Centre for Research in Opera and Music Theatre (CROMT)

Sussex Bach Wedding

Proposal for a collaborative project between the Centre for Research in Opera and Music Theatre at the University of Sussex & The Hanover Band

Bach Wedding

Based on J.S. Bach's Wedding Cantata "O holder Tag", Cantata 210

Bach's Cantata no.210 was written to be performed at a wedding. A solo soprano addresses the wedding couple and their guests in a sequence of five recitatives and arias in which she both celebrates and questions the role of music at such an occasion: music lifts the spirits, but in rousing earthly passions it leads away from the inner solemnity of the couple's sacred vows; music consoles, but its consolation is an inappropriate reminder of death. So music must lead us back to the joy of the occasion, effacing itself to serve its patron's pleasure. Bach's exquisite music alternates fast and slow, baroque formality with baroque eroticism.

The text (to be sung in a new English translation) establishes a complex dramatic interplay between the singer and the circumstances in which she finds herself, exploring the relationship of art and life and asking us to consider whether art redeems the banality of everyday life or reflects its unnoticed beauty.

The artistic aim of the project is to reconstruct dramatically a real context for the cantata, placing it amidst the preparations and celebrations for a very ordinary modern-day wedding party. Working to a script developed with a playwright, a cast of actors and non-actors will recreate the typical circumstances and incidents of such an occasion, playing the roles of bride and groom, families, children, guests, etc. The audience will also be present as "guests" at the wedding party. Beyond the commonplace banality of such occasions we will be reminded by the beauty of Bach's music of the touching expression of faith and hope, however fragile, that is always celebrated in such events.

The project is a collaboration between The Centre for Research in Opera and Music Theatre and one of the world's foremost period instrument ensembles the Hanover Band, which is based in Brighton.

The project is part of series investigating the use of dramatic performance for the recontextualisation of non-theatrical music written for specific social occasions or contexts.