We joyfully return from the digital wilderness to present the fifth of our ‘Six Chapters of Enlightenment’ at Southbank Centre. In the first wave of the season announcement, we are excited to reveal the first two concerts in our 2021/22 season, The Wilderness Pleases.
‘Six Chapters of Enlightenment’ are our concert seasons at the Southbank Centre, where we are Resident Orchestra. The series is inspired by the golden age of science and philosophy that gave our Orchestra its name. The Wilderness Pleases is inspired by one of the many influential pieces of work to come out of the Enlightenment era; Shaftesbury’s The Moralists.
In the book, the main character Theocles describes the terror of encountering a group of crocodiles in an Egyptian desert. After escaping the monsters, he is overcome with a desire to admire them as wondrous creatures of the natural world. He says,
‘let us fly to the vast deserts of these parts […] ghastly and hideous as they appear they want not their peculiar beauties. Wilderness pleases.’
The Wilderness Pleases Season
Joined by conductor Bruno Weil, we begin our season on 8 November with Mozart and Beethoven. The concert features the overture from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, an iconic piece that at once captures the Enlightenment’s fascination with wisdom, reason and nature. Then follows Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 ‘Pastoral‘ performed on period instruments to paint the full colours of the singing birds, flowing streams and violent thunderstorms that Beethoven’s audience would have experienced when the piece was first performed in 1808.
We then delve into the darker side of the wilderness with Demons in the Bath: Aci, Galatea e Polifemo on 23 January. Starring bass Trevor Eliot-Bowes, we tackle Handel’s tragic tale of two lovers who are being kept apart as servants by a villainous cyclops creature. With its thrilling and varied scoring, the music excites a sense of both determination and helplessness in confronting the natural world. As Handel’s music so often does, this concert challenges our understanding of order and fairness and delivers us to a supernatural world of poetic possibilities.
It is a credit to the Southbank Centre that we can provide so many performance opportunities to our Rising Stars alumni this season. Rising Stars of the Enlightenment is a scheme that we set up in 2017 to support breakthrough new vocalists, offering them masterclasses with international artists, performance opportunities and publicity. Catch OAE Rising Star alumni Bethany Horak-Hallet and Zoë Brookshaw in Demons in the Bath: Aci, Galatea e Polifemo
Tickets now on sale for the first two concerts of our new season at the Southbank Centre.