Dallas — The Orchestra of New Spain, a Baroque ensemble dedicated to the performance of Hispanic music, has expanded its focus in recent seasons. Saturday’s concert at Dallas’ Zion Lutheran Church featured a performance of Telemann’s burlesque Don Quichotte auf der Hochzeit des Camacho, a setting of the wedding scene from Cervantes’ Don Quixote—a popular work in this year of the 400th anniversary of Cervantes' death. Clearly, the Spanish Cervantes is the Hispanic connection here, although the text is in German. On Saturday, the Orchestra of New Spain chose to sing in German, but render the spoken recitatives in English translation.
This comic work displays a less familiar side of Telemann, who is perhaps best known for his operas on Greek and Roman mythological subjects. While the music itself is unspectacular, the orchestra and singers availed themselves well. The orchestra’s strings sounded better than I’ve ever heard them, with solid intonation—a trick on Baroque instruments—and a thoughtful Baroque style. The string players are now using just a bit of vibrato, which is still period-appropriate and is so beneficial to their sound quality.
Will Hughes, as Don Quixote, and Patrick J. Gnage, as Sancho Panza, stood center stage, while other soloists stepped away from the chorus for their respective arias. Tenor Gnage and soprano Anna Fredericka Popova, both regulars with the Orchestra of New Spain, were standouts. Gnage’s voice is rich and full, and he chose minimal vibrato for the Telemann. Popova’s voice was ideally suited to the acoustics of Zion Lutheran, floating up into the rafters with ethereal clarity. She, too, has toned down her vibrato since last I heard her, and this choice works beautifully for the Baroque repertoire.
The other work on the program was Handel’s Wedding Cantata, that includes the wedding anthem composed for Princess Anne and William of Orange in 1734. While of course this is a Baroque work, the Hispanic connection is less clear. Still, music director Grover Wilkins 3D has assembled a group of skilled, dedicated Baroque instrumentalists and singers, and to hear them perform Handel was a delight.
The Orchestra of New Spain is certainly a niche group, but Saturday’s concert demonstrated that as purveyors of Baroque performance practice, they have matured into an innovative ensemble with fine musicians and enjoyable performances.