Tallis in Wonderland

I Fagiolini & Artery

Following the success of The Full Monteverdi, I Fagiolini’s new music-theatre project with Dutch company Artery gets to grips with the fundamental problem of how an audience actually hears Renaissance vocal music.

Tallis in Wonderland explores ten Renaissance works of genius, finding musical and dramatic routes into their magical but complex soundworld. Sometimes the pieces are de-constructed and then recreated; sometimes the sound is spread around the hall via the speakers (through software designed especially for the project) or the singers themselves. The whole becomes a game for singers and loudspeakers, the entire space the sound’s playground. The audience is at times surrounded by sound and performers, and at times focused on an intimate moment.


Direction – Henk Schut

Music Director – Robert Hollingworth

Sound – Steve Mensink

Emma Tring  - soprano

Clare Wilkinson - mezzo-soprano

Robert Hollingworth - countertenor Nicholas Hurndall Smith - tenor

Eamonn Dougan - baritone 

Chris Adams - bass

Music by Josquin, Gombert, Manchicourt, Tallis, Byrd, Gesualdo, Rore, Palestrina and Monteverdi

Photos: Malcolm Watson

Short film featuring Robert Hollingworth and Henk Schut

Filmed in Aldeburgh and Wilton’s Music Hall, London 

2009 / 5:30

“It’s not out to shock, but to open the ear to every wonder-filled strand of Renaissance polyphony by means of a highly physical “aural fantasy”. The project is not half as coy as its title, and it works because it listens intensively to the music itself. Not one aural effect, not one staged movement distracts — and that is something of a small miracle.” 


“As they move, the group subdivides, parting and reforming in a way that mirrors the polyphonic weave of the music… All this makes something remote seem thrillingly immediate. We see as well as hear why Byrd’s Attolite Portas has a lovely dancing quality… A marvellous show, with wonderful singing at its heart.” 



Robert Hollingworth writes:

“For a long time, I’ve felt that even very experienced audiences find it difficult to appreciate Renaissance polyphony in concert on more than a surface level. A rich web of sound is presented from one end of usually a resonant building and the result is a wash of sound that tickles the ears of the listener without requiring them to dig deeper into the musical process.

“Many are perfectly happy to hear their Renaissance polyphony in this way but my starting point for a new project was to conceive a way for the audience to be much more aware of the individual lines that make up the polyphony so that they could sense the whole structure, and also for them to be much more aware of the meaning of the text.

“I then started talking with Dutch company Artery and designer/director Henk Schut (with whom I’d worked on L’Orfeo and Faust) and he and sound designer Steve Mensink took this through many further layers before the show was premiered in 2009, featuring music by Josquin, Gombert, Manchicourt, Byrd, Tallis, Rore, Palestrina, Gesualdo and Monteverdi.”


Represented by Percius / www.percius.co.uk

© Copyright 2020 - I Fagiolini