Though we'll never know what the performers of the 18th century really looked or sounded like, the members of Concert Royal and the New York Baroque Dance Company do a smashing job of re-creating that era's art forms.
Wednesday evening at Baird Auditorium, a packed audience was treated to "A Grand Tricentennial Affair," these two ensembles' spirited program of music by this year's favorite birthday boys -- Bach, Handel and Scarlatti -- played on period instruments, as well as a reconstruction of Handel's "Terpsichore," a brief operatic pastoral for soprano, countertenor and dancers.
When played well, Bach's "Brandenburg" Concerto No. 5 is always a pleasurable experience, but hearing it emanate from a baroque violin, cello and other instruments made the music seem new and more buoyant. Compared with the sound of a contemporary flute, Sandra Miller's feathery, breathless way with its baroque counterpart made the composer's Overture No. 2 in B minor a serene dream.
It was during "Terpsichore," though, that the crowd truly got a sense of court entertainment. Out tripped the three Muses, dressed in wigs, ballooning gowns and white low-heeled shoes, bearing gifts and flowers. Next came Apollo (Drew Minter) -- a vision in his plumed headdress, sparkling tunic and gold lame' boots -- and the equally stunning Erato (Ann Monoyios), each declaiming in the purest of vocal styles.
Soon they welcomed Terpsichore (Catherine Turocy), muse of the dance, who, in her coy and lilting manner, proceeded to demonstrate myriad complicated steps and emotional states. Back erect, feet angled out like the points of a compass, arms held out like dainty rudders, she bounded across the small stage like a hummingbird in flight.