A billowing blue gauze hid the back of the stage of City Recital Hall, the traditional ‘shoebox’ concert hall which has provided traditional classical ensembles with a close to ideal performing arena for two decades. From behind the gauze came tantalising sounds – footsteps, chairs shifting, pages turning and faint sounds of fingers testing strings for tuning. Then, with the entrance of a parade of extravagantly costumed party animals the lighting shifted to reveal a full orchestra behind the gauze, enclosed by a massive gilt picture frame. The gauze fell away and the party began.

Italian Baroque with Circa

Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Circa perform Italian Baroque with Circa as part of Sydney Festival. Photo © Keith Saunders

Italian Baroque is the fourth collaboration between Australia’s leading historically-informed performance ensemble and Circa, the Brisbane-based, internationally-acclaimed contemporary circus company. From what could have been merely a novelty, the creative relationship between the two has developed into a fascinating conversation about the nature of music, art, entertainment and spectacle.

There is plenty of entertainment and spectacle in Italian Baroque. The program is structured around four cities, with each principality portrayed in music and movement....