Sting: Songs From the Labyrinth



10 p.m., Monday, Feb. 26
KCET Los Angeles

Although it occasionally veers close to becoming a tribute to Sting rather than to English lute composer John Dowland, whose music has been an inspiration to both pop (Elvis Costello) and classical (Benjamin Britten) musicians as well as to sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick, this hourlong "Great Performances" look at how the pop singer and the court musician found each other is surprisingly enjoyable entertainment.

Whether singing for an appreciative, wine-sipping audience, wandering musically intoxicated in a leafy glade or discussing with scholars aspects of Dowland's personality and work, Sting shares his love for Dowland's music and offers genuine insights into why his popular album "Songs From the Labyrinth" has struck a nerve with a wide cross section of music lovers.

Accompanied by the voluptuous pluckings of Bosnian lute virtuoso Edin Karamazov, with whom he arranged the songs, Sting's monotone, vibrato-less and barely audible voice is entirely appropriate to a modern bard if inevitably foreign to early music specialists.

Even some of those experts, however, will admit how effectively Sting reveals the sad and gentle beauty that must have consumed Dowland and inspired this project.