Boston Camerata, Anne Azéma, Artistic Director
The Boston Camerata occupies a unique place in the densely populated universe of European and American early music ensembles. Camerata’s distinguished rank stems partly from its longevity: founded in 1954, when the field of endeavor was in its infancy, as an adjunct to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ musical instruments collection, Camerata is now one of the longest-lived groups to be functioning, and vigorously so, up to the present day.
But length of service, by itself is not sufficient to account for Camerata’s preeminence, nor are its numerous distinctions including the American Critics’ Circle Award, grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, residencies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Tennessee, and the Grand Prix du Disque. The Boston Camerata has achieved its eminence in large part because of its willingness to approach, with consistent success, many kinds of historical repertoires from many centuries, from the early Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, and from many places and cultures, stretching from the Middle East to early New England, with numerous intermediate stops in Renaissance and Baroque Europe and Latin America. Directed from 1969 to 2009 by Joel Cohen, and from 2009 to the present day by Anne Azéma, the Boston Camerata has continued to create, over more than a half-century of activity, a very a large number of concert and recorded productions. These typically combine scholarship, much of it original, with high performance standards maintained by a distinguished roster of outstanding vocal soloists and instrumentalists. Camerata’s productions regularly combine dramatic flair with a certain humane, overarching perspective on the role music has played in (wo)mankind’s search for meaning and fulfillment. Camerata’s signature approach, as embodied in its touring, pedagogy, and media projects, has won the ensemble many listeners and followers on five continents as the ensemble presents new projects all the while maintaining in active repertoire many of its historic achievements.
Camerata’s diary in recent seasons has reflected intense activity. The ensemble has appeared in concert at the Théatre de la Ville, Paris (2015), the Alcântara Festival in Brasil (2016), The Metropolitan Museum The Cloisters (2017), Rockefeller Chapel Chicago (2018), La Philharmonie de Paris (2018). Anne Azéma’s innovative staged productions include The Night’s Tale, narrating a medieval tournament in France, was first presented in France and Luxembourg (2007), then performed in Boston to great acclaim (2016) with further touring in 2017 and 2018 (Switzerland, Holland, France), and in the US in 2020. Azéma’s reimagining of the Play of Daniel (premièred in 2014) is by now an integral part of the Camerata’s public face to the world. Further tours of Daniel took place in North America (Canada and the US Midwest) – in late 2014, continuing in 2017, 2018, 2020. Two new media projects are released in 2019: Treasures of Devotion: European Spiritual Song ca 1500 (Music & Arts -Naxos); and Free America! Early Songs of Revolt and Rebellion, which renews a collaboration of the ensemble with Harmonia Mundi.