“Barber’s score uses Renaissance instruments – theorbo, bass recorder, and viola da gamba – alongside contemporary percussion. Setting extracts from the Catholic mass and from Michelangelo’s own writings (even including a shopping list), Barber creates a palindromic structure over a series of 17 scenes. The music is atmospheric: the clear tone of James Hall’s countertenor solos have a haunting quality, while antiphonal effects created by pre-recorded material, combining voices with brass instruments, add to the spatial experience…The sculptural element of Alex Robertson’s designs are captured on a suspended bas-relief, on to which video images are projected, but it’s the music’s balance of muscularity and sensitivity that emerges most strongly.”
Rian Evans, The Guardian, 4 April 2013
“This extraordinary piece of music theatre, created by Sound Affairs, is almost in the nature of a seance, a hypnotic blend of music, dance and theatrical staging which uses cleverly arranged light structures in a compelling way. The general theme is based on the sketches Michelangelo drew up for the Battle of Cascina a fresco he never completed. Two dancers present the artist’s strivings as he dreams of the fresco, he will never bring into the light. Here male nudity is used throughout the evening to underline Michangelo’s adoration of the male body as a conduit to the mind of God. This is bravery of a kind I rarely meet with in the theatre.”
Richard Edmonds, Birmingham Post, 2 April 2013
“Undoubtedly, the strongest element in Drawing Blood is Barber’s music, which is compelling enough to stand alone in concert. Deceptively simple yet richly nuanced, it evokes a subtle, inner world of active contemplation in a way which honours Michelangelo himself – who not only inhabited both sacred and secular worlds, but who had planned, in his projected fresco, to depict intimate portraits of soldiers caught off-guard whilst bathing in a river, rather than more predictable fight scenes from the Battle of Cascino. Barber manages to maintain his own, unique voice whilst combining compositional devices (with those aforementioned early instruments) found in music from a broad period, spanning from the date of the battle itself (1364) to the early Baroque, within a familiar, post-minimalist idiom.”
Steph Power, Bachtrack, 15 July 2013
“This is a show of much grace and, indeed, beauty. It concerns the great renaissance artist, Michelangelo, and the conflict between his religious impulses and his sensuality. He believed himself to be inspired by God, we are told, but he was also passionate about the human male body and about recreating that in art.
When we enter the very appropriate environment of St Augustines we find traditional instruments at either side of the performance area viola da gamba, bass recorder, theorbo, percussion and dulcimer. There is a screen above back, on which we first see candles, but later many images to complement the movement and dance, which is provided by Aaron Jeffrey as Michelangelo (with a wonderful deep beard) and Stefano Giglioni as the Man or David, a strong handsome mountain of a naked dancer. Both are mature men, and both perform with much grace and fluidity. The countertenor voice of James Hall adds much to the overall effect.
At first, Michelangelo reveals the Man, who has been lying, maybe on a tomb, and the two move together. Sometimes one is dancing, sometimes the other, with Michelangelo creating form from the space before him. There is also much movement together with lifting and carrying. And at times just music. The performance conveys the sense of a relationship lived through to its mortal end, steadily and confidently.
It is unusual to find a work of such achieved poise, style and beauty at any festival. This is one to be relished.”
Tony Challis, ScotsGay, August 2014