Molière 400th Anniversary Project
Good Soup (title tbc)
We started our Research & Development week with an idea to create a piece of music theatre dedicated to Molière. This project was not only to celebrate Molière’s 400th anniversary, but also a chance for us as an ensemble to better understand the legendary French playwright and our namesake. Ensemble Molière formed in 2014 and the first piece we played together was Jean-Baptiste Lully’s music to Molière’s play Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. We loved it all and decided to form a group dedicated to performing French baroque repertoire in the UK. On the quatercentenary of Molière’s birth we wanted to take this opportunity to transport our audiences back to 17th Century France with us, to enjoy the music and the culture that we have come to cherish over the past 7 years together. It was through the generous support of Hawkwood, the Francis W Reckitt Arts Trust and Angel Early Music that allowed us to seize this opportunity and create something special.
We had prepared for the residency by hosting a weekly Molière book club, reading a few of the plays and an array of other sources about 17th century France - from books referencing the environmental phenomenon known as the Maunder Minimum, to an article about Louis XIV’s royal gardens. During the course of these book clubs, we came together as an ensemble along with our director Klara and discussed the themes of Molière. What these themes were, the context they emerged from and the almost slapstick humour we were all surprised by. We quickly realised that some of the themes that arose in Molière’s plays were still as engaging and relevant as ever, and that it was going to be these themes that were to be the perfect starting point for our new piece. It became clear to us that we didn’t want to put on our own production of Molière, but instead to create our own version of Molière’s world and to share this world with a larger audience.
During the residency, we could debate these themes, rehearse whatever music we wished, we had space to unravel massive sheets of paper and draw large diagrams of repertoire and affect, take walks in the woods and discuss the piece away from our instruments, we could even do the physical warm up with the performers and watch Ariane Mnouchkine’s seminal film Molière. When given the space and time it is almost not surprising that we managed to create the outline of a whole music theatre piece in 5 days. An opportunity that would be almost impossible to recreate in any other location and one that we’re ultimately incredibly grateful to have been offered.
Following the residency at Hawkwood, our harpsichordist Satoko, along with Klara, James, Lizzy Shakespeare and Rachel Wise have gone on to develop this outline, knitting together the music and themes with the physical performance element of our production. We hope to bring Good Soup (title tbc) to stages in Summer 2022 in London and then York in December 2022, a timeframe that wouldn’t have been achievable without the focus and space that the residency provided.
We are most grateful to the Angel Early Music for their support towards this project.
Ensemble Molière - musicians
Klara Kofen - director
Rachel Wise - baroque movement adviser
Lizzy Shakespeare & James Oldham - clowns/actors