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Venus & Adonis… and the Rest of Us and the Collegium Musicum

By Charlotte Dover, December 23 2023—

The tale of Venus and Adonis goes back to the times of olds. Originating in Greek mythology, the tragic love story has persisted through the ages. Baroque composer John Blow wrote the story of Venus and Adonis as an opera and now Collegium Musicum is taking that piece and performing it with a twist.

In an interview with the Gauntlet, music director and artistic director of early music voices Julie Harris told us about the piece and Collegium Musicum. 

We all have our favorite styles and genres of music, but when we hear the term early music we may not be sure what to expect. 

“Early music is essentially old music, baroque, renaissance and medieval is usually how we talk about it,” explained Harris.

Harris shared with us that Collegium Musicum is the name of the ensemble that performs these early music pieces, including Venus & Adonis … and the Rest of Us. Students from all over the university can join the ensemble. However, this performance is different from what they usually perform.

“Always up until now it’s been concert style ensembles,” said Harris. “This year is the first time we’ve done it staged.”

The performance is taking place in a hall designed to accommodate concerts., which means that staging it comes with its own set of challenges, especially when it comes to sets and staging the piece.

“So we can’t fly sets and stuff, so obviously the staging is quite simple and the set is quite simple, but there are various lighting possibilities that aren’t usually used for concerts, but are occasionally used for special events. So we are able to create a really special atmosphere,” said Harris. “It won’t feel like the usual concert feel when you go to the show.”

The title of the concert isn’t just Venus and Adonis, its Venus & Adonis… and the Rest of Us. So who are the rest of us?

“Venus and Adonis does not have very many roles in it. there’s Venus, Adonis, Cupid and then these various other characters, which can actually be played by a very small cast and we have more students than that,” said Harris. “I chose some pieces by Henry Purcell specifically suited to the singers that I felt fit with the whole theme of love in the show so that we would have enough music to satisfy the needs of our students.”

The story of Venus and Adonis is one of love, lust and loss. But it is also one of great risks, especially when it comes to Adonis going off to hunt the wild boar with his friends.

“Even though he wants to be with Venus he can’t help but go off and be involved in the hunt and take this risk, that’s very much a reality that ties in with our mortality and our risk taking and then Venus has to pay the price for that, as does Adonis,” said Harris.

Many of us don’t get the chance to see productions such as this and so we are never sure what to expect when we go to them.

“It will be a unique experience to hear this beautiful music to know that these are all students from the university who have pulled this together, it’ll show them possibly some instruments that they don’t hear or have never heard,” said Harris. “The story I think will resonate in that in that kinda surprising way, just because it is something that we can all relate to.”

More information can be found here.

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