When: February 22, 2024 7:00 pm
Where: St Catharine’s College

Please note that this event is not organised by the Centre for Music Performance, and as such, the Centre cannot accept any responsibility for inaccuracies in its listing. Any questions or concerns related to the performance and event details should be directed to the ensemble or performers responsible for this event.

Bella Donna | Cambridge Early Music

Thursday 22 February at 7pm
St Catharine’s College Chapel


The figure of the ‘Bella Donna’ echoes courtly love, which praises an idealized and coveted woman. However, woman can also embody the notion of a flower which, though sublime, is also poisonous and even deadly. In the field of botany, belladonna or Deadly Nightshade presents an enticing but poisonous fruit, also well known to witches for the preparation of their hallucinogenic ointments. What more appropriate metaphor could there be to illustrate the ambiguity of the female figure in the medieval imagination?

Exploring the linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries, this programme reveals a mosaic of fascinating female figures. Thus, the secular songs performed here depict complex psychological portraits. By their actions or crimes, these women overturn the existing world order. The sacred repertoire also spotlights fascinating female characters. The summoned means of expression are similar, whether used to sing of the beloved woman in the tradition of courtly lyricism or in praise of the Virgin Mary, as in the famous Cantigas de Santa María. ‘Temperance, Charm, Torment’: linked by the common thread of these female figures, diverse styles of music emerge. Starting from a canso composed by a trobairitz (the troubadour’s female alter ego), the programme progresses through monodies and polyphonic works of the 13th and 14th centuries.

Ensemble ApotropaïK will demonstrate their approach to the repertoire of the late Middle Ages, and work with members of the Cambridge Early Music Consort on repertoire from their programme. Audience are welcome to observe. Admission free to St Catharine´s College Chapel from 2 to 4pm.

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This concert is in collaboration with the Kellaway Concert Series at St Catharine’s College.