Coming up in Philly music: Baroque interpretations of classic literature

2 minute read
Classic books get an orchestrated "illustration" this weekend. (Art courtesy of Tempesta di Mare.)
Classic books get an orchestrated "illustration" this weekend. (Art courtesy of Tempesta di Mare.)

We’re all used to seeing books transformed into movies, plays, Broadway musicals, and movie versions of the Broadway musical. This weekend, for its latest appearance at the Kimmel Center, Tempesta di Mare will sample the Baroque version of that process with four instrumental works based on famous books and plays.

Two of the literary works will be familiar to everybody who’s taken a literature course. Henry Purcell transformed Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream into a semi-opera titled The Fairy Queen, and Tempesta di Mare will present a suite from his opus. George Philipp Telemann’s Burlesque di Quixotte is an orchestral romp through the adventures of Cervantes’s iconic hero from Don Quixote of La Mancha.

The other two pieces are linked to works that may sell fewer copies in American university bookstores. Jean-Baptiste Molière’s play The Imaginary Invalid is a French comedy about hypochondria, with incidental music (usually played between the acts) by Molière’s 17th-century contemporary Marc-Antoine Charpentier. The last item on Tempesta’s play list, fittingly, is based on Ovid’s long poem Metamorphoses. Jean-Phillipe Rameau transformed Ovid’s best known episode into a ballet, Pygmalion, and followed that with a suite taken from the ballet music. (George Bernard Shaw later translated the same story into a Victorian play that became the 1938 movie titled My Fair Lady, a hit Broadway musical, and—inevitably—a hit movie musical.)

Tempesta di Mare's Baroque music on authentic versions of the type of instruments actually used when the music was written. It’s become one of the leading period-instrument organizations in the United States and one of the few organizations that can stage concerts like this with a full-size Baroque orchestra.

Tempesta di Mare plays Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra will present Great Books: Classic Tales Illustrated For Orchestra By Purcell, Telemann, Rameau And Charpentier on May 18, 2019, at 8pm at the Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 300 South Broad Street. Tickets are $29 to $49 and they’re available online and at the door.

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