This Valentine’s Day, do you want to be reminded of the nature of true love? Then don’t miss our concert Feb. 16 to 18, where we will present a concert inspired by the true story of Pierre Abélard, a 12th century philosopher, and his student, the brilliant and beautiful Héloïse.

Their tale begins in 1115 in Paris, where is Abélard is a renowned scholar and teacher at the cathedral school at Notre Dame and Héloïse is living nearby with her uncle, the secular canon Fulbert.

Abélard wants to become acquainted with Héloïse, one of the best-educated women of her time, so he seeks to become her tutor. Her uncle agrees, and shortly after Abélard begins to teach her, the two begin a passionate love affair. When her uncle finds out, he separates the two, but they continue to meet in secret.

Soon, Héloïse becomes pregnant, and Abélard suggests that she move to his family home in Brittany to escape her uncle’s punishment. She does, and gives birth to a son.

The two marry in secret despite Héloïse’s reservations about marriage. Soon after, her uncle publicly discredits their marriage and Abélard decides to send Héloïse to a convent at Argenteuil to protect her from her uncle. Furious and intent on revenge, Fulbert retaliates by plotting to have Abélard castrated in his sleep.

To escape his shame, Abélard decides to become a monk, and he encourages Héloïse to become a nun. After being separated almost a decade, the two begin writing letters to each other, filled with frank and sensual language, but also of philosophical and theological questions. Of these, seven have survived, four of which are known as the “Personal Letters” and three that are known as the “Letters of Direction.”

The letters offer us a rare glimpse into the lives of these two lovers, and also give us insight into their philosophical thoughts.

For example, the letters reveal that Héloïse was a radical feminist thinker and a keen social critic. She considered marriage an institution akin to prostitution. And she is quoted as despising child-rearing, as well: “What man, bent on sacred or philosophical thoughts, could endure the crying of children…? And what woman will be able to bear the constant filth and squalor of babies?”

It is these letters that have kept Héloïse and Abélard’s love story alive through the ages, although their story was not well known during its day. In fact, their letters weren’t published until 1616, and it wasn’t until the 18th and 19th centuries that Héloïse and Abélard became revered as tragic lovers who were separated for years and finally reunited in death.

In our show, two costumed actors will portray Héloïse and Abélard, bringing their romantic story to life through reading excerpts from their letters aloud, as the consort performs medieval love songs and musical settings of poetry of courtly love from the 14th century, including music by Machaut, Cordier, Senleches, and others. We hope you’ll join us!

POSTPONED: April Fundraiser

Dear Valued Patrons,
We regret to share that due to concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have decided to postpone our April 19th fundraising event, Ecco la Primavera. We expect to reschedule this event for a weekend between July and September – stay posted! Please know this decision does not reduce the Newberry Consort’s need for your support. Indeed, now more than ever, we hope you will consider making a tax-deductible donation to help us not only minimize the losses from this postponement but also contribute to our future events.

If you currently hold a ticket for this event, refunds are available upon request. Otherwise, the cost of your ticket will be applied to the rescheduled event. If you are a current ticket-holder for this event, Consort General Manager Hannah De Priest will be in touch with you directly very soon.
You can always donate to the Newberry Consort online  or via check. Our mailing address is The Newberry Consort, P.O. Box 60212, Chicago, IL, 60660-0212. Please reach out to manager@newberryconsort.org if you have any questions or leave a message at 773-669-7335 and one of our staff will be in touch with you.
We appreciate your understanding and very much look forward to welcoming you to Newberry Consort concerts in the future. Till then, wishing you all good health and safety in these uncertain times.