Go behind the scenes of medieval courtly love with the Boston Camerata

Photo from a performance of The Night's Tale by the Boston Camerata

Spring is a season of growth and renewal, a time bursting with energy and brimming with anticipation for the future. It seems a natural pair and an obvious backdrop for love, and it is the perfect setting for The Boston Camerata's The Night's Tale.

Through the scholarship of Boston Camerata's Artistic Director Anne Azéma, The Night's Tale pulls together the lines of an eight-centuries-old epic poem with known and recreated medieval melodies to draw back the curtain on medieval courtship. Though we aren't able to share the full production with you as originally planned, we hope to give you a peek behind the curtain with Azéma's program notes as well as an exclusive interview and clips from prior performances.

In addition, we hope you'll take a listen to Azéma's recording of Le tournoi de Chauvency – the music from this production – and explore the original manuscript for the epic and the history of chivalry and courtly love.


A Message from Boston Camerata Artistic Director Anne Azéma

Dear Chicago-area friends,

We miss you! But we are convinced that somehow our paths will cross again.

Here in the Boston area we are hunkered down, waiting for the pandemic seclusion to end. In the meantime, as a gesture to you of friendship and solidarity, we would like to offer these clips and commentaries, around the subject of our cancelled Chicago production, in the hope that they will offer pleasure and insight, tiding you and us over until we can again experience this beautiful music and poetry, face to face.

With all best wishes from the Boston Camerata musicians and staff,

Anne Azéma
Artistic Director, The Boston Camerata

Exclusive: Interview with Anne Azéma

UChicago Presents staff member Landon Hegedus sat down with singer, scholar, and Boston Camerata Artistic Director Anne Azémato discuss the provenance of and inspiration for The Night's Tale. Watch the interview above, and read the full transcript for more on the production.


Listen: Le tournoi de Chauvency

Screenshot from Spotify player for Le Tournoi de Chauvency

The Night's Tale is a one-of-a-kind performance piece based on "Le tournoi de Chauvency," a more than 800-year-old epic poem composed by the French trouvère Jacques Bretel. Contained within a centuries-old manuscript housed in Oxford's Bodleian Library, the poem consists of over 4000 rhymed lines that reveal the ways of love and courtship in medieval France.

As Artistic Director Anne Azéma notes, however, the manuscript containing the poem includes "not a shred of music." Thus, it was incumbent on Azéma, herself a scholar as well as musician, and others to adapt the text to existing medieval melodies and recreate the vehicle of Bretel's poetry. The result is, as Azéma puts it, "a work for our time, drawing on the incredible life force that emerges from the manuscript’s folios, and redirecting this magnificent force, to the best of our abilities, into our own ears, minds, and hearts."

Listen to Le Tournoi >>


Explore the Manuscript

Manuscript illumination from Le Tournoi de Chauvency
Photo: © Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

The Bodleian Library at Oxford, one of the oldest and largest libraries in the world, is home to the manuscript containing Le tournoi de Chauvency. Known as Douce 308, the folio contains more than a dozen illuminations for Le tournoi alone, and the full manuscript isavailable digitally on the Bodleian's website. Explore Le tournoibeginning on page 249 and see the spectacular illuminations present throughout the poem, which ends on page 314.

Explore the Source Material >>


Learn about Love and Chivalry in the Middle Ages

Manuscript illumination

From Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur to Chaucer, Laura Ashe, Associate Professor of English at Worcester College, Oxford, shares the principals and traditions of courtly love and chivalry in the Middle Ages in an article for the British Library.

Learn About Love and Chivalry in the Middle Ages >>