Benjamin Bagby's pioneering ensemble Sequentia has been performing pre-14th century music since before we all became medieval-curious fans of LOTR and GoT. Even though the various factions of the Early Music community get lumped together by mainstream classical music, the medievalists are truly on the fringe. Handel and Bach have integrated society and have done much to introduce the public to the pleasures of basso continuo. Audiences get nervous when you start singing Caccini or Schütz, but will be grateful for recognizable rhythms and the occasional sparks of vocal fireworks. Programming further backwards to the likes of Josquin des Prez or John Dunstable will almost guarantee a thin audience clad in rapidly unraveling wool sweaters and fanny packs. Nevertheless, Benjamin Bagby, who wouldn't touch a piece as "new" as one by Ockeghem, is a bright star of the Early Music festival circuit for his austere yet somehow dramatic storytelling with tiny, strange instruments. Sequentia performs their "Monks Singing Pagans" program where else but at University of Chicago on Friday night. Readers of VAC can experiment with medievalism and enjoy a 20% discount with the code SEQUENTIA20 online.
For more mainstream baroque, Bach Week Festival begins in Evanston. Friday's opening concert features coloratura queen Josefien Stoppelenburg and mezzo-soprano Susan Platts in a program of cantatas and duets under the direction of Richard Webster. Stoppelenburg raises the level of most programs of which she is a part. She is a stylish singer, fun to watch, with a great wardrobe and trills for days.
New Moon Opera mounts a double bill of Menotti's The Old Maid and the Thief and Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti. Be it for lack of a guiding mission, or vanity projects of the untalented, many of the fledgling opera companies seem to die away just as soon as one has begun to hear about them. Founder and Artistic Director Mallory Harding is delivering on her objective to create opportunities for local talent while making opera accessible to a community. New Moon's performances are Friday through Sunday at Next Door Theater in Lincoln Square. Look out for tenor Dennis Kalup who proved to be a skilled comedian as Lord Tolloller in the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company's recent Iolanthe.
Quick Picks: This weekend's choral recommendation is Aestas Consort performing Saturday in Bucktown and Sunday in Forest Park. For lovers of song, you could hardly do better than the Bienen School masters degree recital of Bahareh Poureslami on Sunday evening. "Baha" is joined by pianist Karina Kontorovitch and a chamber ensemble in music of J.S. Bach, Ernest Chausson, Johannes Brahms, and Gustav Mahler. Poureslami and Kontorovitch's recent midday concert at the Chicago Cultural Center revealed a young artist with artistry that belies her youth. Finally, Chicago Opera Theater ends its season with the final performance of Philip Glass's The Perfect American. Philip Glass himself is rumored to be in attendance.