Here are some responses to the recent production of Dardanus which I was fortunate to conduct for English Touring Opera. I’m thrilled that director Douglas Rintoul’s hugely intelligent, musically sensitive and sincere interpretation of the libretto has been so widely appreciated. It’s completely changed the way I think about Rameau’s librettos and opened up new avenues of research to follow in 2018. I can’t wait to work with him again…!
Tim Ashley, The Guardian
“Comparatively unfamiliar to UK audiences, Dardanus is a remarkable work, shot through with the grace and magic we primarily associate with Shakespeare’s late plays. The Prospero-like sorcerer Isménor unravels the threads of destiny that conspire against the marriage of Dardanus with Iphise, the daughter of Teucer, Dardanus’s sworn enemy in war. The couple’s happiness must come, however, at the price of the life of Anténor, who loves Iphise and is her father’s preferred suitor. Rameau’s tentative optimism is balanced by deep, contained sadness – this is music that gets quietly under your skin.
Douglas Rintoul’s production uses the same basic set (designed by Cordelia Chisholm) as Giulio Cesare, but its gilded corridors of power have now become a shuttered mausoleum in a modern-day war zone, where the ashes of countless fallen are strewn on the floor and relatives assemble to collect mementoes of the dead. The imagery initially seems heavy, but Rintoul works with, rather than against, the score. We’re soon engrossed in the opera’s world as Frederick Long’s Isménor conjures up gods and spirits, Grant Doyle’s Teucer frets and fumes over his daughter, and Dardanus and Iphise – Anthony Gregory and Galina Averina – move slowly towards expressing their long-concealed feelings for each other. The closing scenes, in which the machinery of war is finally dismantled and people begin to smile again, are profoundly touching.”
George Hall, The Stage
Stylishly conducted. Conductor and Rameau expert Jonathan Williams helps the cast and orchestra – The Old Street Band, which has never sounded more confident than it does this season – to achieve a credible realisation of the composer’s recondite style that gives the show a solid musical foundation.
Gavin Dixon, The Arts Desk
Jonathan Williams leads a lively and lucid account of Rameau’s diverse score. His tempos are never rushed, but the rhythmic intensity, especially in the many dance numbers, propels the music. He also brings impressive coherence to each of the acts by deftly weaving together the often contrasting successive numbers. Period-instrument accompaniment is provided by The Old Street Band. Their tone is bold and forthright, painting Ramaeu’s textures in clean primary colours.
Benjamin Poore, Bachtrack
Rawness and tenderness in English Touring Opera’s Dardanus, work of dazzling intensity and compression, whose emotional and dramatic energies were focalised through Jonathan Williams’ conducting. The Old Street Band, the period instrument ensemble backing up ETO’s mammoth Baroque programme this autumn, had a special sense of the charcoal shades of Rameau’s astounding score. The opening music of Act 2, where we meet magician Isménor for the first time – Dardanus, Anténor, and Iphise all seek his uncanny foresight – had just the right amount of sul ponticello bite in the strings to make the scene properly ghostly. The pianissimo passages were always edge-of-the-seat stuff. Rameau’s extraordinary suspensions, unresolved dissonances, and peculiar modulations were presented with exemplary transparency by the strings. The production articulated a clear sense of moral and psychological transformation…