An Orchestral Theatre concert, using design, lighting, choreography, and Berlioz’s own writings about his music
Aurora’s most ambitious Orchestral Theatre production to date
Actor Mathew Baynton takes on the character of Berlioz
Symphony performed by memory Two performances at the BBC Proms, with prior premiere performance at Saffron Hall
Aurora Orchestra brings its creative concert presentation to Berlioz’s hallucinatory tale of passion and obsession, his Symphonie fantastique, in the 150th anniversary of the composer's death. Its most ambitious ‘Orchestral Theatre’ project to date, Aurora’s specially-devised production interweaves live orchestral performance with theatrical design, lighting, movement, costumes and Berlioz’s own words spoken by actor Mathew Baynton (Horrible Histories, Yonderland, Ghosts). Performing without sheet music, the orchestra offers audiences a new way to experience this iconic work in a fresh and illuminating context, exploring the composer’s vivid imagination and world through theatrical elements, including a specially-commissioned set design by Kate Wicks.
The concert traces the story from Berlioz’s inspiration for the work (his obsessive infatuation with the actress Harriet Smithson after seeing her perform in Shakespeare’s Hamlet) to the creation of the Symphonie fantastique, with Baynton reciting text taken from the composer’s own letters and memoirs. Harnessing the potential of memorised performance physically to ‘show’ musical ideas, the production includes an introduction which offers audiences a richer understanding of the work’s musical genius, before a full performance of the whole symphony from memory. The result is a unique concert which illuminates Berlioz’s masterpiece in new ways for first-time listeners and lifelong devotees of the symphony alike.
Aurora's Orchestral Theatre presentation of Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique will receive its world premiere at Saffron Hall (Tuesday 10 September, 7:30pm) followed by two performances at the BBC Proms – an early evening concert (7pm, televised on BBC Four on Friday 13 September) and a special Late Night performance (10:15pm), giving audiences the chance to experience the unique and intimate atmosphere of the Royal Albert Hall after hours.
Aurora’s Orchestral Theatre series aims to give the richest possible experience of orchestral music to the widest possible audience, using cross-art form collaborations, historical contextualisation, audience participation, and memorised performance to deepen the audience’s musical enjoyment and understanding. The series stages orchestra adventures that span diverse musical genres and art forms, rethinking the concert format and offering bold new ways to engage with orchestral music. Programmes are uncompromisingly music-led, with orchestral music and musicians always centre stage.
Aurora have become known for its pioneering memorised performances of whole symphonies, offering audiences the opportunity to experience orchestral music in a completely new and thrillingly direct way. The orchestra has performed by heart at the BBC Proms every year since 2014 – presenting works including Mozart's 40th and 41st symphonies, Beethoven's Symphonies Nos. Three, Five and Six, Brahms' first symphony and Shostakovich's ninth.
Aurora has a creative setup which is unique amongst UK orchestras. The resident creative team includes in-house writer, designer, lighting designer and filmmakers, working in close ongoing collaboration with Creative Director Jane Mitchell, who is also the orchestra’s Principal Flautist. More akin to a theatre company than a traditional orchestral structure, this setup allows Aurora to create theatrical concerts in which the orchestra’s own artistic voice is the driving force.
Since 2016, Aurora Orchestra has been creating Orchestral Theatre productions with a flagship series at Southbank Centre's Queen Elizabeth Hall as Associate Orchestra. Its next Orchestral Theatre production – Fallen Hero – will be in May 2020, exploring the rise and fall of Napoleon with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, featuring a memorised performance of Beethoven's Eroica and Schoenberg's Ode to Napoleon.