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Ensemble OrQuesta bring French baroque to Grimeborn

08 August, 2019 — By Michael White

Hippolyte et Aricie. Photo: Paul Pickering

French baroque opera is an acquired taste, and its elaborate contrivances may stretch your patience. But behind the posturing and ostrich feathers there can be a serious erotic charge. And there undoubtedly is in Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie: a five-act “tragedie en musique” as the composer called it, based on Racine’s Phedre and telling the story of a woman’s forbidden love for her stepson.

In Racine it all ends badly. But Rameau manages to stretch the narrative further, into a happy end. And you can see how he does it when the piece gets performed next week as part of the Grimeborn opera season at the Arcola Theatre, Dalston.

As originally done in Paris in 1733, Hippolyte would have had a grand staging with large forces that the Arcola isn’t exactly equipped for. But the visiting company Ensemble OrQuesta has plenty of experience in doing this kind of piece on a small scale. It’s been bringing baroque works to Grimeborn for some years. And among its USPs is the fact that conductor Marco da Silva is also an accomplished singer who takes the role of Phedre’s husband Theseus: a nice bit of multi-tasking that must save some costs.

With a promising tenor Keiran White (no relation, honestly) as the male love-interest Hippolyte, it’s a strong-looking cast.

• 13-17 August, 7.30pm, Arcola Theatre, Ashwin Street, E8 3DL. Tickets £12-£25, www.arcolatheatre.com/grimeborn/

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