Universiteit Leiden

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Academy of Creative and Performing Arts (ACPA)

Jed Wentz

Jed Wentz is a University Lecturer at the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts of the Leiden University. He earned a PhD from the docARTES programme and his doctoral thesis Gesture, Affect and Rhythmic Freedom in the Performance of French Tragic Opera from Lully to Rameau explored how historical acting techniques can influence the sound of French operatic music in performance.

Jed Wentz- Recording melodramas, 2020 - photo Artem Belogurov

He has recorded more than 40 CDs with various Early Music ensembles including his own (Music ad Rhenum), has conducted staged opera performances and published in journals like Early Music, Cambridge Opera Journal and European Drama and Performance Studies. Wentz is also an artistic advisor to the Utrecht Early Music Festival.


Jed Wentz’s research practice

Wentz’s work explores both the musical aspects of declamation and historical acting, and the theatrical aspects of musical performance of the period 1680-1930. Acting and musical were closely related before the current rigorous realism became the norm for actors and orators. He proposes that, as the performing arts became intellectualized in the 20th century, older techniques of speaking and stagecraft were denigrated, neglected and finally lost. Through examining historical acting and musical treatises, as well as historical recordings of all kinds, he attempts to recover some of these techniques.

Despite the historical nature of his research, as a performer, Wentz creates for an audience of today. His belief that the past is the most shocking and destabilizing form of discipline to which the present can be subjected, motivates him to pursue the impossible. His attempt to recreate musical and acting styles, and to awaken the concomitant feelings, invites us to see ourselves and our current practices in a new light.

Beyond the acting itself comes his interest in historical theatre decors, and how they create new creative spaces in the imagination of the actor. He has recently acquired a significant and extensive collection of painted drops used by the Van den Berghe traveling theatre company. The exploration of, and creation of an inventory for, these elaborate theatrical ensembles form an important part of his current research.


Jed Wentz’s research for the IRG

Within the context of the IRG, Jed Wentz is working on developing a performance practice for English-language melodramas (recitations set to music) composed in the period between 1890-1920. The focus rests on pieces composed for male voice with piano accompaniment. In researching an historical action for this repertoire, he aims to clarify how the spoken text both accommodates, and is animated by, the musical setting. Essential here is the use of historical pianos, whose tone interacts differently with the reciters voice from that of a modern piano. He further explores how gesture in general and, more specifically, how the theatrical gesture of the early 20th century, can influence the recitation.

An 18th-century English actress (collection Jed Wentz)
The opening autograph page of The Stolen Child, a melodrama by composer Margaret Amphlett
A set of painted columns from the Van den Berghe collection of historical stage scenery - photo Jed Wentz
A shapely hand - photo Jed Wentz
Jed Wentz reciting Edgar Allen Poe’s The Bells - photo Annelies Rhebergen
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