Unicorns, gorgons and other fantastical creatures abound in the Metropolitan Chorale’s performance of Gian Carlo Menotti’s “The Unicorn, The Gorgon and The Manticore” and R. Murray Schafer’s “A Medieval Bestiary” at First Church in Cambridge at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 4, 2019.
What makes this performance stand out is that the 100-voice Boston chorus and small orchestra, led by Music Director Lisa Graham, are accompanied by masked performers, puppet unicorns, a giant gorgon and other medieval beasts brought to life by Brookline’s Puppet Showplace Theater featuring the Callithumpian Consort.
“These delightful, rarely-performed works showcase great stylistic range and comedic commentary on social convention,” organizers write.
“The Unicorn, The Gorgon and The Manticore,” created by the Italian-born, American composer Gian Carlo Menotti in 1956, takes the style of 16th-century madrigal comedy (a precursor to operas as we’ve come to see them, but with no soloists) and uses it to recount the life of a poet who keeps mythical creatures as pets.
“A Medieval Bestiary,” a 1996 piece by the Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer, paraphrases from a 12th-century Latin prose bestiary transcribed by T. H. White, the author of “The Once and Future King.” The medieval attempt at scientific analysis can read as comedic to contemporary ears.
The puppets from Puppet Showplace Theater, featuring the Callithumpian Consort, add magic—as well as humor.
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