The new cultural history interpretations of the Renaissance form the starting point for the programmes of Il Gentil Lauro. In its widest sense, the Renaissance’s cultural production must be seen from an interdisciplinary viewpoint that neglects neither the aspects that generate it, nor the political, social and economic areas in which it is immersed, nor yet again its beneficiaries’ complex vision of the world. What we mean by the Renaissance is Italian endeavour to rehabilitate classic form, which, starting in the XIVth century, spread throughout Europe and, flowering in the XVIth century, has, generally speaking, never wholly disappeared up to our own time.
Il Gentil Lauro places its own experience at the disposal of private parties, townships, councils, foundations, etc., in preparing specific made-to-measure programmes.
Circa 1455: Music and Dance around Domenico da Piacenza
This programme aims at bringing together music and dance in the context of the life and production of the dance master Domenico da Piacenza (ca.1390/1400 – ca.1470/76).
In Europe, the codifying of the dance began in the XVth century, when the free, extemporary expression of mediaeval dancing gave way to a neoplatonic and humanistic conception of the dance as “actione dimostrativa di fuori di movimenti spiritali” in concordance with the harmony of music and the cosmos. The theory and teachings of Domenico da Piacenza constitute the foundations of dancing alla italiana, which became famous throughout Europe.
In his treatise De arte saltandi et choreas ducendi (ca. 1450–55), Domenico elevates dance from a mechanical to a liberal art, like music. His theory aims at demonstrating that dance is a virtue and, as such, must be considered on the same level as music.
This balanced programme comprises choreographies and vocal and instrumental works, performed according to the practice of the time, using musical instruments that are copies of the originals.
Music at the Italian courts of the Renaissance
The Italian courts of the XVth century that saw the flowering of humanist culture were the perfect crucible for moulding the beauty of form in its most luminous proportions.
The music programme shows us the patrons, politicians, philosophers, humanists, poets and cardinals of the refined courts of Ferrara, Florence, Mantua, Milan and Naples. The delicate vocal and instrumental works by composers like Du Fay, Busnois, Isaac, Tromboncino, and Cara are performed using the favourite instruments of the period: harpsichord, viola da gamba, fiddle, recorders, harp and portative organ.
Annvs Nefastvs 1506
When Phillip I of Castile, “the Handsome”, landed at La Coruña in April 1506 together with his wife, Queen Joanna, to take possession of the Kingdom of Castile, he received a letter from Christopher Columbus concerning the need to ensure the capitulation of Santa Fe. The meeting never took place: the Admiral died at Valladolid on May 20th and the Archduke reached the city on July 10th.
In the retinue of Phillip the Handsome was the Belgian Alexander Agricola, the Archduke’s favourite singer and composer, by now in his sixties. The journey from La Coruña weakened him greatly. Castile was struck by the plague, and Agricola was probably infected and died in the countryside of Valladolid on August 16th. The Archduke had to travel to Burgos, where he died on September 25th with the same symptoms as Alexander Agricola: poisoning or plague?
The relationship between the deaths of these three celebrated characters is the pivot of this programme of Il Gentil Lauro, which provides a variegated exhibition of the music, dance and singing that they may have enjoyed in their wanderings through the various European countries and courts at the end of the XVth century.
The performance is a refined court feast in the style of the Castilian nobles of the XVth century, reconstructed according to the most up-to-date research and interpretation of the Renaissance. It includes dance, music and songs performed on copies of original musical instruments, as well as costumes and sets.
The madrigal banquet
To recreate the magic of a unique moment; surpass the barriers of the foreseeable, wrapping the audience in an environment of evocation, stylized, almost oneiric. The scene, dimly lighted by torches and candelabra. Whispers of fabric dragging over the floor and a light aroma of cinnamon wafting through the air. Seated around a table, the guests are anxiously awaiting the musicians and dancers, who rise from the surrounding shadows to form an almost static composition, like the unexpected tridimensionality of a fresco. A fanfare of trumpets introduces the announcement of the camerlengo, and the footmen serve the first course of a menu inspired by the Renaissance.
The repertory of Il Gentil Lauro includes a synthesis of several disciplines, aimed at merging musical and visual experience with gastronomy. The madrigal banquet recreates, from a contemporary viewpoint, the structure required for the production of the sumptuous cuisine that flourished during the XVth and XVIth centuries. The presentation of the various dishes –a postmodern and minimalist reinterpretation of the recipes of Nola, Messisbugo and Vega– alternates with the performance of madrigals and interludes of instrumental music and dancing, in an exercise that integrates spirit and senses, the ideal of balance that inspired Renaissance man in his daily round.