La Sfera Armoniosa was founded in 1992 by Mike Fentross and Paulina van Laarhoven and focuses on performing music from the 17th and 18th centuries. In a short time, La Sfera Armoniosa developed to a top level ensemble performing on major European festivals and venues receiving raving reviews over many years for a wide variety of projects.
La Sfera Armoniosa has proved tonight that it belongs to the leading baroque orchestras. Operapoint.com
The ensemble/orchestra consists of a core of eight top instrumentalists: Paulina van Laarhoven (gamba), Lidewij van der Voort (violin), Elise van der Wel (violin), Esther van der Eijk (viola), Octavie Dostaler Lalande (cello), Siebe Henstra (harpsichord), Emma Huijsser (baroque harp and recorder) and artistic leader Mike Fentross (lute). Depending on the works to be performed, the instrumentation can be varied and supplemented by instrumentalists, vocal soloists and choirs.
photo: Bastiaan Woudt
Partners of La Sfera are/were De Nederlandse Reisopera, Het Nederlands Kamerkoor, Opera2Day, historian and writer Geert Mak, Zero Dance Company, jazz musician Maarten Ornstein, flutist Kersten McCall (solo flutist KCO), soprano Simone Kermes, soprano Johannette Zomer, soprano Claron McFadden, soprano Channa Malkin, soprano Nora Fischer, soprano Roberta Invernizzi, mezzo soprano Barbara Koselj, mezzo soprano Kadri Tegelmann, countertenor Andreas Scholl, countertenor Maarten Engeltjes, alto Sonia Prina, tenor Marcel Beekman, tenor Jan van Elsacker, tenor Ian Honeyman, baritone Henk Neven, bass Harry van der Kamp and contemporary composers Boudewijn Tarenskeen and Merlijn Twaalfhoven.
Performing at the main European Festivals
La Sfera Armoniosa performed at prominent European festivals and venues such as the Festival van Vlaanderen, Festival d’Ambronay, Haydn Festival Eisenstadt, Philharmonie Essen, Holland Festival Oude Muziek Utrecht, Festival Musica Antiqua Brugge, Cremona Monteverdi Festival, Musikfestspiele Potsdam, Bayreuth Barock, Muziekcentrum Vredenburg, Amuz Antwerpen and the Concertgebouw Amsterdam.
Newly discovered music
Besides music by well-known composers such as Monteverdi, Handel and Pergolesi, the ensemble also performs lesser-known music, distilled from old music prints and manuscripts after extensive research.
On the occasion of La Sfera’s first CD (1996) with vocal and instrumental music by the Italian composer Kapsberger, the leading magazine Gramophone wrote: How soon will we hear the enchanting La Sfera Armoniosa again, and what fresh buried treasure will they unearth?
In 2003, Mike Fentross unearthed two early seventeenth-century operas by Francesco Cavalli from the cellars of the Marciana library in Venice. In 2006, La Sfera Armoniosa performed the modern world premiere of Francesco Cavalli’s opera l’Ipermestra under his direction in an anniversary production of the Holland Festival Early Music Utrecht, and in 2008, also under his direction, they performed the modern world premiere of Cavalli’s opera La Rosinda in Potsdam, Vantaa and Bayreuth.
Collaborations: contemporary adventures
La Sfera also enters into collaborations with musicians from other times and musical backgrounds. In 2018, La Sfera played the jubilee concert of the Grote Kerk in Alkmaar (built in 1518) in collaboration with a choir of more than 100 singers and the contemporary composer Merlijn Twaalfhoven. A program with music from 1518 in combination with music by Twaalfhoven.
Earlier, in 2004, La Sfera made a surprising combination of Pierrot Lunaire by Schoenberg with the Combattimento by Monteverdi. In 2011, composer Boudewijn Tarenskeen composed the piece ‘Mi’ for La Sfera, inspired by music by Couperin.
Artistic director Mike Fentross and jazz/world musician Maarten Ornstein created the project ‘Covid files in concert’, a program with singers from different cultures, especially from the countries that were hit hardest by the pandemic, such as China, Italy and England. The singers sang traditional songs in arrangements by Ornstein and Fentross.
For the season 2024-2025 a full length choreography is developed with the upcoming Zero Dance Company which combines contemporary urban dance with the music of early baroque composer and music theorist Michael Praetorius.
La Sfera Armoniosa is currently working in cooperation with Challenge Records International on the series Dutch Masters. Music by forgotten Dutch composers from the 17th and 18th centuries, such as Willem de Fesch, Pieter Hellendaal and Count Unico van Wassenaer, are presented to the public on national and international concert stages and on CDs.