Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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Berlioz’s Romeo & Juliet: Curtain call pics

Thu 12 Apr 2012

Soloists take their bows

Still eeking out the pictures from our Romeo & Juliet project! Here’s a selection from the performance at the Royal Festival Hall. We don’t often photograph our concerts and rehearsals but this was such an unusual and important projct for us we really thought we should. It’ll be a long while before we play this piece again!

Pictures by Matt Wreford.


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Romeo & Juliet in rehearsal

Thu 5 Apr 2012

Taken us a while to put these up…but cast your mind back about 2 months and we were playing Berlioz’s huge Romeo & Juliet. Here are some pictures of us in rehearsal with OAE Principal Artist Sir Mark Elder at the Royal Festival Hall, on the morning of our evening performance there ( inbetween the Philharmonia gave a family concert, it was quite a busy day for the Festival Hall!). All pictures are by Joe Plommer and you can view the entire set over on our Flickr profile.


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Berlioz’s Romeo & Juliet: audience reaction

Thu 29 Mar 2012

Last month saw one of the most ambitious projects in the OAE’s history come onto the Royal Festival Hall Stage: Berlioz’s Romeo & Juliet, conducted by Sir Mark Elder and with over 200 performers, Orchestra, soloists and choirs.

We caught up with the audience after the London performance to find out what people thought of it.

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Berlioz, Basingstoke and baguettes

Wed 29 Feb 2012

I’m sitting writing this blog on a ridiculously warm Sunday February afternoon underneath the Eiffel Tower.   Sounds glamorous?  Well actually, I do feel quite amazed and lucky to be spending my weekend this way, though the 5.50am start this morning has left me a bit out of it, as has the eight day run of concerts we’ve been doing this week…still, it’s a fairly fantastic thing when you’re invited to go to Paris with a supersize OAE and two choruses, totalling about 250 performers altogether, in a massive production of Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées.  We’ve been touring this mammoth piece in four locations this week: first at the Royal Festival Hall on 18 February (read the reviews from the night here), then to the Anvil in Basingstoke on 23 February, a Night Shift at the Roundhouse as part of the Reverb Festival on 24 February and finally Paris today.

I’ve been with the OAE for four years now and this is the first time I’ve been had the chance to go on a tour from start to finish and what a tour to experience! No two performances have been the same- the Southbank Centre night was my first real listen to the piece in full,  Basingstoke = Amazingstoke (fabulously rich sound) and I thoroughly enjoyed when Sir Mark had to wait for members of the audience to stop talking before he started Part 2- his withering look was priceless!  The Roundhouse gig was totally different – live streaming, a glass of wine and chat with conductor Sir Mark Elder created a unique atmosphere – and the final leg in Paris is sounding awesome, even though I’ve mainly been backstage, looking after the Orchestra’s belongings.  Having said that, each time I hear the piece, I still get the same feeling- a huge rush from hearing a beautifully orchestrated piece, played by a fantastic band.

Here’s a few pictures from my travels (note the slight difference in scenery!):

It’s like Daisy (an OAE cellist I chatted to on the Eurostar journey out) said:

“It’s like the difference between a supermarket apple and an organic one from the market: one is perfectly round and shiny but doesn’t taste of anything, whilst the other may have a few bumps and bruises but tastes exquisite- just like the OAE.”  Well said.

Natasha Stehr, Marketing and Press Officer

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Recent reviews: Romeo & Juliet

Mon 27 Feb 2012

Our massive Romeo and Juliet tour with over 250 performers cramming the stages in London, Basingstoke and Paris has finally come to an end, but we’re still getting some great feedback from the concerts.
If you were unlucky and missed the concert, you can still listen to it on Radio 3 here (until Sunday 4 March).

Here are the press reviews:

The Times (subscribers only)

Evening Standard

The Independent


The Guardian

Classical Source


Musical Criticism

A small selection from our Twitter feedback:

Echori Music Company ‏ @EchoriMusic
Reflecting on how awesome OAE’s performances of Romeo and Juliet are at the moment! Check them out in Paris this Sunday at 1700! @theoae

@theoae @roundhouseldn
“its like having a warm bath” >nice

Ben Gould ‏ @benanial
Heading to @roundhouseLDN for #thenightshift and @theoae! Can’t believe its been 2 yrs since their last show there, should be a cracker!!

Shelley vonStrunckel ‏ @vonStrunckel
Here at Roundhouse listing to @theOAE play Berlioz’ Romeo & Juliet. Amazing with lights, big screen & fab acoustic. Yummy sound.

Zoe Margolis ‏ @girlonetrack
At the Roundhouse waiting for @theOAE to play extracts from Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet for #reverb2012‘s The Night Shift. *excited*

Steven Berryman ‏ @Steven_Berryman
Nice to see a pupil of mine performing in @roundhouseLDN music collective after a brill @theoae concert!

Camilla M Morris ‏ @CamillaMMorris
Berlioz concert: Extracts from Romeo & Juliet played by @theoae – Extraordinary performance by conductor Sir Mark Elder @roundhouse, Camden

We’d love to know what you thought too- post any comments below.

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Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)


His times: Born half-a-dozen years before Mendelssohn and Schumann, Hector Berlioz arrived on the musical scene just as Romanticism in all its passion and glory was beginning to take flight. Music was becoming ever more emotional; orchestras were expanding to embrace new colours and sonorities; composers were looking increasingly to other art-forms for inspiration.

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Berlioz’s Romeo & Juliet: Programmes

Mon 20 Feb 2012

At Saturday’s performance of Berlioz’s Romeo & Juliet we were slightly victims of our own success. A huge surge in bookings in the last week meant we had a much larger audience than we had bargained for. This is of course wonderful, and it was fantastic to see such a packed hall, but it did mean that we didn’t have quite enough programmes to go around. If you didn’t manage to get hold of one we do apologise. However PDF’s of the main programme and the extra slip with more notes and Orhestra and Choir lists can be found on the links below.

Main Programme

Programme Slip

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Patricia Bardon steps in for Sonia Ganassi

Thu 16 Feb 2012

Due to ill-health Sonia Ganassi has unfortunately had to withdraw from forthcoming performances of Romeo & Juliet.

However we are very pleased that Patricia Bardon has agreed to step in at very short notice, having previously performed the role at the Edinburgh Festival in 2010. Patricia’s biography is below:

Patricia Bardon’s current season includes Erda in Robert Lepage’s new production of Das Rheingold and Siegfried at the Metropolitan Opera (under Fabio Luisi); Tippett’s A Child of our Time with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg (under Carlo Rizzi); a return to the Liceu for Martin y Soler’s Il burbero di buon cuore (under Jordi Savall); Handel’s Theodora with Le Concert Spirituel and her debut at the Sante Fe Festival as Calbo in Rossini’s Maometto II.

Dublin-born Patricia Bardon studied with Dr Veronica Dunne at the city’s College of Music and came to early prominence as the youngest ever prize-winner in the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.  She is established internationally in opera and concert, having worked with many of today’s pre-eminent conductors including Claudio Abbado, William Christie, Christoph Eschenbach, Bernard Haitink, René Jacobs, James Levine, Zubin Mehta, Antonio Pappano and Carlo Rizzi.

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Hector & Harriet: love, tragedy and the Bard

Tue 14 Feb 2012

It’s Valentine’s day (well it was when I wrote this….).  It can be a rather grim, over-commercialised affair, but in an attempt to redress the balance, I thought it would be worth taking a look at the romantic trials and tribulations of Hector Berlioz, one of the nineteenth century’s great composers.  He was a man whose deep-seated love for the Irish actress, Harriet Smithson, coloured his adult-life with both ecstasy and tragedy, and this is reflected in some of his finest works, including his ‘symphonie dramatique’, Roméo et Juliette.

Shakespeare was a fundamental influence on Berlioz all his life – it was in his plays that Berlioz discovered ‘the meaning of real grandeur, real beauty, and real dramatic truth’.  However, it was also through Shakespeare that Miss Smithson was revealed to him.  He wrote that he could not compare the effect ‘produced by her….dramatic genius, on my imagination and heart’.

He first saw Smithson perform at the Odéon Theatre, Paris in 1827 as the ‘fair Ophelia’, and some months later he beheld her in Romeo and Juliet.  Contrary to Berlioz’s own recollection of seeing her as Juliet, it was reported in the Illustrated London News that on seeing her he exclaimed, ‘I will marry that woman! And I will write my greatest symphony on that play!’

He pursued Smithson for five years.  She never met him in this time, and never wrote a line in reply to his voluminous letters.  She first set eyes on him in another of her performances as Juliet.  Berlioz, so moved, ‘gave a loud cry and rushed out of the theatre, wildly wringing [his] hands.’  She was undoubtedly somewhat disturbed by this fit, and asked fellow actors to ensure he was kept at a distance, as ‘she did not like the look of [his] eyes’.  Her troupe removed to Amsterdam, leaving Berlioz to wallow in dejection, saying that, ‘even Shakespeare has never painted the horrible gnawing at the heart’ that he felt.

Berlioz’s friends long suffered his ravings about Harriet.  They complained that on walks through Paris he would ‘fill the unsympathetic boulevards and the adjacent streets with his love laments.’ Girard, a conductor and friend, wrote that ‘if it were anyone else, I would show him the door’.  Berlioz’s letters to friends betray his almost delirious state – ‘today it is a year since I saw HER for the last time.  Oh!  Unhappy woman!  How I loved you….trembling I write, HOW I LOVE YOU.’

Finally, in 1832, after hearing Berlioz’s Lélio, whose monologues make it clear the piece was intended for her, Harriet granted him an audience.  It took further months to convince her of his love – at one point he obtained a passport, threatening to quit Paris forever and move to Germany.  In a rather more extreme gesture, he staged a suicide attempt, the effect of which was to leave him vomiting for two hours owing to the quantity of opium he had ingested.  Nevertheless, after overcoming opposition from their families, they were wed in 1833.  Berlioz remembered that ‘on the day of our marriage she had nothing in the world but debts, and the fear of never again being able to appear to advantage on the stage.  My property consisted of three hundred francs, borrowed from my friend Gounet, and a […]

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Sir Mark Elder announced as a Principal Artist of the OAE

Mon 12 Dec 2011

Sir Mark Elder. Credit Simon Dodd

We are thrilled to be able to announce that Sir Mark Elder has today been appointed a Principal Artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, joining our three other Principal Artists Iván Fischer, Vladimir Jurowski and Sir Simon Rattle.

Sir Mark’s association with the Orchestra dates back to 1992 and has included landmark events such as Verdi’s Requiem in 2001 at the Royal Festival Hall; Creation, the final concert of the our Haydn festival at the Southbank Centre in 2009; and most recently conducting us in over twenty different works for the BBC Four series Symphony.

Sir Mark’s next concert with us, and his first as a Principal Artist, will be Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Festival Hall on 18 February, which is followed by further performances in Basingstoke and Paris and a Night Shift event at Camden’s Roundhouse.

Future collaborations will include concerts and recording projects in association with Opera Rara.

For full information see our Press Room.

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