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Bell Shakespeare gets intimate with the ACO for exciting collaboration

Bell Shakespeare gets intimate with the ACO for exciting collaboration

CREATED ON // Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Australian Chamber Orchestra is getting intimate with Bell Shakespeare for an exciting collaboration.

The world-renowned Australian Chamber Orchestra will share the stage with two Bell Shakespeare actors in a co-production which will give life to the stories that inspired the music of Leoš Janácek’s Intimate Letters and Bedrich Smetana’s From My Life. The Co-Artistic Director of Bell Shakespeare Peter Evans, along with his assistant director Susanna Dowling, will work with ACO musicians led by London Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Gordan Nikolic, to present this unique meeting of theatre and chamber music.

The idea for the collaboration between these two disparate companies originally came from Timo-Veikko Valve, cellist with the ACO, which led to a pop-up concert at Pier 2/3 Walsh Bay, which will eventually become the permanent home of both companies. It was such a success, the concept is being extended this year with Intimate Letters.

Watch a preview of Intimate Letters

Inspired by more than 700 passionate letters written between Janácek and his much younger married muse, Intimate Letters explores their overwhelming and obsessive love. Smetana’s autobiographical From My Life soars with the joy and hope of childhood and is gradually derailed, before ultimately descending into despair, as the composer faces the inescapable fate of impending deafness.

On stage with the ACO are actors Ella Scott Lynch and Marshall Napier. “Ella and Marshall read the letters of the composers (and in Janácek’s case, his correspondent Kamila Stosslova),” Dowling tells SX.


“These preface the movements of the music so they are interwoven. Hearing about the intimate lives of the composers really brings the music to life in a different way – it gives you an insight into their humanity. At the same time, the music underscores the sentiment of what the composers say in their letters.”

Cross-artform collaborations like Intimate Letters are happening more and more, including Sydney Theatre Company and Bangarra with Bloodland in 2011, or Sydney Dance Company and the ACO with Les Illuminations last year.

“I think the main thing about cross-artform collaboration is that it brings different audiences together,” Dowling says. “There may be people who come to the concert knowing these pieces of music well, who might learn more from the letters than they knew before. There may be other people who don’t know the music at all, but are drawn to the idea of the story behind the notes. So everyone has a different experience.”

[Image] Bell Shakespeare actors Marshall Napier and Ella Scott Lynch with ACO cellist Julian Thompson. Photo: Jack Saltmiris

Intimate Letters is on at the Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House, September 24 – 30. Bookings: www.sydneyoperahouse.com


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