Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bourbon Baroque Drinking the Kool-Aid?

Louisville Baroque ensemble to perform one act Entrée in collaboration with local puppet troupe.

Louisville, Kentucky - a town whose has been holding its breath recently when it comes to its classical music scene can breath easy next weekend. Its first 18th century French opera experience in quite some time, Louisville will be in for quite a show.

If puppets and music excite you, read on.

Alvar, the stallion
Louisville's baroque ensemble, Bourbon Baroque, in a collaboration with the Squallis Puppeteers; will perform Les Sauvages, an Entrée from Rameau's Les Indes Galantes, staged with puppets. An interesting concept which will surely attract quite a bit of media attention, as well as keep costs down (compared with a fully-staged opera), the event is dressed for success. To crown the event, quite an impressive orchestra (including oboes and a bassoon[!]) will accompany the puppets on stage.

Nicolas Fortin and Austin Clark, the two founders of the BB, met while studying at McGill's Schulich School of Music in 2005.  Developing a close friendship in Montreal, the pair performed together often and decided to continue performing together after graduation. By 2007, Austin had returned to his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky with Nicolas following soon after, having landed a job as a French instructor at Indiana University Southeast, only 20 minutes' drive away. Once established, the two began presenting concerts regularly, styling themselves after to the famous liquor born in the area, and have since sewn their ensemble firmly into the fabric of the community.

Some aspects of BB's style are born from Nico's rather sensationalist personality, who, I should add, would like you to know he likes cats and cooking. "When people come to our concerts, they come to be moved," explains Nico, "so when I give a little explanation of the composer, rather than going into [an in-depth] history lesson, I might say something like 'M. Leclair moved to Italy and studied in Turin. Later, he returned to France and became a very famous violinist and composer. Then, he was murdered.' And then start the piece." His technique certainly provokes a reaction among his audiences.

Adario, the coyote
Very much tuned to Nicolas's outlook on life, Les Sauvages looks to be quite a sensational performance, especially for Kentucky. There is a method to his madness, however.

With the recitatives replaced by an English dialogue (helping to keep the attention of the audience [and saving paper!]); a post-concert lecture by Thomson Smillie, the former General Director of the Kentucky Opera, titled "Listen, Learn, Love Opera", and milk and cookies served by L'Alliance Française de Louisville, the performance is well designed to be audience-friendly.

As unique as it can get, the event can not only draw the city's history in with the content and context of the work presented, but also helps serve other members of the community. The first showing of the entrée will be exclusively for students from the area, giving youth a rare listen into French music of the period, and with the addition of the post-concert lecture, Les Sauvages will provide the Friday and Saturday audiences with a piece of theatre that will both entertain and educate.
Zima, the white buffalo

Such a great production that builds community on multiple levels, Nicolas reaffirms that their key to success has been "collaboration, first and foremost." Though the future of one classical institution in Louisville may be in question, there is certainly still a healthy scene with wholesome entertainment to be had.

So if you're looking for something to do next Friday, or Saturday, head down to the The Louisville Visual Art Association at the Water Tower for quite the experience. You might just learn something too.


  1. Great idea for a show Andrew! Loved the article!

  2. There's no such thing as Indiana University Southwest - it's Southeast.

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