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by Timothy Robson

LD BannerThrough a combination of scheduling conflicts and the sin of sloth, I had never heard a performance by the highly regarded Cleveland Baroque ensemble Les Délices until Sunday afternoon May 4, in the Herr Chapel at Plymouth Church, Shaker Heights. Les Délices are artists in residence at the church, so this was home base, although they regularly perform in other venues around town. The evening before they had presented this program, “The Leading Man,” at the William Busta Gallery. These concerts ended their 2014/15 series, and the Sunday afternoon concert was, with a couple of niggling reservations – more about them later – an unalloyed pleasure.

Boston-based tenor Jason McStoots was the featured soloist in a program of excerpts from 18th century French operas (all written in the span of four years from 1745-1748), with an added set from Jean-Baptiste Lully’s 1684 opera Amadis. Each set included one or two vocal selections, plus instrumental movements to put the airs and recitatives into context. Oboist Deborah Nagy, leader of Les Délices, gave remarks about the operas and music preceding each set to the nearly-full house. Read the rest of this entry »


by Mike Telin

McStoots-Jason-BEMF-OrfeoInspired by one of the 18th century’s most famous tenors, Pierre Jélyotte, Les Délices’s new program The Leading Man includes operatic excerpts of musical heroism, absurdist comedy, and ravishing beautythat were central to Jélyotte’s repertoire. In her program notes, Les Délices’s founder and director Debra Nagy writes: “Jelyotte appears to have cultivated nothing but admirers. [His] contemporaries remarked on his range, volume, and the velveteen beauty of his tone.He had only to sing, and those who listened were intoxicated. All the women went mad.

On Saturday, May 3, beginning at 8:00 pm at William Busta Gallery and in Herr Chapel at Plymouth Church on Sunday, May 4 beginning at 4:00pm (a pre-concert lecture by Dr. Georgia Cowart begins at 3pm), Les Délices performs a program of operatic excerpts by Lully, Boismortier, Leclair, and Rameau. The concerts features the unique voice and dynamic stage presence of tenor Jason McStoots.

“I’ve wanted to do a program that features a tenor for some time,” Debra Nagy told us by telephone. “In particular I wanted to focus this program with Jason on the career of Jélyotte because Jason is also a fabulous comic actor. He has a very expressive face. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Les-Delices-3Les Délices, the Cleveland early music ensemble that devotes itself to resurrecting treasures from the French Baroque, designed its mid-winter program, Conversations galantes, around the idea of musical conversation as that social art was practiced in the salons of eighteenth-century Paris.

Alas, there were fewer voices in last weekend’s discussions than originally planned. Nagy had lined up a program of quartets, but a sudden illness reduced the group to oboe, violin and harpsichord and the playlist had to be changed accordingly. Happily, the repartée in the altered program was probably no less eloquent. In music by Rameau, Leclair, François Couperin and Forqueret, Debra Nagy, Julie Andrijeski and Michael Sponseller provided plenty of engaging wit and delicious colloquy to delight the audience at Tregoning & Co. gallery on Saturday evening.

The hour-long program began and ended with all hands on deck. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hautzinger

Les-Delices-3The salons of eighteenth century Paris sparkled with witty repartee, political argument, fashionable taste-making, and philosophical deliberation. The rigid hierarchy of the French court disappeared as ranks and genders mingled in exquisite conversation. On Saturday, February 1 at 8:00 pm at Tregoning & Co. Gallery in Cleveland and on Sunday, February 2 at 4:00 pm in Herr Chapel at Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights, French Baroque specialists Les Délices will recreate that environment with their program Conversations Galantes.

Conversations galantes is the idea of intellectual exchange that happens within the salon,” oboist and Les Délices director Debra Nagy said during a recent telephone conversation. “We’re featuring some of the earliest French quartet repertory, which is based on that idea of conversation, where all the voices are equal and contribute to what’s happening melodically.”

The title of the program comes from a 1743 collection of quartets by Louis-Gabriel Guillemain, some of which will be performed. Read the rest of this entry »

by Nicholas Jones

Les-Delices-Woman-Scorned-BustaAnger, murder, guilt, and recrimination! The last episode of Breaking Bad? No: this was the opening concert of the season for Les Délices, the remarkable Cleveland-based chamber group specializing in music of the French baroque.

The program, “A Woman Scorned,” featured lurid stories of betrayal and revenge involving five of the great women characters of classical myth. These were stories that the court of Louis XIV loved, apparently seeing them as safe ways in which to rehash their own tortuous infidelities: Juno, the goddess jealous of her philandering husband Jove; Phaedra, driven mad by passion for her stepson; Armida, sorceress and seductress; Circe, who turned men to beasts; and Medea, sorceress and lover—passed over by Jason for a younger woman, she proceeds to poison her rival and then murder her own children in order to drive her ex to kill himself.

Not material for the faint-hearted. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Les-Delices-3For the past four years Les Délices have presented well-researched, thought-provoking and highly entertaining programs that explore music and themes of the French Baroque. Their concerts are performed in intimate settings that create an atmosphere similar to that in which this music was intended to be enjoyed.

This weekend Les Délices begins their Fifth Anniversary season with Woman Scorned, a program of wild, descriptive music depicting sorceresses and temptresses that explores universal themes of desire, jealousy, shame, and revenge by giving voice to the spurned lovers of antiquity. The program also includes two works never before heard in Ohio.

In addition to Les Délice’s regulars, baroque oboist Debra Nagy, baroque violinist Julie Andrijeski, viola da gambist Emily Walhout and harpsichordist Michael Sponseller, Woman Scorned also features renowned, Chicago-based mezzo-soprano Angela Young Smucker.

Les Délice’s founder and artistic director Debra Nagy says the program exalts in wild, passionate music portraying characters such as Circé, Phèdre, Armide, and Medea while contemplating the somewhat misogynist portrayals of the women in these works that is – in some cases – far removed from their classical origins. Read the rest of this entry »

by Nicholas Jones

Les-Delices2As I write this, Ohio seems to be stuck in an endless winter of discontent. But the ungiving weather was more than a little mollified by the warm elegance and sprightly eccentricity of this weekend’s seasonal program by Les Délices. The group, founded and directed by baroque oboist Debra Nagy, is now completing its fourth season, and specializes in the music of the French Baroque.

The centerpiece of the program was a substantial cantata titled L’Hyver (Winter), one of a cycle of four cantatas on the seasons by the early-18th-century composer Joseph Bodin de Boismortier. With appropriate Baroque word-painting, Boismortier depicts winter’s horrors—bare trees, mountain storms, and frost-stricken buds—then shifts to winter’s pleasures—dances, feasts, and plays. Winter’s destructive fury turns out to be a foil to the delights of a Parisian salon, well heated and well stocked with wine and music.

The presiding muse of those delights was the masterful soprano Clara Rottsolk, who was featured on Les Délices’ recent CD, Myths and Allegories. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Miller-TobieIf you have been thinking that you wish you could find a concert featuring the hurdy-gurdy, this is your lucky weekend. And leave it to the always creative Les Délices to provide you with that weekend. On Saturday, April 20, beginning at 8 pm in William Busta Gallery and Sunday, April 21, beginning at 4 pm in Herr Chapel at Plymouth Church, Les Délices presents Four Seasons. The concerts feature master hurdy-gurdy player Tobie Miller in performances of Vivaldi’s famous violin concertos Printemps/Spring and l’Automne/Fall in eighteenth century arrangements for hurdy-gurdy and chamber ensemble by Nicholas Chedeville. The concerts also include music of Charles Buterne and Joseph Bodin de Boismortier.

Tobie Miller grew up in a family of classical musicians. After studies in Early Music Performance at McGill University, she moved to Basel to pursue postgraduate studies at the prestigious Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. Miller was the recipient of a further grant from the Canada Council in 2011-2012 for her work on the baroque hurdy-gurdy and transcriptions of J.S. Bach’s solo cello and violin repertoire for that instrument. Currently dividing her time between Basel and Montreal, Miller continues to perform and record with many ensembles on both continents. We reached Tobie Miller by telephone and began by asking her how she first came to the hurdy-gurdy. Read the rest of this entry »

by Nicholas Jones

Shaw-NorthThe second of Les Délices’s offerings for this, its fourth season, gave its audience a Valentine’s Day treat (a couple of days late), replete with musical confections, kisses, sentiment, and…ah, je ne sais quoi!

Love, usually thought of in reference to a couple, became here a matter of the four players, sometimes flirting, sometimes fierce, sometimes laughing, sometimes in earnest, but clearly bound to each other in the bonds of the music. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

OurBlueWaterLogo politicians could learn a lot about working together from three of Cleveland’s musical groups. The Cleveland Classical Guitar Society is joining with BlueWater Chamber Orchestra and Les Délices to present joint concerts this month and next. On January 20, CCGS and BWCO presented guitarist Robert Gruca with the BlueWater String Quartet in Spanish, Italian and Latin music at First Unitarian in Shaker Heights. Next month, Les Délices will play two concerts with lutenist Nigel North and soprano Carrie Henneman Shaw on February 16 and 17 jointly sponsored by CCGS.

Collaborations like these can be beneficial in a number of ways: combining two distinct audiences, sharing expenses, developing unusual programs. The list goes on. Though the longterm effects of such joint projects are still to be measured, good vibes abounded at Sunday’s well-attended concert.  Read the rest of this entry »

 by Nicholas Jones

LesDelicesGoup1Opera performed by only seven musicians? Mon Dieu!

French Baroque opera, now generally seen as recherché to the extreme, was once so popular that its tunes were madly sought after. As every garage band today wants to cover Justin Bieber, so many in the mid-eighteenth century wanted a bit of Rameau, even if they couldn’t be at the court of the Sun King.

Following their lead, Les Délices, Cleveland’s inventive and efficient baroque group showed us how opera could fit in the pocket. (But…did they have pockets then? Well, never mind! Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Thanks to heregroups like William Christie’s Les Arts Florissants and Debra Nagy’s Les Délices, who have made it their primary business to interpret French baroque music for twenty-first century ears, that special, highly stylized repertory now comes to life on a regular basis. Cleveland-based Les Délices has today issued its second CD, Myths and Allegories, with music by Jean-Féry Rebel, Thomas-Louis Bourgeois Michel Pignolet de Montéclair and Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre based on tales from The Odyssey credited to the Greek epic singer, Homer (probably there were many of him). The album, featuring soprano Clara Rottsolk, with Debra Nagy, baroque oboe and recorder, Julie Andrijeski, violin, Emily Walhout, viola da gamba, and Michael Sponseller, harpsichord and organ, was recorded by Peter Nothnagle in Harkness Chapel at CWRU in March of this year.

Subjects drawn from classical antiquity were important to French baroque artists and musicians, and the story of Ulysses’s torturous return to Ithaca after the Trojan War was rich with possibilities. This recording begins and ends with movements from Rebel’s Ulysse (his only attempt at opera), and incorporates cantatas by Bourgeois and de la Guerre depicting the lure of the Sirens and Ulysses’s sea battle with Neptune in retaliation for the blinding of Polyphemus. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Today’sLes-Délices cinema and 17th and 18th century French opera have much in common, says Les Délices artistic director Debra Nagy. “Just as many of today’s blockbuster films make up for weaknesses in plot, dialogue, or acting by relying heavily on fantastic sets and expensive special effects to lure audiences to the theatre, so did 17th and 18th century French Opéra make extensive use of supernatural elements collectively known as merveilleux.”

On Saturday, November 10 beginning at 8:00 pm at William Busta Gallery and Sunday, November 11 beginning at 4:00 pm in Herr Chapel at Plymouth Church, Les Délices presents Pocket Opera, featuring works by Jean-Philipp Rameau. Read the rest of this entry »

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