An interview with Dr. Robert Kendrick, our pre-concert lecturer!

Oct 7, 2019 | blog, The Empress, The Empress: Margarita Teresa | 0 comments

An interview with Dr. Robert Kendrick

our pre-concert lecturer!



We are so looking forward to the pre-concert chats at our upcoming performances of The Empress. At all three concerts, Dr. Robert L. Kendrick will be sharing his insights into Margarita Teresa’s fascinating life at the court of the Holy Roman Empire, as well as more information about Antonio Cesti and 17th-century opera convention more broadly. Dr. Kendrick is the William Colvin Professor in Music, Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago, where he pursues a range of research subjects, including early modern music and culture, with additional interests in Latin American music, historical anthropology, traditional Mediterranean polyphony, music and commemoration, and the visual arts.


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Pictured is Velazquez’s famed “Las Meninas” painting, in which young Margarita Teresa figures prominently.

We recently sent Dr. Kendrick a list of get-to-know you questions – read on to learn a bit more about him and why he loves researching the Habsburgs. And don’t forget, tickets to these unique concerts are on sale now!

The academic year has just started, what’s filling your time these days? 

We haven’t actually started yet, so I’m still preparing classes, including teaching colonial-period Latin American history in Oaxaca, Mexico, next February.
You have such a diverse range of research subjects. What draws you to the early modern period?
I guess it all started listening to old LPs of Claudio Monteverdi’s music, circa 1969, and ever since I have been hooked.
What can the operas performed at Leopold and Margarita’s Court teach us about their lives, priorities, and tastes?
Even more than the court of Louis XIV in France, both Vienna and Madrid were “theater states”, as the anthropologist Clifford Geertz once described. Their values, politics, and not least deep religious sentiment were all evident in the theater for music.
What fascinates you about the Habsburgs?
On one hand, tradition was important to them. On the other, 17th-century Europe was changing radically, and tracking their reaction to these changes is a great study in continuity and discontinuity.
Margarita Teresa died so young – she was just 21 when she passed away. How did she come to have such an outsized impact on Western history, despite her short life?
Let’s say that she was intended to have a great impact on the history of the Habsburg dynasty, if everything had worked out as her father and her husband/uncle/cousin had planned. It didn’t, of course. But this is one reason why the painter Diego Velazquez was evidently so fascinating by painting her as a child. 
What’s the aspect of these concerts that most excites you?
It’s always great to hear this music come out of the archives and be performed live.
What will ticket holders learn at your pre-concert chats? Can you give us a taste?
I’ll try to talk about her life, her musical knowledge, and just what the operatic pieces are about.
We want to learn more about Margarita Teresa and the Holy Roman Empire! What should we read/watch/listen to?
Some great book options are: Andrew Wheatcroft’s The Habsburgs: Embodying Empire. For more on theater and opera in Madrid: Louise Stein, Songs of Mortals, Dialogues of the Gods. And for opera in Vienna, Herbert Seifert’s “The Establishment, Development and Decline of Operatic Institutions in Austria,” which is a chapter in Italian Opera in Central Europe, vol. 1, ed. R. Strohm.

And for a preview of the style of music you’ll hear at these concerts, here’s a clip from Cesti’s Il Pomo d’Oro, from the one production which seems to have taken place in the 1980s, with English (and Greek) subtitles.

Thank you, Dr. Kendrick! His pre-concert chats will take place 30 mins prior to each performance of The Empress, October 18th, 19th, and 20th. So don’t delay, purchase your tickets today! We’ll see you soon!

The Newberry Consort will present excerpts from the third act of this titanic baroque opera with a top-notch group of locally and internationally-acclaimed instrumentalists and singers.

Additionally, the ensemble will perform a comic version of the Orfeo myth intermezzo penned by Emperor Leopold himself. Instrumental interludes by Johann Schmelzer, a favorite court composer, complete the program.

Lush projections by Shawn Keener will lend a striking visual component to the performances.

Don’t miss your once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear this amazing music live – order your tickets today!

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