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Review: 'Robin Hood,' a feast for eyes and ears 

*****
click to enlarge Soprano Rosa Lamoreaux of Hesperus
  • Soprano Rosa Lamoreaux of Hesperus

The Earl of Huntingdon, Prince John, King Richard the Lion Hearted, the Lady Marian, Tina Chancey, Grant Hereid, Kathryn Montoya, Rosa Lamoreaux . . . These and too many others to name combined on Sunday to produce an "arts and entertainment" of the first order--and, for Indy audiences, the first of its kind. The term "swashbuckling" must have been invented for the motion picture industry with the 1922 release of the film Robin Hood, shown here via DVD, projected onto an 8 ft. by 6 ft. screen well above the stage, with a smaller screen facing the performers, so that they could in turn face us. It was accompanied on period instruments by the final four names listed above, which form Hesperus. An early-music group with a number of past appearances in our Early Music Festival, this one topped them all. And the IHC's Basile Theater was packed to the gills.

The 2-hour black and white film, shown in various tints throughout, deals with the transformation of Robert, the Earl of Huntingdon (played by Douglas Fairbanks) into the legendary Robin Hood, with his Sherwood Forest band of merry men. This occurs following the beloved King Richard the Lion Hearted's leaving England for one of the medieval Crusades, allowing the evil, treacherous, mendacious Prince John to take his place. Richard takes Huntingdon with him, but the latter learns of John's tyrannical rule, returns to England -- and Robin's swashbuckling begins: chases-on-horses, swordfights, breathtaking leaps across castle turrets and ramparts, rescuing his Lady Marian by climbing shrubbery to her tower prison. This all happens at a faster-than-life speed (typical of silents), lending yet more comedy than originally intended. From start to finish, the audience was engrossed - and amused.

Having created this production some ten years ago, the Hesperus group has given it a goodly number of times all over the country. Using soprano Rosa Lamoreaux, along with a vast assortment of period instruments - viols, recorders, pipes, a cornetto, drums and a crumhorn - drawn from the medieval and Renaissance eras, the players fit the music to the screen action with great finesse (e.g. a drum beat accompanying a door knocking). Many of the selections were drawn from the court of Henry VIII, some by Henry himself. Hesperus blended a total of 29 pieces (I counted 'em) as a backdrop, with only a few breaks. To sum it up, I was thoroughly engaged, enthralled, enraptured, entranced, edified. What a way to end Indy's 2011-2012 classical music season! July 15; Indiana History Center

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