Sep 13, 2012

Vesuvius Ensemble joins Tafelmusik Oct. 11 to 14 for Bella Napoli

Download pdf

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra is joined by Vesuvius Ensemble, Canada’s premiere professional ensemble specializing in the traditional music of southern Italy, from October 11 to 14 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre for Bella Napoli. This unique and vibrant series of concerts celebrates the musical richness — classical and traditional — of Naples and southern Italy, and marks Tafelmusik’s first collaboration with an ensemble of this kind. Vesuvius Ensemble is composed of Francesco Pellegrino (tenor & chitarra battente), and Tafelmusik members Marco Cera (baroque guitar, mandolino and ciaramella) and Lucas Harris, (baroque guitar & theorbo). They are joined by Ben Grossman (baroque guitar, saz & percussion). Concert times, full programme details and ticket information are listed below, or visit

Despite earthquakes, war, pestilence and the occasional eruption of Mount Vesuvius, baroque Naples could boast a superb music scene.  Bella Napoli celebrates that vibrancy by recreating a musical snapshot of a day in the life of baroque Naples. Two contrasting types of music share the programme: the classical repertoire of the royal court, and the traditional music heard on the street. Refined concertos and sonatas by Leonardo Leo, Alessandro Scarlatti and Francesco Durante rub shoulders with effervescent tarantellas, earthy street songs sung in various regional dialects, and arias from comic operas. The traditional segment of the programme opens with a fronna  — an improvised and highly ornamented vocal lament often heard in processions and funerals in rural areas of southern Italy — sung a cappella by Pellegrino.

Vesuvius Ensemble’s repertoire consists of songs from the Italian countryside which are performed in dialect and have been passed on over centuries. They are accompanied by baroque continuo instruments (baroque guitars, chitarrone) in combination with rustic string, percussion, and wind instruments typical of the region: chitarra battente, colascione, tammorra, and ciaramella - a sort of early oboe played by Italian shepherds at Christmas. A classically trained tenor, the ensemble’s leader Francesco Pellegrino also possesses rare first-hand experience with the traditional folk music of southern Italy, and formed Vesuvius Ensemble as a North American vehicle for its performance and preservation.

Francesco Pellegrino has been a celebrated singer of traditional and classical Neapolitan music since his childhood. Formal studies at the Benevento Conservatory, L’Accademia di Canto Verdiano di Bussetto (Parma) and L’Accademia Chigiana di Musica (Siena) led to a career on the opera stage. He sang in the chorus of Milan’s Teatro alla Scala from 1997–2001, and has interpreted the roles of Cavaradossi (Tosca), Pinkerton (Madame Butterfly), Il Duca (Rigoletto) and Alfredo (Traviata). On the concert stage he has performed sacred works by Mozart, Beethoven, Rossini, Verdi and Bruckner.