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Seminar on Historical Action

New College, Oxford

18th April 2015


Baroque Gesture: What's the Point?

with Andrew Lawrence-King

& Dionysios Kyropoulos

I will post a report on the Seminar here, soon.



"Pointing is the first and most fundamental human gesture, which connects body and mind to the external world."


Karl Bühler Sprachtheorie (1934) cited in Mauro Calcagno Monteverdi’s parole sceniche in the Journal of Seventeenth Century Music (2003)


In spite of the clear pointers given by Dene Barnett's pioneering study of The Art of Gesture (1987) and a plethora of historical treatises on acting, productions of Baroque operas today often present a Historically Informed approach to the music, whilst leaving the visual and dramaturgical aspects of historical performance unexplored. 

In the spoken theatre, Historical Practices are sometimes employed as rehearsal exercises, but are rarely seen in performance. Although recent scholarship has made some progress in connecting early music and historical acting, baroque gesture has not yet re-established amongst today's practitioners the importance it had for Shakespeare's, Purcell's or Vivaldi's performers.


So how can period stage-craft be brought more into the mainstream? How can baroque singers 'move the passions' with their acting, as well as with Monteverdi's or Handel's music? How can we suit our Action to the seventeenth century Word?


At this one-day event, Andrew Lawrence-King (opera director & researcher) & Dionysios Kyropoulos (stage director and doctoral student) lead seminar discussions and a practical workshop, highly recommended to Baroque opera singers, Shakespearian actors, directors and researchers.


We invite proposals from researchers and experienced practitioners to present a 20-minute paper or a 30-minute workshop-session.



In Seminar discussions we will share insights and experiences from on-going research programs, and recent or forthcoming productions, considering aspects of historical stagecraft including:


  • Historical Action & Baroque Gesture

  • Primary Sources

  • Stagecraft for actors & singers

  • Training & Rehearsal Methodologies for directors


  • Redefining Recitative

  • The Four Humours

  • Sprezzatura and Gratia

  • Intention

  • Enargeia, Energia and Pneuma

  • Dance, swordsmanship & other related disciplines


  • Audience reception



In the Workshop, we will work through texts from Shakespeare plays and monodies from operas by Monteverdi and other early seicento composers, applying in practice the principles studied during our discussions. This is an ideal opportunity for singers and actors to experiment with Historical Action and Baroque Gesture in an informed, but informal and supportive environment. 


No previous experience of Baroque Gesture is required.


At the Seminar, we welcome auditors, presenters of papers and discussion comments from the floor. At the Workshop, we welcome both active participants and session leaders.



The event took place on Saturday 18th of April 2015,

10:00 to 13:00 and 14:30 to 17:30,

in the New College MCR: 


New College MCR

Weston Buildings

St Cross Road



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