We have a new Doctor in the Arts! Yesterday, traverso player and conductor Jed Wentz promoted at Leiden University on his research into The Relationship between Gesture, Affect and Rhythmic Freedom in the Performance of French Tragic Opera from Lully to Rameau. The dissertation is available on-line here – more info on Jed here.
As part of his defense, Jed presented a well-attended and -received concert at the Conservatory of Amsterdam with a program containing chamber music by Telemann and Blavet, and monologues from Luly's Armide as well as texts by Shakespeare and Bary. Other performers included Musica ad Rhenum with a.o. baroque dancer Jennifer Thorp and soprano Andréanne Brisson Paquin.
The concert was a delight, enabling the audience to enjoy ingenious and intriguing links between non-musical aspects of period stage craft (such as facial expressions and bodily gestures) and rhythmic freedom in the performance of the music itself. Jed has examined historical sources that treat acting and rhetorics in order to attempt at recreating a language of gesture suitable for experimentation in operatic scenes from the genre. As a flautist, he went as far as learning to master Gilbert Austin's gesture notation to perform Shakespeare's Speech of Brutus on the Death of Caesar (see the illustration at the top of this post), studying the Beauchamps-Feuillet dance notation, even consulting medical sources to understand the broader context of affect and the body within which gesture and musical performance were situated.
Jed's research proposes that the performances at the Paris opera were far from static representations of the notes on the page, but rather an exciting synthesis of word, music and gesture that strongly stirred the hearts of the listeners. By way of his own performances, Jed achieved exactly that: the meticulousness with which specific types of physical expression were linked to the meaning of a text had clearly demonstrable artistic merit and was inspiring to witness.
Jed is the second Doctor in the Arts from Leiden University and the docARTES program. Welcome to the club, buddy!