Natasha Collette
Little Willow Records
4 out of 5 stars (“Presentable for a Prince”)

The role of the troubadour in forming a universal linguistic and cultural context that united medieval Europe despite constant conflict and rivalry between rulers and fiefdoms is often forgotten in light of their performances. More than simply songs and stories, their combination of poetry, prose and song told elaborate and rich tales upon which the code of chivalry that characterized medieval conduct and the ideal of courtly love were based. Evoking this bygone world in a more accessible way, Vida uses medieval sources as well as modern compositions to render this in a contemporary context. A unique project originated by Natasha Collette, painstakingly researched and produced to exacting standards, Vida provides a memorable evening that is entertaining, historically accurate, and an eye-opening look at the world of the medieval court and its values.

Presented as an evening at court, the CD begins with an introduction by a noble lord, welcoming us to his domain and introducing the evening’s entertainment. Followed by a “vida”, the biography-in-song that troubadours would use to introduce themselves and the characters of the story they told to their audience, each piece is rendered in traditional style, less a story told through song than a performance art similar to a play. The performance itself tells a very typical tale of romance and chivalry. The action of the story is rendered through songs known as “razos”, from the secret trysts of knight and lady to the jealous rivals who threatened to destroy their budding relationship. these alternating character pieces and plot expositions were the centerpiece of the courtly literature of the age, forging an idealistic perception of life, love, and proper behavior that profoundly affected medieval thought.

The voices of the characters are well done, as is the musical accompaniment, and the theatrical technique gives the Cd a sense of place and ring of authenticity, not overdone but with just the right sensitivity to both audience and to their craft. Natasha Collette’s English adaptation of this ancient art form makes it novel, accessible and interactive, more real than the passive experience that might otherwise exist in another language or if it were presented merely as a stale historical curiosity. A remarkable achievement, Vida is a rich and authentic slice of medieval lyricism for the modern age.

Renaissance Magazine, issue #57, p. 58