Are we ready for a completely baroque experience? To begin, let’s specify what we mean when we talk about the aesthetics of the Baroque. Above all, to sumptuousness, trompe l’oeil, strong contrasts, and, as a highlight, to a not timid ornamentation – we recall the delightfully exaggerated gates of José de Churriguera – therefore, those who feel the baroque siren songs have to say goodbye momentarily to Philip Glass, Donald Judd and the other artists of the immaculate white.
Those who really take immersion in the artistic uses and customs of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries at face value are the members of Transbaroque, a group of musicians, singers, dancers and videomapping artists who have opened a space in Madrid’s Barrio de las Letras dedicated to the arts of the time of Louis XIV, or of Felipe IV, if you look at it from Spain. In Transbaroque they are able to teleport us to a Fragonard painting in a matter of minutes.
The French violinist Serge Herschon is the soul of this sensory experience that immerses us fully in the gallant Europe of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He is accompanied by various instrumentalists and singers, depending on the repertoire they choose to perform, but the one who is never missing is the English harpsichord player Stephen Knight, whose instrument, a 2.30 meter long two-keyboard harpsichord, is inspired by a French model from the 18th century. , with its turned legs that follow the style known as «Cabriole». Just by looking at the instrument we already feel close to Versailles, and even more so when, thanks to the work and grace of the music of Jean Philippe Rameau, but also of the wigs, the coats and the videomapping projected on all the walls of the room, we They place inside the gilded halls of the palace or, shortly after, in the gardens of the Viennese palace of Belvedere, the ideal place to listen to Telemann’s music. And it is that to access this mutant and unusual place that is the Transbaroque concert hall, you have to cross a long passage that works like the time tunnel.
Historical dance is one of the landmarks of Transbaroque. The company’s dancer, Alberto Arcos, will also be a baroque dance teacher in the room starting this fall. Together with the dancer Elisa Bermejo, Arcos recreates clothes, gestures and movements present in paintings that today hang on the walls of the Louvre or the Prado. From the trousers, corsets and dresses to the wigs and makeup, everything is carefully reproduced: “Our idea is to copy the costumes worn by the characters in Baroque painting from the time of Louis XIV and Louis XV. We go to the pictorial fonts to get inspired by his style. In makeup we use current products, because those used to whiten the face at that time were not always good for the skin.
The layers of fabric that puff out the skirts are a classic in baroque feminine attire. To achieve that rounded effect that suggests a large open umbrella, we need a solid structure: “In France it was called shopping bag and in Spain, that we are more prosaic, executioner ». «There is also another very Spanish element called« tontillo »» –adds the dancer. «It is a roll that is tied at the front with ropes and raises the upper rear part a little. The prevailing idea in these elements was to enhance the curves and hips of women, which symbolized their ability to accommodate a new life in their body. “
A detail that sometimes goes unnoticed is the Transbaroque flooring, a good oak wood parquet. No prefabricated laminate flooring: parquet is the quintessential French Baroque floor, and it is the only one suitable for dancing on it dances such as the zarabanda, the bourrée or the giga. “It was difficult to install it”, says Serge Herschon – “because in Madrid there is no custom of laying a Versailles-style parquet, with very large wooden plates”.
Regarding music, in addition to the historical recovery of composers such as Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, one of the Sun King’s favorites, or the Venetian Barbara Strozzi, master of the Cantata genre, the Transbaroque company is proud to perform with the utmost possible fidelity baroque musical works, and in one of them, The triumph of Love de Lully, which will open in October the fall season, are already working. To begin with, the strings used for violins and other bowed instruments are not metallic, but made of lamb gut – unfortunately, Baroque is not vegan – which produces a warmer sound. And an attentive ear will not miss that the singers who interpret music from this time do not make those vibrating gurgles typical of the bel canto, so common in the most famous nineteenth-century Italian operas such as Tosca or La Traviata; its sound is, on the other hand, flatter. And, as the sound base, we have that unmistakable metallic touch of the music of the time provided by the harpsichord: some are enthusiastic about it and others find it too punchy. In any case, we feel more comfortable acoustically installed in the Baroque than in this world of beeps that notify Whattsapp messages, videos at full volume in the subway and videoconferences on Zoom in the middle of the street.
The only thing that Transbaroque does not provide us at the moment are the aromas of the Baroque, although they are already investigating about it. Let us remember that, despite the profuse use of perfumes, the hygiene habits of the day before yesterday were much more lax, too much for the aseptic pituitaries of this century.