Tim Cahill Roxi Taylor Michael Zimmermann Alan Dudley Delynda Johnson Moravec Frances Muñoz Andrew Chernack
Directed by Mark-Brian Sonna
Music Direction by Patsy McGregor Sadowski Alan Dudley
Written by Mark-Brian Sonna Music by various Medieval composers
"Mr. Sonna has written a wonderful play." Carol Rice, Pegasus News
"...a very lovingly crafted performance." Ryan La Mountain, Event Alert
"Tim Cahill('s) voice is absolutely spectacular....The Lovers warrants your attendance for an evening’s span for the sheer pleasure of the music alone. And how often do you get the chance to see a star glimmer before he lights up the whole sky?" Alexandra Bonifield, Edge Dallas
"Best Bet...It's not yet Valentine's Day but that doesn't mean you can't get into the mood for romance a little early with 'The Lovers', MBS Productions annual celebration of l'amour set in 13th century Spain (and featuring medieval music)." Arnold Wayne Jones, Dallas Voice
"Addison feels the love... Where to go for your Middle Ages romance fix? Why, Addison, of course!" Andrea Grimes, Dallas Observer
Painting of The Lovers of Teruel by Antonio Munoz Degrain
The year is 1217, and Isabel awaits the return of her love…
The Lovers is a true story.The year is 1212, in Teruel, Spain, Isabel and Juan Diego are planning to announce their engagement. They were friends as children and as they grew up they fell in love with each other and both families agreed that when they got old enough they would marry. Unfortunately, as time passed, Juan Diego’s family finds itself in financial straits. Without notice, Isabel’s father cancels the engagement for he realizes he would have to bail out Juan Diego’s family via the dowry. Heartbroken, Juan Diego begs Isabel’s father for another opportunity to regain her hand. It is agreed that he would have five years to recoup the family’s fortune. The following day he leaves town in search of fortune. Five years pass and Juan Diego isn’t heard from again. The year is now 1217 and Isabel’s father arranges another marriage to happen on the fifth anniversary of the agreement, therefore keeping his promise. During Isabel’s wedding Juan Diego returns thinking he’s a day early, for he understood the agreement to be five years from the day he had left Teruel. When he realizes the error he rushes to the church What occurred in the next 24 hours shocked, startled, and broke the hearts of all those involved. The events were so exceptional, so shocking, and so heart wrenching, that to this day Isabel and Juan Diego’s love story has been recounted and retold in countless poems, plays, and operas, inspired artists and lovers throughout the world.Over the centuries millions have visited Teruel to visit the burial site where the Lovers of Teruel, rest side by side for eternity. This play not only tells the profound and love story but weaves music and popular song from the middle ages to make this the most unique and touching musical you will ever see.
For Valentine’s Night, we will have a special show with Roses and Chocolates.
Tomb of the Lovers of Teruel
I’ve been asked repeatedly about the music in this show.Where it came from, why I chose it, what language it is being sung in, how did I figure out what the lyrics said, and how it fits into the story.
Martin Codax Cantiga VII, Pergamiño Vindel
The music of The Lovers spans a 400 year history.While most of the music dates to the Middle Ages, audiences will be surprised to hear how contemporary most of the music sounds.All of the songs were very popular in their day.We know this because copies of these songs can be found all over Europe.Keep in mind this was before the existence of the printing press, so for these songs to be so widely disseminated indicated that they had to be transcribed and shared.While the musical notations may have changed since they were first written, the original manuscripts are still quite legible.Thanks to the internet, many of these ancient texts are available for viewing in PDF files.The trick with some is being able to “read” the ancient manuscript.
Martin Codax, Lisbon
While the songs come from areas now known as France, Portugal, Spain and Italy, these geographic distinctions didn’t quite exist back in those times.The lyrics are in Old Spanish, Neo-Latin, Galician, Medieval Latin, Classical Latin, and Early Italian.Translating them has not been as difficult as one might think thanks to the dominance of the Roman Empire.The Roman Empire established Latin as the official language of commerce.There were regional variations, much like there is today with the English language – one only need go to England where one must get on a lift, versus and elevator to go up into a high rise.After the fall of the Roman Empire there wasn’t an official centralization of the language.By the time the first millennia rolled around there was in existence what many scholars call Neo-Latin which is the base for Spanish and Galician which later evolved into Portuguese.Neo-Latin is very similar to Classical Latin.If you learn one, you can pretty much read and understand the other.Italian and Medieval Latin evolved out of the Classical Latin.When I began studying early Spanish Literature I over time learned to read Neo-Latin.Unbeknownst to me I inadvertently picked up the ability to read and comprehend various other medieval languages that are now defunct.This knowledge has allowed me to choose the songs based on not only their melody but their lyrical content.
Just because I am able to understand the lyrics doesn’t mean most people can.Because the songs are for the most part short and were to be sung with repetitions, I opted to have the cast sing most of them in the original language so you could appreciate the beauty of the language as it corresponds with the notes, and then repeat the song in English so you could appreciate the important lyric content.
Mark-Brian with an Oud
I chose these songs because they have a narrative quality.The modern musical utilizes song to further the story line.In choosing the music I did not want the action of the play to “stop” for a song, unless, as it happens during the party scene in Act 1, the song is part of the entertainment.The other criterion is that they needed to sound cohesive as a unit.Considering the music spans 400 years and there is a variety of composers involved I wanted to make sure that all the songs worked well together as a group.There are certain melodic shifts that happen in each song giving the entire score a surprising degree of unity.
The song list is as follows:
Ecco la Primavera by Franceso Landini (1325/35 – 1397).“Spring is Here” is joyful, and exuberant exaltation of the arrival of spring.This said, it contains a slightly ominous lyric in the middle of the song:“In this changing time, everything is uncertain.”
Oy Comamos y Bevamos by Juan del Enzina (1469-1530) is a rollicking drinking song, with very clever lyrics; the melody is secondary.This song is only sung in English.
Un Cavalier di Spagna by Magistro Rofino (1400?).This Italian song about “A Rider from Spain” has an absolutely timeless melody.
Pange Melos Lacrimosum, (1190?) is an agonizing lament and is considered one of the greatest compositions of all time.No composer is known While the lyrics are tragically haunting, the notes so perfectly fit the sounds of Medieval Latin words, it is of a disservice to attempt to fit English vowels and consonants to it.This said, we do one stanza in English to convey the scope of the tragic lyrics and then perform the entire song as written.Just the sounds produced are able to convey the full meaning of this haunting composition.No composer is known and the song comes from the area now known as France.
Cantiga VII by Martin Codax (1235?)Not much is known about the composer, only seven of his compositions exist and they are all stunningly beautiful.Like Cantiga V which was performed during Theatre of Love last year, this will mark the first time this song has been performed for an audience in the United States.
Si N’os Huviera Mirado by Cristóbal de Morales (ca. 1500-1553) from the Cancionero de Uppsala.Because of the unusual contraction “N’os” the title could be translated as “If I hadn’t seen you,” “If you hadn’t seen me”, and “If we hadn’t seen each other”.The rest of the lyrics do not indicate which title is correct and furthermore, manage to emphasize the three possibilities.
Ductia, Anonymus XIV Century.Ductias are two melody lines that interweave.There are many Ductias in existence.I chose this one for even though it has its traditional marching pace, many of the musical phrases end on a lower note giving what is usually a bright and happy tune a more serious and uneasy feel.
¿De Dónde Venís, Amores? By Juan Vásquez (ca. 1500- ca.1560).The lyric and title “Where did you come from, Love?” lends itself to be sung by each character with a different meaning; for “love” can reference Juan Diego, or the emotion itself.
The Lovers of Teruel
Vos me Mataste by Juan Vásquez (ca. 1500- ca.1560).When I found this song I got very excited.Even though the story of the lovers happened three centuries earlier, the composer would have been very familiar with it.The title of this song quotes Juan Diego’s emotional outburst “You’ve Killed Me”.The rest of the lyrics coincide with the historical account of what else was said.This is perhaps one of the earliest songs written about Juan Diego.
Vesame y Abraçame, Anonymus, Cancionero de Uppsala (ca 1500-1553).This cancionero or “song book” collected not just popular songs of thetime but melodies from earlier eras.“Hug me and Kiss me” is undated.
Requiescant in Pace by Juan Vásquez (1556) from the Agenda Defunctorum.There are many “Rest in Peace” songs that were written for Liturgy.The melodic structure and ending in this particular piece ties in quite nicely with the rest of the music.
Lastly, I must say, what makes this project so exciting is that most of the music has not been heard by contemporary audiences.These are truly "oldies but goodies".Frequently early music is intimidating for it tends to be rather academic and formal.This group of melodies proves that there is something universal about popular songs even if they are 500 to 900 years old!
Mark-Brian Sonna, January, 2008
Close up of the Lovers of Teruel
Reviews & Press
The Lovers Jacqui Trotman, Independent Arts Writer
I admit it.Mention the year 1212 and theatre in the same sentence and I dart elsewhere looking for something more modern to fill my time.I'm happy to report that I am now converted.
The Lovers, written and directed by Mark-Brian Sonna, is the consummate tale of love based on a true story.And just in time for Valentine's Day.The plot is familiar, for sure, yet refreshingly exotic.With a brilliant set designed by Alejandro de la Costa and magical music by medieval composers (musically directed by Patsy McGregor Dadowski and Alan Dudley), who could possibly be inside the Stone Cottage Theatre in Addison and not feel as though they were actually in Spain in another time?Ahh, what a nice way to end my historical play drought.
The story goes like this: Isabel and Juan Diego are in love and want to marry.Sounds good except Juan Diego's family is broke.Enter Don Pedro with his large, toothy grin and a fat wallet.You know what happens next.That's right, Isabel's father decides that she should marry the money and forget about poor little Juan Diego.Juan Diego loves Isabel so much that he asks for five years to reverse his fortune so that he can marry her.Five years pass.Isabel and Don Pedro are at the altar when Juan Diego bursts in.He has money now and wants to marry Isabel.Except Isabel said "I do" to Don Pedro only moments before.Ladies, is this not a secret fear of yours?Needless to say, Juan Diego dies of a broken heart and Isabel can't go on without him.Don Pedro was not my favorite character until this moment when he sets aside his pride and inters Isabel and Juan Diego together, as they would have wanted.How can I get one of him?
Doe-eyed Roxi Taylor and fresh-faced Michael Zimmerman team up to provide believable, naive, young lovers while the rest of the cast provide strong presence around their fragile hearts.The singing, at times superb and at times apprehensive, was altogether moving.The music, overall, moves the story and heightens the emotion of the moment with eloquent brilliance.The performance from all the actors deserves our respect but a special tip of my cap goes to Richard Rollins for his mature and authoritative aura.His monologues were delivered with such ease and professionalism that I could hardly tell he was acting at all.
Trite or not, this story resonates within and around all of us whether its 1212 or 2012.Boy meets girl.Young love.Parents with their own agendas.Bad timing.Undying passion.The pure, untamed, beast of love.Thank you, Mark-Brian Sonna for renewing our childhood dreams, our belief in love worth dying for, and for keeping the flame burning within us all.After this show you'll want to go home and kiss your loved ones.
You can grab tickets to The Lovers and learn more about Mark-Brian Sonna and upcoming shows at www.mbsproductions.net.Tickets can also be purchased by calling 214-477-4942.On Valentine's Day you will receive chocolates and a rose.Don't forget to grab your honey.
Certain spokespersons of the religious right give the impression that marriage as a sacrament has been around since amorous cavemen and women tied the knot. Not so. There was a “love revolution” around 1200 A.D., when pre-arranged unions handing over women to men as property in short ceremonies presided over by magistrates began to give way to courting and romantic love and, heaven forbid, partners selecting each other. And the Church got involved, creating more elaborate ceremonies and establishing marriage as a sacrament. It must have been a tough period for then "traditionalists.”
At the same time, vocal music flourished across Europe, inspired by the rise of romantic love and the East-West clash and blending of cultural traditions, instrumentation and notions of harmony and melody. An exciting time to lead a troubadour’s life!
Mark-Brian Sonna utilizes both transitional themes in creating and producing his unique Valentine’s Month play offering The Lovers, a Byzantine soap opera with medieval music, in performance at the Stone Cottage in Addison. Based on a true series of events that took place in Teruel, Spain starting in 1212 A.D., the plot concerns the fates of two childhood sweethearts, betrothed at birth in the “traditional” way, who happen to be madly in love with each other and plan to pledge their love in the newfangled, romantic “modern” way as well. Everyone is jubilant until the wealth and prospects of the enamored young man take a severe downturn. The young lady’s papa, a sensible man of the old school, withdraws her suddenly from the long-term union, instead offering his “prize” to a new magistrate with better prospects.
Pandemonium erupts with crying, lamenting and a few curses, all in song. Overwhelmed, papa finally relents into postponing the second marriage for five years to give the first sweetheart time to travel the world to seek a new fortune. Five years passes by with no sign of his return (Act II). So honorable papa presses forward the second arranged marriage, incorporating the town priest into the ceremony along with the town magistrate. Guess who shows up, after the vows get exchanged. Guess what happens. Mon dieu. This tragic event circulated widely across Europe, in story and in song. It’s likely that it inspired Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.
Mark-Brian Sonna handled the tale in a delightfully unexpected way. For months he did research online, investigating the extensive wealth of music from the 1100’s through the early 1500’s, carefully treasured and preserved in universities and libraries worldwide. He employed his knowledge and skill in translating Latin, neo-Latin and related “romance” languages. He selected fourteen disparate, intriguing vocal numbers that share musical and thematic contexts, some written about the actual event, and merged them together into an almost operatic format. The result may never make it as a TV series but is still captivating, thought-provoking entertainment and so completely appropriate for the month we celebrate St. Valentinus.
Sonna cast fine, classically-trained singers with rich voices, all brave enough to take on the unusual dissonance and non-traditional harmonies of the music as written. He employs guitar, dulcimer and harp as accompaniment, enhancing the ethereal ambience. The play runs about an hour and a half with one short intermission. It’s a memorable way to celebrate romantic love, no matter how traditionally or modernly defined. The singing and staging are excellent. The acting is less so, but as the music carries the show, it hardly diminishes the production’s effectiveness. Best performance of the show is Tim Cahill, portraying the second suitor, Don Pedro, with a singing voice that could charm the birds out of the trees and a powerful stage presence to match.
MBS Productions' The Lovers runs through February 16, with a special Chocolate and Roses performance on February 14, a likely sell-out. Purchase tickets online or by calling 214-477-4942.
Mr. Sonna has written and directed a story that should be better known, for it really is beautiful and heartbreaking.
Mark-Brian Sonna always does the remarkable. He takes a little-known story – or sometimes even a well-known story – and makes it his own. In this case, it is a story well-known in Spain but virtually unheard of in the States. That of two young lovers who are torn apart by the greed and selfishness of their parents. Who would rather die, and what they would do, to keep from being apart. Sound like Romeo and Juliet which has been done (pardon the pun) to death? The two stories share similarities, but only because Shakespeare partially modeled his young lovers on these two from the early 1200s. And after seeing MBS Productions’ retelling of the true story, one really must wonder why we haven’t seen more of The Lovers of Teruel.
Isabel and Juan Diego have been promised since birth, and unlike most arranged marriages, they have actually grown up together and have even fallen in love. Their parents are life-long friends, but Juan Diego’s family has fallen on hard times financially, and Isabel’s father, Don Segura, is reneging on his agreement to marry his only daughter to his friend’s only son. He instead wants to marry her off to the dashing Don Pedro, whose family is wealthy and powerful. Isabel refuses, even going so far as to curse Juan Diego and herself if they are not allowed to wed. Juan Diego asks for some time – five years to regain the family fortune. His request is granted, and the clock starts ticking.
Unfortunately for Juan Diego, he didn’t confirm just exactly when the five years began. In Don Segura’s mind, it began when they struck the bargain. In Juan Diego’s mind, it began the next day, when he left town.
Flash forward five years. Needless to say, Don Segura isn’t going to wait an extra minute to marry his daughter off, and the wedding has just taken place when Juan Diego bursts in professing his love. No one has seen or heard of or from him since he left, and he was presumed dead, but instead, he has more than regained his family fortune. But he is too late. Isabel has been wed to Don Pedro. He asks only for one kiss from her to sustain him, which she refuses on the grounds that being a married woman, it wouldn’t be proper. Juan Diego dies at her feet.
At his funeral the next day, Isabel apologizes for refusing to kiss him. She leans over to kiss his cold lips…and never stands back up. She, too, has died of a broken heart. Her curse has been fulfilled. Her husband, Don Pedro, decrees that because their love is so strong, Isabel and Juan Diego will be buried side by side.
What a beautiful story! I love romantic tales like this, and knowing that it’s a true story makes it even more romantic.
Alejandro de la Costa has once again transformed the tiny Stone Cottage into the beautiful, sumptuous abode where Isabel lives. His simple choices of rich, elegant fabrics and antique chairs make for a functional playing space that timelessly transports you to Medieval Spain.
The true stand-outs of the cast were undoubtedly Tim Cahill as Don Pedro and Delynda Johnson Moravec as Doña Segura, Isabel's mother. Don Pedro expresses his love for Isabel throughout the piece, despite her protestations, and in the most moving song of the night, "Si N’os Huviera Mirado," Mr. Cahill so beautifully sings and emotes that I had to wonder what was WRONG with Isabel that she didn’t give into this guy! A most impressive performance. I wish we had gotten to hear more of Ms. Moravec, as her role wasn’t very large, but I thoroughly enjoyed her singing and her acting throughout.
As Isabel, Roxi Taylor absolutely looked the part, but other than in the first scene with Juan Diego (Michael Zimmermann), she didn’t have much chemistry with her co-stars. Her singing voice was too young and thin for the role, and she had very little expression. I was also not impressed with Mr. Zimmermann – the only exception to this was when he burst into the wedding. He showed some nice dramatic chops there, but by then I was rooting for Mr. Cahill.
Patsy McGregor Sadowski and Alan Dudley are to be commended for their musical direction. Live onstage music from various stringed instruments was just perfect, and I wish some of the a cappella songs had been accompanied as well.
Mr. Sonna has written a wonderful play. It’s not too long, and in fact could even use some more backstory about the two families and the financial troubles that recently plagued Juan Diego’s. I would also liked to have seen more of the lovers themselves – the short opening scene was really not enough to show the audience just how powerful their love was, especially as silent as Juan Diego was when the engagement between Isabel and Don Pedro was being announced. We saw much more love professed from Don Pedro than between Juan Diego and Isabel.
Yet it still works. And very well – in the space, musically, visually. Mr. Sonna has written and directed a story that should be better known, for it really is beautiful and heartbreaking. MBS Productions’ mission is “bringing new theatre to the world.” After this piece, it should be “bringing old stories to the stage.” And hopefully his retelling of The Lovers of Teruel is just the beginning.
Purchase tickets online or by calling 214-477-4942. And there is also a special Valentine’s Day "Chocolate & Roses” performance in which all ticket holders will receive chocolates and a rose.
Mark-Brian Sonna has a loyal following, which greets each MBS Productions performance with enthusiastic anticipation. His audiences know his staging will always share a unique glimpse of life through the lens of art, sometimes very funny, other times very somber. MBS Productions’ current play with medieval music, The Lovers, running through February 16 at the Stone Cottage in Addison, and based on a real event that took place in Teruel, Spain in 1212AD, fits into the latter category. Sonna takes risks and follows creative hunches with daring intuition and a wholehearted belief that art can, will, conquer all. It’s as much a pleasure to watch his rapt audience follow him on their kaleidoscopic journey, as it is to experience his productions, myself.
Some productions succeed more than others. In the case of The Lovers, the music soars. It’s carefully gleaned from medieval texts spanning a four hundred year time span, fine-tuned and inserted throughout the play at key moments, and represents an era where songs were short, meant to be repeated, and were often sung with little accompaniment.Sonna chose a wide range of musical numbers that would sustain the play’s mood and help carry the narrative; his unique knowledge of Neo-Latin allowed him to delve deeply into an amazing array of texts available on-line to forge the disparate works into a powerful cohesive synthesis. The only instruments used in the play, and sparingly, are harp, dulcimer and guitar, under the guidance of voice specialist Patsy M. Sadowski. Occasionally the dulcimer overpowers the vocalists, but the expressive and contemporary quality of the music is astounding, given its age. The singers cast all have excellent voices; each blends beautifully within the ensemble while offering worthy solo performance as well. The production feels like a proto-opera, without the associated grandiose arpeggios and flights of overused “operatic” vibrato that can sour audiences. It’s more of a delicious time warp feeling than a logical lead up to Donizetti.
At intermission I mused aloud my wonderment that many singers cannot act, just as many dancers cannot sing. With one notable exception, the acting in this production is not up to MBS Productions’ usual level. The stage direction is elegant and simple, and the actors never miss their marks; but they really never get into their characters, except when they are singing. Tantalizingly not used to full potential is the tall, handsome Tim Cahill, a graduate of prestigious IndianaUniversity, who now resides in Allen. He has the sort of commanding presence that would make him worth watching while reciting random names from a phone book and a focused immersion on stage that should lead him to many major roles of a national scope. His singing voice is absolutely spectacular. He is the sort of performer who is capable of totally revitalizing “hackneyed” roles and will probably set new standards by which other performers will be judged as his career unfolds.What a delight to observe someone just getting warmed up. I’m sorry that he had a secondary role and did not get to carry more of The Lovers with his capable talents and strengths.
The Lovers concerns the plight of a pair of young sweethearts, betrothed early in life then separated when the young man’s family fortunes go south. Enter a second marriageable lad, add a five-year postponement of nuptials while Lad #1 seeks a new fortune and a whopping misunderstanding about the calculation of time allotted him to re-gain it. It’s a big ‘oops’, resulting in romantic tragedy and probably the source of the plotline of a somewhat more recognizable love tragedy penned by one W. Shakespeare about star-crossed lovers….
It’s not funny, bawdy or macabre, as many MBS Productions can be. But The Lovers warrants your attendance for an evening’s span for the sheer pleasure of the music alone. And how often do you get the chance to see a star glimmer before he lights up the whole sky?