Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre’s biblical cantatas are extraordinary historical jewels. Mahogany Opera worked in partnership with Dunedin Consort and Hera to bring them to UK stages for very first time, over 300 years after they were written. In 2023, we presented ‘Judith’, ‘Jacob & Rachel’ and ‘Susanne’: three stories about sex and power in encounters between men and women, in atmospheric, accessible settings across the UK.
Each cantata tells a story from the Old Testament, with recitative and 3 or 4 short arias. In each piece the singer, like all the best storytellers, moves between telling us a tale, and taking on the voice and perspective of the different characters: girls, women, husbands, fathers, Kings. Full of character, story and emotion, they are baroque operas but smaller, using only beguiling music and the skill of the performer to draw us in. They had never been presented by an opera company before, and we were delighted to develop them for the stage in new English translations by Toria Banks.
The cantatas were performed by a stellar cast - Carolyn Sampson, Anna Dennis and Alys Roberts, accompanied by the renowned players of the Dunedin Consort and directed by Mathilde López, Artistic Director of August 012. Mathilde, Alys and harpsichordist Katarzyna Kowalik were selected for this project through a highly competitive open call process, completing our exceptional team.
“A revelation…they’ve unearthed a treasure and argued the most powerful case imaginable that Jacquet de la Guerre’s work is no dry museum piece but a pulsing, vibrant slice of music drama…It’s only seven performers in a small space, but it never once feels miniature. Instead it’s raw storytelling and powerful drama, performed with gripping immediacy.”
Simon Thompson, The Times (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)
“...the three singers, all of them wonderfully agile and stylish, and dovetailing perfectly with the four-piece ensemble. It all makes a neat musical and dramatic package.”
Andrew Clements, The Guardian (⭐⭐⭐⭐)
“An endlessly rewarding, remarkable creation."
Adrian Ainsworth, Art Muse London
"A brilliant collaborative project by Mahogany Opera, Dunedin Consort and HERA… not only a highly enjoyable hour’s music and drama, but a strong contemporary feminist statement."
Barry Creasy, OMH
15 December 2023 - 31 January 2024
On sale from 6 November, available to view from 15 December
12 July 2023
York Early Music Festival, York
9 July 2023
Spitalfields Music Festival, London
25 June 2023
Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh
24 June 2023
23 June 2023
Universal Hall, Findhorn
Dunedin Consort is one of the world’s leading Baroque ensembles, recognised for its vivid and insightful performances and recordings. Its ambition is to allow listeners to hear early music afresh, and to couple an inquisitive approach to historical performance with a commitment to commissioning and performing new music. Under the direction of John Butt, the ensemble has earned two coveted Gramophone Awards, a BBC Music Magazine Award, and a Grammy nomination. In 2021 it was the recipient of the Royal Philharmonic Society Ensemble Award.
HERA shares music and stories you haven’t heard before, online and across the UK. Founded in 2018 by Toria Banks, Linda Hirst and Simone Ibbett-Brown, Hera celebrates women and gender-minoritised artists past and present, young and old in inclusive, accessible performances. Recent work includes Amble Skuse’s “astonishing” digital opera, ‘We Ask These Questions of Everybody’ (5*, The I).
We are most grateful for additional support from
Sophie & Hamish Forsyth
and a donor who wishes to remain anonymous