Two seductions were attempted in last night's entertainment at the National Cathedral. The first one failed. "For a cheap entrance fee, I will not exchange my virginity for the name of whore," the woman (a bright young shepherdess) insisted. The second attempt, near the end of the evening, was successful, climaxing in a refreshingly sweet and frank tribute to the joys of carnal love.
The program was medieval music, performed by the Folger Consort, with two guest singers: soprano Carol Wilson and baritone Peter Becker, who usually sings as a countertenor. Focusing on the songs of the troubadours and trouve`res, it was an evening of earthy delights in an other-worldly setting of stained glass and Gothic arches.
The vocal music, which was the heart of the program, brooded on the disadvantages of love. Wilson sang exquisitely the song of Belle Doette, who became a nun after her lover died jousting, and Becker was moody, introspective and charmingly melodious in the long, philosophical love song "Eissamen ai gerreiat ab amor," by Raimbaut de Vaqueras: "If with you I do not find love and fidelity, I shall no longer believe anything I hear or see." The contrast was perfect with the same poet-composer's rambunctious song-and-dance: "Kalenda Maya."
Two "pastorals" (which deal with attempts to seduce shepherdesses) were sung in dialogue form, adding a touch of drama to the evening. Becker soloed impressively in Marcabru's misogynous "Dirai vos senes duptansa" and Wilson in "Trop est mes maris jaloux," the monologue of an unhappily married woman who is planning to take a lover. -- Joseph McLellan