Published by: Benjamin McMahan, Saturday, May 29, 2010
On Sunday, May 16, John Burkhalter and Nicholas Lockey (Princeton University Doctoral candidate in Musicology) presented lectures on Pre-Colombian music and old world opera at Erdman Hall, Princeton Theological Seminary.
Mr. Burkhalter is a musician with an extensive background in ancient music cultures. His lecture focused largely on the rise of Moctezuma to near-godlike stature and his subsequent overthrow by the invading Spanish conquistadors under Fernando Cortez. He also discussed the musical instruments developed by the ancient Azetcs and demonstrated on several original instruments he had brought along. Most noteworthy was a rousing quartet played by him on a flute-like instrument, Anne McMahan on a recorder-like instrument, a volunteer from the audience playing a clay pipe and Nicholas Lockey beating a hollowed turtle shell with deer antlers to set a proper beat.
Mr. Lockey gave an amusing accounting of operas with storylines based on Moctezuma. However, broad poetic license resulted in tales that were actually a hybrid between Aztec and Incan cultures. He focused on operas about Moctezuma by Vivaldi (1733) and Carl Heinrich Graun (1755). Other operas by Spontini, Paisiello and Zingarelli are long forgotten. He supplemented his lecture with CD recordings of selected pieces from these two operas, and played a section of the ballet music from the Graun opera on a harpsichord provided by Mr. Burkhalter.
The two lectures were separated by an extended intermission to relax and enjoy the drinks and finger food prepared by several PFO members.
Written by George Goeke