Brisk Singing

Choreography Richard Alston
Restaged Martin Lawrance
Music Jean-Philippe Rameau music from Les Boréades (1764)
Lighting Charles Balfour
Costumes Jeanne Spaziani

Brisk Singing is first and foremost a joyful response to the brilliance of Jean-Philippe Rameau. Known in his own time as ‘le dieu de la dance’, Rameau’s flow of lyricism, made edgy with wonderfully odd phrasing and urgent rhythm, speaks to dancers in a similar way to Stravinsky the 20th century; both composers seemed able to breathe movement into all their music. Les Boréades is a long opera about a rather obscure mythical subject. Suffice it to say that Les Boréades were the Hyerboreams, inhabitants of an imaginary kingdom in the back of the North Wind. Their lifetime spanned a thousand years which were entirely devoted to song, dancing and pleasure. From this opera I have purposefully chosen not just the music written for set dances (of which there is plenty) but also choruses, recitatives and arias, all coursing with dance rhythm. There is darker music too – brooding choruses, stately entr’actes – but Brisk Singing centres around a lyrical duet to the entrée from Act IV, described by John Eliot Gardiner as “perhaps the most melting and gravely sensual writing for orchestra to emerge from the entire baroque era.”

Richard Alston

First performed at the Gardiner Arts Centre, Brighton on 22 October 1997