On Saturday, I was torn between seeing English Touring Opera at Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal or the Portsmouth Baroque Choir at the Church of the Holy Spirit, Southsea.
We certainly need to keep ETO returning to Portsmouth with such excellent productions as Handel’s Giulio Cesare but only very rarely do we get to hear sumptuous Venetian choral music by Monteverdi, Schutz and the Gabrieli family performed with sackbuts and cornetts and in a suitably resonant acoustic setting.
It is surely marvellous to have such choice.
The concert marked the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with a programme that drew most heavily on church music by Monteverdi, as this year marks his 450th anniversary.
The music is truly splendid but its intricacies mean it is not easy to perform. Sometimes that showed but not so much as to detract from some lovely singing and not least in Monteverdi’s Pulchra es, performed by choristers Pru Bell-Davies and Madeleine Barrows. The choir, directed ably by Malcolm Keeler, used the space well and were sometimes divided into groups on each side of the audience to produce a wonderful surround
sound, as sonorous and enveloping as it might have been in St Mark’s, Venice, in the early 1600s.