The Decameron | Romeo & Julia Kören
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The Decameron

Based on the short stories by Giovanni Boccaccio / Director: Benoît Malmberg and the Ensemble

Let us gather together one last day to entertain ourselves with music, dance and pleasures. When the new day dawns, then we can return to Florence.

Romeo & Julia Kören’s performance The Decameron, which premiered at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in 2009, holds a series of dramatized novels from the renaissance writer Giovanni Boccaccio’s famous works of the same name. The novels are interspersed with songs by the Italian 1500-century composer Orazio Vecchi and the combination forms a musical drama performance of sensual love and full-bodied comedy.

In The Decameron a selection of Boccaccio’s novels are freely dramatized and adapted for the stage by Artistic Director Benoît Malmberg and the ensemble. The show is adaptable and easily changed based on the conditions of the venue and the occasion of the performance. The stories and the music in The Decameron can be varied and therefore also the size of the ensemble from six to twelve singers accompanied by theorbo, renaissance lute and percussion.

The Decameron (1353) is Boccaccio’s most famous work and made him known to the afterworld as the originator of the novel genre. The main story in the novel tells of a party of upper class youngsters in Florence during the medieval Black Death. The company decides to flee Florence to escape the illness of the city and in their isolation in the countryside they entertain one another by telling various stories – the stories that form The Decameron. In the sharply rendered details, Boccaccio paints all kinds of adventures and escapades. We meet simple-minded men who are cleverly deceived by their wives as well as church servants who succumb to sensuous, sinful love. The Decameron is risqué and burlesque but it remains a sharp and perceptive comedy. Boccaccio wanted to both entertain and provoke his contemporary readers and despite the 700 years gone by, his stories are still current.

Giovanni Boccaccio (1313 – 1375) was born out of wedlock in Florence. He studied law and settled in Naples and fell in love with the Countess Maria d’Aquino who presented him to court life with its cultural cultivation. In this rich setting Boccaccio found inspiration for his writings. He became close friends with Francesco Petrarch who encouraged him to study classical Greek and Latin. Boccaccio is most famous for The Decamerone but produced numerous of other works in both Latin and in the people’s language Italian. Boccaccio believed that much could be learned from antiquity and wrote a key reference work on classical mythology. Thus, he challenged the arguments of clerical intellectuals who wanted to limit access to classical sources to prevent any moral harm to Christian readers. The revival of classical antiquity became a foundation of the Renaissance, and his defense of the importance of ancient literature was an essential requirement for its development.

Some believe that the best way to escape this plague is to live a modest life. Others are of the opinion that the best cure for the plague is to drink and eat in abundance, enjoy themselves and indulge in all manner of debauchery – and then just laugh at everything.


PRESS

An ingenious way to revive to large parts forgotten music.
Charles T. Downey | The Washington Post (USA)

Finding love has never been so much fun.
Mike Telin | clevelandclassical.com (USA)

Humor, playfulness and musicality. […] The musical performance was at a high level, following and illustrating the textual content. […] Each current madrigal felt respectfully treated and reproduced in a new, refreshing twist.
Christer Eklund | Dalarnas Tidningar  (Sweden)

A choir experience beyond the ordinary. […] Romeo & Julia Kören offered first-class entertainment […] it was a night that opened all senses, the performance did not miss anything. […] I have rarely seen so much fun and effective acting with such small gestures and manners. And this combined with a sensual choral sound with a wide musical emotional palette. […] This was the first time the Romeo & Julia Kören appeared in Skovde. May it not be the last!
Bo Borg | Skaraborgs Allehanda  (Sweden)

[…] The singers are progressing slowly towards us and despite the fact that they sing in Italian and it is difficult to perceive the words of vocal singing, you understand absolutely everything. The choir has an absolutely incredible ability to with mines and body language convey the emotional content of their 1500th century songs, whether delivering a humorous drinking song or Gregorian harmonies of death. […] Everything is vivid, funny, unpredictable and skillfully. […] Magic is the word.
Sophie Lossning | Norra Skåne (Sweden)

[…] But this rather dry finding concealed a phenomenally talented, rehearsed and beautifully singing – and not least fun – group of singers, dancers, actors and musicians […] The theater and music association got together for the event and are to be congratulated for the good initiative to bring in Romeo & Julia Kören […].
Anders Falk | Säffle-tidningen   (Sweden)

The gigantic difference seems quite clear between a traditional show with Renaissance music performed by a choir and this innovative presentation, full of talent, creativity and charm. The lounge was filled to the last seat with an audience fascinated by the Swedes – with perfect bodies!

During the dinner they offered more music from their English-language repertoire. Anyone who has knowledge of choir music is well aware that the movable way this ensemble performs risk the balance in voices and, not least, pitch and tuning. However, this risk does not exist in this performance. Teatro del Lago again struck a direct hit, and showed that Chile is not only the capital, Santiago, by presenting these artists world-class, which only passed Santiago via its airport.
Mario Córdova | Las Últimas Noticias (Chile)

The Decameron abounds with beautiful, seductive ladies, gullible, genuine men, proposed merchant, hypocritical priests and monks, kings and mighty shrewd grooms, all signed with masterful hand, with sumptuous humor, light irony, human warmth and teller’s joy. […] Bravo! Belissimo, we in the audience say. So beautiful to the eye and ear and in a good mood most obscene stories are told in well-jung spirit by six men and six ladies in beautiful costumes. To the accompaniment of drums and theorbo, the choir members moved gracefully around while euphony streamed toward us.
Leif A Jansson | Jönköpingsposten (Sweden)

Romeo & Julia Kören’s fresh and resonant voices, with intonation  without the slightest blemish, creates a nearly godlike choral you do not always experience in choirs.
Dag Lundin | Eskilstunakurriren (Sweden)

/ … / this both entertaining and thought-provoking performance which cross borders and hardly fit into any genre. It is in any case more a musical theater than a regular concert, where choral singing, scenic narrative and choreography interacts intimately.
Hallands Nyheter (Sweden)

With an extensive musical vocal art renaissance tones was utilized, French baroque and burlesque folk songs as well. This exquisitely performed music used simultaneously in a theatrical narrative of jealous situations and hearty love exercises. The mix of song, dance and theater in beautiful costume rings requires no special knowledge of Boccaccio’s short story collection “The Decameron”. Everything was affectionate, from the sublime to the mundane, and the solos as well as ensemble singing were top class.
Lage Olsson | Barometern (Sweden)

Playful SUPREME public contact […]
The special feature that Romeo & Julia Kören has developed is a full-fledged musical genre that combines singing, scenic narrative and choreography. […] The result is a playful performance, with excellent audience contact and a twinkle in the eye. […] Romeo & Julia Kören is a very skilled ensemble with a wide range of expression from easy and popular to the elevated sacred. But it is above all the theatrical storytelling I am most impressed by. The singers / actors have a strong stage presence and are not afraid to go the whole hog and offer burlesque humor. There is, of course, just as in Boccaccio, an underlying seriousness. The stories can be about how to draw just over the class-getter at the nose of the Church and the power of double standards and, not least, here is a clear feminist angle, obvious at a time when forced marriage and reasoning marriages were common, and the status of women completely subordinate. It’s a fun and different performance, full of joy and sensuality.
Gregor Flakierski | Allehanda (Sweden)