Asteria: "The Body Must Depart The Heart Remains With You"
A romantic tryst that beings with great expectations but ends in unfulfilled frustration, "The Body Must Depart The Heart Remains With You" is an unfortunately unsatisfying experience. Although in time for Valentine's Day weekend, the one hour and fifteen minute performance is no catalyst for love. In fact, the setting may dampen any romantic yearnings you were privately harboring.
Comprised of soprano Sylvia Rhyne and tenor and lute player Eric Redlinger, the musical duo Asteria has dedicated the past nine years to sharing their love of Medieval music through performance. Singing in French, Asteria has exposed the world to a cultural tradition long since forgotten. From their attire to the golden water goblet that rests besides them, Asteria works to fully embody the romantic ideals of the music they perform. Despite the attempt and possibilities, "The Body Must Depart The Heart Remains With You" falls short of reaching its full potential.
There are four key elements within the performance that never blend well together. At times the two singers, a lute, and a church, seem to clash and feel mismatched; an epic battle between religion, love and the minstrel.
Ideally these elements should mesh together seamlessly, however, the audience is just left with the overall feeling that there was something off about the performance, you just cannot figure out what it was exactly. There is a general feeling of dissatisfaction, a feeling that this could have been richer, deeper and more embracing.
A mix of unnecessary narrative and music, "The Body Must Depart The Heart Remains With You" tells the story of a Medieval knight and his troubled love life. The audience follows the aged and grayed knight as he discovers true love, loses true love, battles for it, and then reclaims his lost love. Such a romantic tale would make for a great evening of entertainment, but for some reason it frustratingly misses the mark.
A key detriment to the performance was the lack of intimacy created within the frigid and overwhelming space. With a performance such as this one, there is the expectation that the audience and the artists will share an intimate moment in space and time; that all will come together to create a unique and significant experience. But this is not achieved, as the concert is given in a frigidly cold church, and the presence of the artists are dwarfed by a competing and overwhelming space. The eye is too easily led astray by various imposing images; it is a struggle to remain focused on the performance at hand.
Beyond the space, the singers and the lute did not often meld well together. There was a disharmonious sound to the performance, rarely did the vocals and instrument produce melodic sweetness. There were moments and flashes of greatness, where the real and underlying potential could be heard, but for the most part the performance was off.
The flashes of greatness were best represented in "Quant la doulce jouvencelle" and "Se la face ay pale." In these two pieces the lute, and the voices of Sylvia Rhyne and Eric Redlinger came together idyllically. It is here that you hear the true capacity and greatness of this music, the romance, the mystery, and the magic.
It transfixes and transports you to the captivating fairy tales of your youth; you are at King Arthur's table, you are a lady-in-waiting. For a moment your dreams and distant fantasies are a reality and within your grasp, your hope renewed that one day you too will be swept up by a love that will outlive time itself. This is the greatness and potential of Medieval love songs.
There was a saving grace, Sylvia Rhyne's pristinely clear voice rang with clarity above all competing distractions. Her strength and vocal capacity is undeniable. Her voice should be an app that wakes you in the morning and puts you to sleep at night, such is the sweetness of her talent.
"The Body Must Depart The Heart Remains With You" is lacking, leaving the audience longing for something greater and more fulfilling. There are sparks, of what the evening could have been, but the flame is never fully ignited. What remains is a disappointing love affair that had the promise of a great experience.
"The Body Must Depart The Heart Remains With You" took place on Feb. 16 at the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, 21 Sidney Place. For more information or tickets, call 718-624-3614 or visit www.theater2020.com.