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The University of Southampton
MusicPart of Humanities

Venus and Adonis project

Published: 19 March 2010

Music's Liz Kenny has been working on a touring project based around the first real 'royal' opera, John Blow's Venus and Adonis.

Venus and Adonis is the companion piece to Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, which Liz directed and recorded on an award-winning disc last year.

Liz was intrigued by the spelling scene in the piece, which involves a Big Cupid drilling Little Cupids in what looks rather like literacy hour. Cupid is usually sung by a boy or a male alto today, but in the original production was sung by Lady Mary Tudor, the illegitimate daughter of Charles II and his mistress, singer Mary Davies.

Most recordings and performances use adult singers for the Cupids, but it seemed like a good idea to put the children back where they belonged, at the centre of the action: so Liz will use school-age singers for all these parts, and a girl will star as Cupid.

Featuring her own group of singers and players under the title Theatre of the Ayre, the new tour starts at the Wigmore Hall on 3 May 2010. This performance will be recorded for release on the Wigmore Live label. It comes to Southampton's Turner Sims the following night, where the role of Cupid will be sung by Rebecca Lyle from Salisbury Cathedral Choir school, and 18 'little Cupids' from Salisbury and Southampton primary schools will appear.

In July the group travel to the York Early Music Festival, with 'community cupids' from the Minster Minstrels Vocal ensemble. BBC Radio 3 will feature this performance in an edition of The Early Music Show. A performance in Oxford's Sheldonian Theatre finishes the series in January 2011.

This is a project with several partners, including Stainer and Bell (who have just published a new performing edition by Bruce Wood), the National Centre for Early Music (who have sponsored an exciting education package involving workshops in primary schools in all participating cities as well as a web-based resource for teachers) Arts Council England and London-based consultancy firm SHM.

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