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Ars Lyrica Tilts at Windmills With Don Quixote's Excellent Adventures

The Ars Lyrica EnsembleEXPAND
The Ars Lyrica Ensemble
Photo by Pin Lim
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The Man of La Mancha returns! As part of Ars Lyrica's Fables & Follies season, Don Quixote’s Excellent Adventures offers a patchwork of medleys created in celebration of the famed fictional explorer.  “Last year was the 400th anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes’ death – so there’s been a lot of Don Quixote in the air for the last 12 or so months,” explains Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica’s artistic director. “I sat down with the novel and all the music it has inspired over time, and came up with a program that, while not tracing the arc of the novel, at least explores various themes prominent in the text.”

Among the production’s highlights — which include compositions by Henry Purcell, Joseph Bodin de Boismortier, Juan del Encina, and Georg Philipp Telemann — will be renowned baroque guitarist Richard Savino, “known for his extensive Spanish repertoire,” alongside concertmaster violinist Kurt Johnson and local soprano Dominique McCormick, who will sing “a few personal songs, some Spanish songs and a couple of songs from a French Ballet about Don Quixote," says Dirst. "According to the artistic director himself, “[McCormick’s] very gifted with languages, so it was no big deal for her.”

Additionally, the producer teases, the Krumhorn Ensemble will be joining the production in period Spanish costumes for an opening fanfare, and will be in the lobby pre-show. “They’re doing a whole bunch of outreach events [as part of] the Hobby Center’s Discovery series," he says. "The group includes a number of former Rice students who have gone on to graduate schools elsewhere. But we try to gather the team up at least once a year to reach out into the community, as well as play at Discovery Green and Bayou Bend."

Despite being adapted for film numerous times, such as 1972's famed Peter O’Toole stage-to-screen musical adaptation of Man of La Mancha; 1971’s They Might Be Giants, the Jeff Bridges-narrated Lost in La Mancha; and the 2007 animated film Donkey Xote, among many others, the story of the bold knight of fantasy continues to captures people’s fascinations. In fact, Dirst himself has a few ideas on the adventurer’s enduring popularity.

“He’s a very approachable, very funny character, and Cervantes really serves him up with a delicious dose of irony," Dirst says. "The novel was such a hit, that Don Quixote was really cultural property, even a brand, one could say, by the late 17th century. Everyone was reading him across these languages – French, German, even Italian. Pieces like Man of La Mancha have perpetuated his reputation in our own day, and one of the reasons he’s such a strong literary character is the fact that he’s so hapless. It’s kind of pathetic, and hilariously funny at the same time.”

So as the famously impossible to produce Terry Gilliam film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote finally enters production with Amazon Studios this summer, it seems Ars Lyrica’s tribute won’t even be the last. Because, of course, there are always more windmills to fight.

Don Quixote's Excellent Adventures is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday, May 21 at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-315-2400 or visit thehobbycenter.org. $39-$65.

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