Thursday, 17 May 2012

“Empress of Pleasure” New Production a Success

Actress, singer, dancer, courtesan, entrepreneur, opera impresario and mother of Casanova's daughter.

A new stage production from Holland is celebrating the life and times of the glittering, scandalous, high flying, 18th century London society lady Mrs Cornelys, a.k.a. “The Empress of Pleasure”. Featuring 18th century music and dance, the show was created by Dutch-based Australian conductor Simon Murphy together with American specialist Baroque ballerina Caroline Copeland.

Baroque dancer Caroline Copeland
as the "Empress of Pleasure"
(Photo: Fernando van Teijlingen)

Born Anna Maria Teresa Imer in Venice in 1723, Mrs Cornelys worked as an actress/dancer/singer at various courts in mainland Europe including Vienna and Bayreuth, lived for a time in the Netherlands, where she re-met Casanova and introduced him to his daughter (according to Casanova's diaries), before finally settling in London in the late 1750's.

In 1760's and 1770's London, Mrs Cornelys ran a sort of 18th century “Moulin Rouge” - Carlisle House, Soho Square – where she held her infamous, drink and drug fuelled “Masques”, also known as “Mrs Cornelys' Entertainments”. These night long events featured music, dancing, theatre, gambling and sexual intrigues, with each room of the house offering a different activity.

“Mrs Cornelys is a truly fascinating figure and an amazing 18th century woman” says conductor Simon Murphy. “Her London circle included such luminaries as composer/performers J.C. Bach, C.F. Abel and J.C. Fischer, the painter Gainsborough and the actor Garrick. She herself was a phenomenon - a whirlwind of vision and energy with a can-do attitude. Together with her colleagues, Mrs Cornelys laid the foundations for concept of the “classical music concert series” with her legendary Bach Abel concerts in London in the 1760's and 1770's. Her breathtaking “Masques” or Rave Parties would still shock today.”

Murphy and Copeland met at the Potsdam Musik-Festspiele in 2005, where Copeland was dancing in one of the festival's Baroque stage productions. Since then, the two have been putting the ideas together for this new production.

Murphy and Copeland's new show "Empress of Pleasure" takes its inspiration from the heady and highly sexually charged atmosphere of Mrs Cornelys' London “Masques”. In their production, the pair have decided to explore the kind of virtuosic theatre or stage dancing of during the period of Mrs Cornelys. “Mrs Cornelys was herself a highly theatrical figure. In order to portray her and her highly colourful character, it seemed right to utilise the more spectacular dance of the stage and theatre rather than of the ballroom” says Simon Murphy. For the production, Caroline Copeland created new choreographies based on the historical dance language of the mid to late 18th century. The music was selected by Simon Murphy after extensive research and workshopping with Caroline Copeland and the production's other musical soloists, oboist Amy Power and soprano Stefanie True. The show's costuming was designed by Caroline Copeland together with American costumer Joy Havens.

Baroque dancer Caroline Copeland
as Diana in the "Empress of Pleasure"
(Photo: Fernando van Teijlingen)

“Working with Caroline on this project was wonderfully exciting and inspiring” says Murphy. “Caroline has created such a nice feel of the persona of Mrs Cornelys - as the Empress of Pleasure herself - morphing her during the course of the show into other strong female characters such as Venus and Diana. You really feel like you are at one of Mrs Cornelys' Masques watching a star 18th century ballerina perform a very virtuosic, intimate and sensual solo – mysterious, very here-and-now, and yet also timeless. Caroline's choreographies use the 18th century dance language so beautifully, creatively and expressively, and the way she dances them is breathtaking – such virtuosity, poise, elegance and eloquence.”

The production features music by Mrs Cornelys' close musical colleagues, J.C. Bach, C.F. Abel and J.C. Fischer with other music by W. Boyce and K. Ditters von Dittersdorf.

The production was premièred by conductor Simon Murphy, Baroque ballerina Caroline Copeland and The Hague's Baroque Orchestra, The New Dutch Academy, in The Hague's Philipszaal in February 2012.

Watch videos from the production

About Simon Murphy and The New Dutch Academy

Simon Murphy (Sydney, 1973) is chief-conductor of The Hague's Baroque Orchestra, The New Dutch Academy (NDA). He has won much recognition for his work as a “repertoire refresher”, presenting fresh perspectives on established masterworks and by introducing newly rediscovered musical gems to modern audiences:

“Murphy is a musician with “guts”: a conductor with the passion and conviction of a born missionary. He serves his music up to his audience con spirito and presto energico.”
De Volkskrant, The Netherlands

“The repertoire-refresher, conductor Simon Murphy radiates joie de vivre. His interpretation distinguishes itself by its enthusiasm. 5 stars!” Diapason, France

“Breathtaking. Compelling, technically brilliant and unusually effervescent!
Murphy has it all - verve and pulsating temperament - presented with the finest finesse.”
Concerto, Germany

Read more about Simon Murphy and his projects on

No comments:

Post a Comment