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The University of Southampton
MusicPart of Humanities

Actéon and Advent

Published: 18 December 2013

Elizabeth Kenny's Theatre of the Ayre made its first foray into the French baroque last week, with two highly successful performances of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's mini-opera Actéon along with Christmas music also by Charpentier: in Turner Sims, Southampton (11 December) and in the Wigmore Hall, London (12 December).

The Turner Sims evening began with a 20-minute foyer set played by University of Southampton Music students and Theatre of the Ayre's wind principals, prepared during an intensive workshop session earlier in the day. In both venues special interval receptions had been arranged for university alumni, and these proved very popular: it was good to see the project so enthusiastically supported.

National press reviews praised Theatre of the Ayre's imaginative programming and dramatic flair:

"Ever since it was formed by the lute player Elizabeth Kenny, this early music ensemble has made an asset of obscurity. Its focus is rarefied music of the 17th century. Its weapons: a freshness of approach and a quasi-improvisatory freedom of delivery. Its Wigmore Hall concert devoted to the French Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier drew upon all of this ... Actéon was the main attraction. A compact retelling of a story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, it is about one hour long. But the emotional scope is far from small-scale, a point highlighted in the singers’ exhilarating performances. " [Financial Times, 13.12.13]

"The sweetness and light of Gallic seasonal carolling was to turn to savagery and gore as listeners lulled by angelic voices suddenly realised that they were watching a man grow fur, turn into a stag, and be devoured by his own dogs."
This was Marc-Antoine Charpentier, composer to the Dauphin and to Molière’s Comédie-Française. And this was the lutenist Elizabeth Kenny’s ensemble, Theatre of the Ayre, compellingly dramatising the French Baroque in vocal and instrumental prowess. " [The Times, 17.12.13]

Theatre of the Ayre gave its first concert in Turner Sims, back in 2007. It has a strong relationship both with the hall and with the Music Department and is now securely established as one of this country's most adventurous early music groups, equally committed to musicological research and to high-impact public performance informed by that research. Elizabeth Kenny is Reader in Performance and Head of Early Music at Southampton, leading our research and teaching programmes in early music.

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