fileno revealed his identity - evolved into an elaborate duet with much ornamentation. There was not much to the apparently so deeply felt love, for Fileno willingly lets himself be ensnared by Colombina (Barbara Leitherer) with song and dance. 
The heart of the performance was formed by the two scenes, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "English humour," based on Shakespeare. Here, too, turbulent about turns, mirages, and aberrations: First, a vision, to which Motta provides the congenial accompaniment with sparkling, meditative runs, then Hume's real courtship of Molly, who is ultimately felled by the Captain's wife with a pistol shot. Here the actors show their extraordinary, versatile abilities most impressively: While Thilo Hirsch plays a gamba duet with Barbara Leitherer, he woos the soprano playing the role of Molly with his song. And after her apparent death, an even more unusual duet: Hirsch and Leitherer play four-handed on one gamba.
        Something that hoped to be successful at princely courts had to include excursions into all genres: The last scene therefore combined idyll and horror romantic in the story of the shepherdess and dancer Lisette (Barbara Leitherer). The audience honored the performance with enthusiastic applause.


Volksstimme Sissach, 16 Juni 1998

"TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO" - high standard

On Sunday afternoon in Liestal's "Palazzo," the young ensemble "TEATRO ARCIMBOLDO" abducted its audience into another world for almost two hours. Music of the Renaissance and early Baroque was offered under the title "If music be the food of love" as "Baroque chamber-music dance-theater." A distinctly original idea by the ensemble's founder and director Thilo Hirsch.
        In four scenes, the magic of that earlier time unfolded in the unanimity of representation, song, and music in the gay opalescence of the costumes. The music of Monteverdi, Caccini, Purcell, Sances, and others was combined collage-like with texts by Molière and Shakespeare, and could develop to best advantage in the play of love's heartache and joy.
        Special attention has to be called to the high artistic standard of all the ensemble members, beginning with the excellent gambist and tenor Thilo Hirsch, who masters the "cantar alla viola," and his partner Araceli Fernandez, whose clear soprano voice has a rich spectrum of colors at its disposal, and whose Baroque gestures were a joy to behold. Amazing were the abilities of Barbara Leitherer in expressive gamba playing and light-footed historical dance. Reliably active in the background was Agileu Motta with sonorous lute and chitarrone. Dancing and singing, all four also joined together in polyphonic song.
        The whole is an exquisite treasure, not only for connoisseurs, that conveys, even into details, a taste of that Baroque joy of living that can gild everyday life.


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