Music and morality mix in staged reading of Milton’s ‘Comus’

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There will be a concert reading of John Milton’s masque “Comus” at the Yale Center for British Art’s newly refurbished lecture hall, on Wednesday, April 20, at 5:30 p.m. This will be the 19th annual staged reading by members of Yale’s English Department. 

The performance is directed by Murray Biggs, semi-retired adjunct associate professor of theater studies, who notes, “This performance of ‘Comus,’ a short morality play by the author of ‘Paradise Lost,’ reprises in a sense one given at the British Art Center almost 30 years ago — although it goes one better. As well as the original music by Henry Lawes, which has survived, this rendering includes excerpts from settings by Thomas Arne and George Frideric Handel written a hundred years later.”

Comus is a story about a young lady who gets separated from her two brothers in a journey through the woods. She is found and led by Comus (in disguise) to his pleasure palace where she is restrained and enticed with all manner of pleasures. She refuses to be tempted and is rescued, in the end, by her brothers and the Attendant Spirit sent to aid them.

Professor David Quint will read the role of Comus, and his colleague John Rogers will appear as the Attendant Spirit. Both are “seasoned in the art,” says Biggs. “Rogers is Yale’s premier Miltonist, who gives the annual Milton lecture course. That in itself doesn’t of course make him a lively public reader — but he is!”

“The younger roles will be played by three leading Yale College actors about to graduate: Jamie Bogyo, Lucy Fleming, and Jacob Osborne,” adds Biggs. “They will also take part in the singing. Bogyo is a recent Whiffenpoof, and Fleming conducts this year’s senior female a capella group Whim’ n’ Rhythm.”

Also performing will be tenor James Taylor, professor at the Institute of Sacred Music, and soprano Maria Jette, accompanied by Tomoko Nakayama (harpsichord), Charlie Rasmussen (cello), and Daniel Lee (violin). 

All are welcome to attend the reading. The Yale Center for British Art is located at 1080 Chapel St. (enter through the museum shop on High Street).