What are we doing?
Brighton Early Music Festival 2017 explores the origins of many of our best-loved classical music forms from the sonata to the oratorio. How did they come into being? When did they develop? Who were the composers, musicians and entrepreneurs who pioneered them? And of course, no exploration of classical music and its roots would be complete without the inclusion of arguably the pinnacle of all the classical forms – opera. We’re staging two operas in Brighton this autumn which ‘bookend’ the early period of operatic development: Monteverdi’s Orfeo (1607) was one of the earliest operas, while Rameau’s opera Pygmalion (1748) stands right at the other end of the baroque era by which time opera had already become a staple.
Why is it important?
Anyone who’s ever been to an opera can testify to its enormous emotional impact – the hush in the auditorium before the overture starts; the heroine’s tear-jerking aria; the comedy moments; the lavish costumes and whiff of greasepaint…. Exploring the development of classical music without including opera would be like surveying the great seaside cities of the UK without including Brighton! And the two operas we’ve chosen are great examples of the genre – Monteverdi’s Orfeo was the first opera to grab the public imagination and to be performed regularly, and its classical tale of Orpheus and Euridice explores the timeless themes of love, death and loss. Rameau’s Pygmalion, on the other hand, is a bit of a forgotten gem – rarely performed but huge fun, and in Brighton we’ll be using a newly commissioned animated film which updates the action to the streets of 21st century Paris. Both operas will have an exciting cast of young singers who are just starting out on an operatic career, and by being involved in these projects their knowledge and experience in this specialist repertoire will grow.
Pygmalion is being developed by Ensemble Molière, who will be familiar to BREMF audiences from their performances on our Early Music Live! scheme as well as last year’s Medicine and Mortality concert (you can read a review here). French baroque music is something of a speciality for this ensemble, and they’ll be combining their sparkling and stylish playing with singers Josh Cooter, Roberta Diamond and Angela Hicks, and dancer Rosalie Wahlfrid who portrays L’Amour. Emerging director Karolina Sofulak is bringing Pygmalion to the stage, with an animated film by Kate Anderson which provides the scenery and replaces traditional surtitles with simplified texts. Pygmalion receives three performances at Sallis Benney Theatre, University of Brighton on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th October.
Meanwhile Orfeo will be directed by Thomas Guthrie, with a cast of specially auditioned young soloists headed by tenor Rory Carver. The music will be beautifully played by the team who brought you La liberazione di Ruggiero in 2015 – the Monteverdi String Band and The English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble, with musical direction by Deborah Roberts. Orfeo takes place at The Old Market in Hove, with performances on Wednesday 8th, Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th November.
How can you help?
Because of all the different elements involved, opera is an expensive artform to present. It’s not just the sets, props and costumes (although they do add to the budget, even if the sets are mainly film-based), but also the fact that with so many different things to bring together, opera rehearsal periods need to be much longer than rehearsals for concert performances. So for a small organisation such as BREMF, with no regular guaranteed funding (we have to start each year’s fundraising from scratch in an increasingly difficult financial climate), putting on one opera is a stretch, let alone two. So we’re reaching out to our biggest cheerleaders – our audiences, in the belief that you’re as passionate about supporting young artists and bringing high quality early music of all genres to Brighton as we are!
Feedback from our audience
“It is wonderful to have this ever-changing/evolving local festival on our doorstep, to see it grow and expand and encourage us to explore this fascinating sound world.”
“It's one of the best things that happens in Brighton.”
“BREMF is the artistic highlight of the year for the Brighton area and all of Sussex.”
“A great opportunity to learn more of the great diversity in early music and always produced with an eye on themes relevant to today.”