The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment presents a baroque ‘mash up’ of French music and dance, taking the greatest hits of the era to create a new work: Dangerous Liaisons (26 June, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre). Surprisingly this is just what they did for entertainment in 17th century Versailles.
Hubert Hazebrouq, co-curator and choreographer for the OAE project says: “Mash ups were very much happening at the Paris Opera and at the Court of Louis XIV. Back then they called them ‘fragments’ - these were new operas created by bringing together the ‘best of’ bits from other operas, often with a new storyline. They worked brilliantly commercially since it meant that ‘new’ works could be generated from past successes. Dance was an integral part of baroque French opera which is why we are also bringing dancers to the stage of the QEH.”
Featuring Lully, Rameau, Charpentier, Campra and forgotten composers Mouret, Courrett and Marais, Dangerous Liaisons could be the first ‘fragment’ to be created in modern times and provides a rare chance to experience the best of French baroque music and dance, spanning 70 years. Some of the nearly 50 pieces have had no known performances since the 17th and 18th centuries, or been seen in their proper context – as dances.
Dangerous Liaisons is a montage of an archetypal love story connecting characters from Orfeo, Acis and Galatea and other classical tales. The dances have been painstakingly researched and choreographed by Hubert Hazebroucq, star of the BBC film about Louis XIV: The King Who Invented Ballet, and his troupe Les Corps Eloquents using original dance plates from the period.
John Butt, Principal Artist of the OAE who will conduct Dangerous Liaisons, says: “Despite some resurgence of interest in Lully and Rameau, French baroque music is very much neglected in this country so I’m delighted to be giving an intensive ‘taster’ introduction to so many of the best works in Dangerous Liaisons. Many of these pieces have never been heard in modern times. It’s important to see this music in the context of dance as it was absolutely integral but is rarely shown today. We often forget the important issue of movement and how it plays into later traditions of western music. For example the minuet appears in symphonic music well into the 19th and 20th century.”
The language of dance would have been understood back then as the audience members would have danced themselves and been able to judge and appreciate it. Dance was often introduced at a 'cliff hanger moment in the plot, or sometimes it served to illustrate elements running along the main story.
Lisa Beznosiuk, OAE Principal Flute and co-curator of Dangerous Liaisons says: “Working with dancers sheds light on the music and how it should be performed – the gestures and steps indicate what feeling to give, the speed and phrasing. It’s also very special music to me because the baroque flute was developed in the woodwind workshops of 17th century Paris and this music is deeply connected with the instrument. Every baroque flautist loves to play Marais and especially Rameau because of the fabulous flute parts.”