Daphnis and Chloe

Cambridge Youth Opera brought a ray of midsummer sunshine into the Fitzwilliam Auditorium at the end of January 2017, as we performed this Offenbach romp to large and appreciative audiences.

The Isadorables wake Daphnis unexpectedly

For this production, we shifted the story of ancient Greek shepherds, Bacchantes and the god Pan masquerading as a statue, to Cambridge in 1910. Our young lovers met on Grantchester Meadows, beautifully recreated by young designer Sarah-Jane Roberts.

Daphnis, Chloe and Pan on the Meadows

The Bacchantes were transformed into the Cambridge Isadorables, an amateur dance group, following the great Isadora Duncan. The orchestra became a local ensemble, rehearsing out of doors under the watchful eye of the vicar of Grantchester. Only Pan remained in his original role.

The orchestra relax in character between performances

This setting gave us a chance to explore the dynamics of Edwardian society at a time when traditional mores were still in place, but when girls  were beginning to push boundaries, abandoning corsets for more comfortable, ‘rational dress’, educating themselves, taking part in sports and using their bicycles to get away from the restrictions of home and family.

Daphnis tries Pan’s pipes, watched by Chloe

Nowhere is this new freedom more strongly expressed than among the Isadorables, exploring their creativity while making a radical statement about their place in the world. We were very fortunate to be joined by dancer and choreographer Julia Pond, a Duncan dance specialist who gave our cast a first-hand taste of the Duncan tradition and advised on everything from choreography and technique, to how to make and wear a tunic.

The overture – Duncan dance

We performed a new English version by Caroline Coetzee. Offenbach’s score was adapted for small orchestra by Daniel Schlosberg, for Heartbeat Opera, and arranged for youth players by Anne Taylor.

Performance photos by Faruk Kara. Orchestra photo by Anne Taylor