Twenty years ago Early Music was often seen as the domain of the sandals and lentil brigade, hence the name, I Fagiolini: 'beany music'- an impulsive joke, causing much curiosity and earthy speculations since their beginnings in 1986.
What to expect? Tables filled the CBSO centre, presenting a tempting selection of antipasto enhancing keen anticipation of The Full Monteverdi. Wine in hand we were drawn into the composer's fourth book of madrigals (1603) by singers paired by powerfully effective but silent actors. The Food of Love is the theme for Birmingham's Early Music Festival, with young Monteverdi ranging through a whole gamut of emotions on this occasion.
Sung in Italian, the performance was a tour de force of nothing less than thought transference, with rarely any eye contact between singers, no conductor and no accompaniment. Every singer centred notes with consummate ease, intonation was true, and unlike opera, the lively action took place throughout the venue, within inches of fascinated listeners. Adrian Peacock was a last minute replacement bass and magnificent anchor for tantalising imaginative voice qualities, in particular Clare Wilkinson's husky to toffeemellow tones.
However, the big disappointment was the fact that there was no translation available until after the performance, so for the most part non Italian speakers were gamefully guessing about the content of each madrigal.
Some were self explanatory: for instance such obvious terms as doloroso languido being echoed in the music, a tear falling from a bright eye, skittering semiquavers smothered by passionate kisses, but for the most part ignorance of the text was deeply frustrating for listeners.