OAE@QEH – Dangerous Liaisons

“The sights and sounds of Versailles – elegant 17th century dance meets the best of French Baroque music. Recreating the sounds of Versailles, we’re blending elegant French dance from the court of Louis XIV with a greatest hits of French music from the era. Mixing the best of Lully, Rameau, Campra, Charpentier and more, this is a golden jukebox of French baroque, accompanied by authentic choreography as it was seen in the Royal palaces of the 17th century. Together the music and dance tell a story bringing together characters from Orfeo, Acis and Galatea and other well-known classical stories. Think Into the Woods, but for Greek myth. The dance is choreographed by Hubert Hazebroucq, star of the BBC film about Louis XIV, The King Who Invented Ballet.” [OAE website]

Anna Dennis (soprano) & Nick Pritchard (tenor)

Les Corps Eloquents

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
John Butt (harpsichord)

Hubert Hazebroucq – Choreographer

Reviewed by: Amanda-Jane Doran

Reviewed: 26 June, 2018
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

Dangerous Liaisons concert with Les Corps EloquentPhotograph: twitter @theOAEOrchestra of the Age of Enlightenment presented a fascinating recreation of Baroque music and dance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. There was a glimpse of the glamour at the Court of Versailles and the Sun King’s obsession with elegant ballet, performed here with historical and refined accuracy, the three dancers dressed in pastel silks, with forty short pieces of music gathered thematically into scenes describing the course of a love affair.

The first, ‘Idyllic Delight’, featured music from Lully operas, notably Thésée, and set an amorous, carefree tone, but Anna Dennis’s full and flexible soprano almost overwhelmed Nick Pritchard’s light tenor. The dancers visually described the allure of courtship and the excerpt from Les noces de village (1663) was particularly beguiling, flute and drums perfectly matching the choreography’s delicate steps.

‘Seduction’ featured music by Campra, with more emotional content than the formal style of Lully. Pritchard’s ‘Dom Pedro’ aria impressed, convincingly conveying the hesitation and torment of young love. Gavottes and Passacailles followed by Rameau and Lully, every intricacy beautifully executed by Les Corps Eloquents. The first half concluded with the most theatrical and exciting piece, from Marais’s Alcione (1733), complete with drum-rolls and thunderclaps.

‘From Loss and Despair’ to ‘Frolics and Mischief’ were the concluding scenes, plenty of variety. Dennis was more than at ease, and often stunningly effective; she thrilled as she trilled. The dance too took on a more dynamic air, Harlequin making an appearance as a rival in love with comic, slapstick business. Costumes and choreography, all based on authentic descriptions, started to show the way towards Romantic Ballet. The extensive programme notes were extremely informative and explained the crucial role of dance and music during Louis XIV’s reign; and persuasively brought off, combining scholarship with entertainment, an OAE hallmark.

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