As part of the worldwide celebration to mark the 450th anniversary of the birth of the great Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi

Concourse Performing Arts Centre, Chatswood, presents


in two separate programs of MONTEVERDI MADRIGALS

The CREMONA madrigals Monday 3 April at 7.30pm
The MANTUA madrigals Tuesday 4 April at 7.30pm

Les Arts Florissants is one of the most renowned and respected early music groups in the world.

Founded in 1979 by the Franco-American harpsichordist and conductor William Christie, the Ensemble, named for a short opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, has played a pioneering role in the revival of a Baroque repertoire that had long been neglected, including countless treasures of early compositions unearthed from national archives. Today that repertoire is widely performed and admired: not only French music from the reign of Louis XIV, but also more generally European music of the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Ensemble is directed by William Christie who, since 2007, has regularly passed the conductor’s baton to British tenor and associate music director, Paul Agnew who leads the ensemble for this exclusive visit. The ensemble will comprise 6 singers accompanied by two lutenists and harpsichord, hailing from England, France, Italy, Nth. Ireland, Scotland, and Australia.

The ensemble of six singers accompanied by two lutenists and harpsichord, is truly international and includes singers from England, France, Italy, Nth. Ireland, Scotland, with Australia represented by soprano Miriam Allan, a long time participant in this exciting project.

Four years ago Paul Agnew embarked on a project to organise the compositions contained in the eight volumes of madrigals written between 1587 and 1638 by the revolutionary Italian composer, Claudio Monteverdi.

“Interpreting his madrigals allows us to understand the fantastic evolution of Monteverdi’s music through which we discover the revolution that took place in Italian music at the beginning of the seventeenth-century” – Paul Agnew.

The system evolved by Agnew was to organise the compositions in chronological order bearing the titles of the cities where Monteverdi composed them, CREMONA, where Monteverdi was born and began composing; MANTUA where he was a vocalist and viol player, then music director at the court of Vincenzo I of Gonzaga; and finally VENICE where he wrote his last works including three operas that are seen as the beginning of this art form as it now exists.

The Sydney programmes, performed on consecutive evenings, are CREMONA and MANTUA.

Critical reception to both performances and recordings of Monteverdi Madrigals has been rapturous. The authoritative Gramophone Magazine in the UK named Les Arts Florissants’ CD of the CREMONA madrigals Best Baroque Vocal Recording of 2016.


The madrigal was a secular vocal music composition, usually a part song, of the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Traditionally, polyphonic madrigals are unaccompanied and the number of voices can vary from two to eight, and most frequently from three to six.

Madrigals originated in Italy during the 1520s. Unlike many strophic forms of the time, most madrigals were through-composed. In the madrigal, the composer attempted to express the emotion contained in each line, and sometimes, individual words, of a celebrated poem.

In Italy, the madrigal was the most important secular form of music of its time, reaching its formal and historical zenith by the second half of the 16th century. English and German composers, too, took up the madrigal in its heyday.

After 1630, the madrigal began to merge with the cantata and, with the burgeoning popularity of opera in the 17th century, the madrigal was gradually displaced by the aria.


An artist of international renown and an accomplished teacher, Paul Agnew was born in Glasgow and began his musical education with the Birmingham Cathedral choir. He continued his musical studies at Magdalen College, Oxford, and afterwards joined the Consort of Musicke with which he performed music from the Italian and English Renaissance

In 1992, just as the triumphant tour of Lully’s opera Atys was coming to a close, he was auditioned by William Christie. With Les Arts Florissants, Agnew became the performer of choice for the high- tenor roles of the French Baroque repertoire with William Christie. He has also performed with conductors such as Marc Minkowski, Ton Koopman, Paul McCreesh, Jean-Claude Malgoire, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Philippe Herreweghe and Emmanuelle Haïm and in renowned as a\stage performer in operas by Rameau Charpentier, Handel and Purcell.

In 2007, Agnew’s career took a new turn when he began conducting certain projects for Les Arts Florissants. He made his début as guest conductor with a program of Vivaldi’s Vespers, performed at the Cité de la musique, the Théâtre de Caen and the Konzerthaus in Vienna in January 2007. Among subsequent notable programs were Handel’s Odes and Anthems, and, the following year, Lamentazione, a concert of Italian Baroque polyphony which would became his first recording as Associate Conductor of Les Arts Florissants.

In 2010, Agnew conducted Les Arts Florissants once again in Purcell’s The Indian Queen. He then undertook the complete cycle of Monteverdi’s madrigals, a project for which he conducted nearly 100 concerts throughout Europe until 2015, and recorded for harmonia mundi “Mantova” (2014), “Cremona” (2015 – Gramophone Award 2016 in baroque vocal category) and “Venezia” (to be released in 2017), an anthology of madrigals from Monteverdi’s eight books.

In 2013, Paul Agnew became Associate Musical Director of Les Arts Florissants. Since then he has conducted the Ensemble at the Opéra de Paris and in the new production of Platée, which was performed at the Theater an der Wien, Paris’s Opéra Comique and New York’s Lincoln Center.

The current season is marked by various important projects as part of the celebration of Claudio Monteverdi’s 450th anniversary, notably a new production of L’Orfeo, whose artistic direction Paul Agnew will assume at the Théâtre de Caen, the Musikverein in Vienna, the Opéra Royal de Versailles, the Teatro del Canal in Madrid and the Philharmonie de Paris.

Agnew has a particular interest in the training of new generations of musicians and is co-director of Le Jardin des Voix, Les Arts Florissants’ academy for young singers. This group of emerging young singers under Agnew’s leadership was heard here during a world tour in 2015.

Les Arts Florissants – Points of interest

  • STATISTICS: Monteverdi composed 8 books of madrigals, 161 individual compositions in total and more than 1000 pages of music
  • LEADERS: Les Arts Florissants were the first ensemble in Europe to perform the complete cycle of madrigals in chronological order.
  • SPREADING THE MONTEVERDI GOSPEL: In the last five years they have given more than 150 concerts in 30 European cities to a total audience of over 100,000.
  • LOCAL TALENT: One of the artists associated with the project since its inception is Australian soprano Miriam Allan.
  • TOP LUTE: Thomas Dunford, one of the trio of musicians accompanying singers in the Monteverdi madrigals, has been described as ‘a rock star of the lute’. Despite his English- sounding name, Tom is French. He began playing the lute when he was five and made his first professional appearance aged fourteen.
  • AUSSIE LINKS: Les Arts Florissants were first heard in Australia in 1997 when they toured for Musica Viva. The orchestra visited Australia again in 2015 accompanying the young singers of Le Jardin des Voix. Each visit has elicited phenomenal critical and public response.




    Booking Details

    Tickets On Sale: Thursday 9 February

    Venue: The Concourse, 409 Victoria Ave, Chatswood

    Date: The CREMONA madrigals Monday 3 April at 7.30pm

    The MANTUA madrigals Tuesday 4 April at 7.30pm

    Prices: All tickets $85
    A special price applies to patrons purchasing tickets to BOTH evenings – $150.

    Bookings: 02 8075 8111 or Ticketek / 1300 364 001