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Photo: Cosima Hanebeck
Photo: Cosima Hanebeck

During her 68 years at the Collegio di Sant'Orsola, Isabella Leonarda composed more than two hundred published works in twenty published collections. Born into minor nobility in Novara in 1620, she entered the Ursuline convent at the age of sixteen, rising to the office of Madre superior in 1686 and Madre vicaria in 1693 before her death in 1704. She is considered one of the most productive female composers of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Her approximately 100 solo motets combine technical virtuosity with a highly personal expression of religious fervor. The texts are frequently non-liturgical, rich in imagery and assumed to be written by Leonarda herself. They offer a fascinating insight into both Leonarda’s own deep and personified beliefs and the larger theological context of a 17th-century nunnery.

In spite of their musical quality, most of Leonarda’s works have not be re-performed in modern times, and only a handful have been recorded or published in modern editions. Contralto Julie Comparini and an ensemble of early music specialists present solo motets and violin sonatas by this virtuoso Baroque composer.

Julie Comparini, contralto
Wiebke Corßen and Julia Krikkay, violin
Jenny Westman, viola da gamba
Susanne Peuker, theorbo
Tobias Gravenhorst, harpsichord
Klaus Westermann, organ

Foto © Wolodymyr Smishkeyvich
Foto © Wolodymyr Smishkeyvich

Watershed (2021) is a song cycle by the award-winning Irish composer Ailís Ní Ríain on poems from the book And Say by Jessica Brown, performed by Julie Comparini (contralto) and Yonit Kosovske (piano) and made possible by an Irish Arts Council Music Commissions Award. Jessica Brown's texts reflect upon the Irish lake Lough Derg near Limerick City and other natural bodies of water throughout Ireland.

The multimedia concert program Sea-Sounds combines Watershed with Edward Elgar's 1899 song cycle Sea Pictures and readings of the Watershed texts and other poems from And Say in the original English and/or German translations by Schirin Nowrousian (2022). This musical-literary programme is surrounded visually by a light projection by artist Sara Förster using overhead projectors and glass structures reminiscent of water and its reflections, performed live and individually tailored to the performance space.

Watershed can also be performed with or without poetry readings as half of a recital programme titled Lough Derg 1 & 2  together with Samuel Barber’s Hermit Songs (1953) on texts by medieval monks and pilgrims visiting “the other” Lough Derg in Donegal, Ireland.

The Watershed recording, which embeds the song cycle in Jessica Brown's readings of other poems from And Say as well as field recordings of the natural landscapes around Lough Derg, was released in November 2021 and is available on Bandcamp as a CD or digital download.
The world premiere performance of Watershed took place on March 1st in Limerick, Ireland.

Ailís Ní Ríain: Fanore in June
Julie Comparini, Yonit Kosovske

More information and bookings: Julie Comparini

Photography exhibit by Cosima Hanebeck and Julie Comparini

Foto © Cosima Hanebeck

Ah, the glamorous world of classical music! High-gloss photos of perfectly styled divas and celebrity conductors conjure the elite elegance of opera's golden age, when the iconic style of stars like Maria Callas brought renown far beyond the concert hall.

Such are the images that often come to mind in regard to the classical music profession, but reality often paints a different picture. The endless train rides and airport waiting queues, the rehearsals in beautiful historic churches that can unfortunately only be heated to slightly above freezing, the necessary but utterly boring administrative work or the tiniest head cold that can cancel an entire performance are just as much a part of the job as fame, fortune and style.

But why not glam up that side of the business as well? In their photo series Tournee, singer Julie Comparini and photographer Cosima Hanebeck re-stage scenes from the mundane side of the singing profession in elaborately constructed settings, with sophisticated costumes and props that both recollect and ironically comment the golden age of fashion photography. In doing so, they uncover the invisible life "behind the scenes" and elevate it to a visible, visual performance.

Tournee is available as a photography exhibit with or without musical performance.

Concept, Staging, Costumes, Model: Julie Comparini
Photography, Staging, Set Design: Cosima Hanebeck

More information and bookings: Julie Comparini

Photo: Library of Congress
Photo: Library of Congress

Concert with photographic projections

Long unconquered by humankind, the sea is the birthplace of a rich multitude of myths and legends. This untamed element, whose sudden swells, hypnotising calms and endless expanses lure men into its depths, has shaped the collective memory of all human culture.

Its more sinister side inspired many Romantic-era poets and artists, both serving as a metaphor for unpredictable and often brutal emotional states and being a source of very real danger. Sailors, fishermen, adventurers and travellers alike often perished in its depths, as the vast number of shipwrecks still rotting on the ocean floor can attest to. There live, according to ancient legends, the fantastic creatures of the deep: nymphs, mermaids, sea monsters, or kings and queens of sunken continents in their glass-walled underwater palaces. These eerie and mythical worlds illustrate, in abstract form, our primal fear of the sea.

At the beginning lush and poetical, the musical works in this programme gradually evolve into ominous fantasies and realistic images of the sea's hidden perils.

Das Schloss am Meere is a version of this programme for two singers and piano without photo projection.

Andrea Lauren Brown, Manja Stephan, Anna Terterjan, soprano
Nina Böhlke, Julie Comparini, Kerstin Stöcker, alto
Suwon Kim, piano
Musical Direction: Julie Comparini
Visuals: Peter Schenk

Edward Elgar: Where Corals Lie
Julie Comparini, Suwon Kim, piano

Johannes Brahms: Barcarole
Tutti a capella

More information and bookings: Julie Comparini

Two song cycles
Ned Rorem (1923 - ) Poems of Love and the Rain
Ian Wilson (1964 - ) Games

Julie Comparini, mezzo-soprano
Yonit Kosovske, piano

Foto © Maurice Gunning
Foto © Maurice Gunning

Ned Rorem's thirty-minute song cycle Poems of Love and the Rain takes us on a round-trip poetic journey by way of a palindrome. Rorem writes: "I selected poems by several American authors and set each one to music twice, in as contrasting a manner as possible … And the order chosen for these seventeen songs is 'pyramidal': the sequence works toward the Interlude, then backtracks — as in a mirror." The poems “deal principally with requited love against a backdrop of constant rain” and the cycle "tells no story per se; it seeks rather to sustain a uniform mood with as much variety as the terms of this mood permit — with an occasional flash of light through the black cloud."

Games is a thirty-minute song cycle on texts by Vasko Popa (1922–1991), one of Serbia's (formerly Yugoslavia) greatest poets. Popa fought as a Partisan during World War II and spent time imprisoned in a German concentration camp. A decade after the war ended, Popa's poem cycle “Games” was published in 1956 as part of his collection “Unrest-Field.” Ian Wilson's song cycle, premiered in 2004, reflects on these poems, to which he felt inspired to set to music. Wilson writes: “To me, these surrealist texts, superficially about strange and uncomfortable games, are very likely a way of processing and reflecting on his war-time experiences.”

The performance in Bremen in 2015 featured projections of photo collages from the series Inferno by Piet Wessing.

"In the Rain" from Poems of Love and the Rain on YouTube

Ned Rorem: Stop All The Clocks

Ian Wilson: The Seducer

More information and bookings: Julie Comparini

Photo © Felix Patzelt
Photo © Felix Patzelt

Bertolt Brecht was one of the most influential German poets and playwrights of the 20th century. Collaborative projects with musicians and composers were an integral part of his work.

Many of Brecht's texts question the role of the individual in society. What is a person worth? From what source do people draw their sense of self-worth? What happens in a society where people's worth goes unrecognized?

"Auf ein Wort" features song settings by Hanns Eisler and Paul Dessau on these and related themes.

Julie Comparini, voice
Alexander Seemann, piano, accordeon, voice
Felix Patzelt, guitar

Watch the trailer on Youtube
More information and bookings: Julie Comparini

Foto © Felix Patzelt
Foto © Felix Patzelt

Karin Gyllenhammar, soprano
Julie Comparini, contralto
Carla Linné, vielle and rebec
Susanne Peuker, lute

„Cinquefoil“ – a monastery flower, a medieval window, or four musicians and a passion for medieval and Renaissance music. Each brings her own individual talents and knowledge in the fields of linguistics, early musical notation or medieval instrument construction to the ensemble. All are specialists in the field of historical performance who have studied early music at the Akademie für Alte Musik/Hochschule für Künste in Bremen and perform as soloists and with early music ensembles in Germany and abroad.

Une année, une vie
Court music of the fifteenth century abounds in metaphors. The concert programme Une année, une vie uses the metaphor of the seasons and the yearly cycle as a metaphor for the span of a human life. Songs for New Year's and springtime sing of hope and young love. Summer brings light and warmth, but also confusion and doubt. Age, grief and the death of loved ones are expressed in autumnal and winter images. Hope and joy return with Christmas and the promise of another new year.

Guillaume Dufay: Ce jour de l'an voudray joye menay

Anon: N'a pas long temps

More information and bookings: Julie Comparini