‘The stories of Rachel, Susanne and Judith… are biblical stories which should feel remote, but whose themse are also worryingly close to us’

As we prepare for our performances of Out Of Her Mouth, which tours the UK this summer, director Mathilde Lopez discusses her approach to staging these biblical works for a twenty-first century audience

You came to this production through our Open Call. What was it about Out Of Her Mouth that appealed to you?

Many things: the chance to direct an Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre piece, the three companies working together and juxtaposing three different cantatas, and being part of the creation of an opera about women by women (Jacquet de La Guerre, Toria Banks and me).

What’s so special about these cantatas, and Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre?

The stories of Rachel, Susanne and Judith are complex pieces about being a woman in a patriarchal society, and about the different approaches to surviving that. They are biblical stories, which should feel remote but which are also worryingly close to us. They are stories about frustrations and anger that we recognise, that present misogyny in all its complexity and viciousness, and which has remained surprisingly intact for centuries. They are also brilliant short operas with a solo performer playing multiple characters and the narrator, offering great moments of playfulness for the singers, with a protagonist constantly weaving in and out of their own story.

What excites you about working with Dunedin Consort?

It is great to work with an organisation that consistently works towards broadening the repertoire. There are so many forgotten works that ought to be heard. I also admire Dunedin Consort’s combination of intellectual and musical rigour, and their genuine interest in attempting new ideas, not fearing new formats of theatre and staging. This is a rare combination.

This is the first time these cantatas have been staged in the UK. What are the pressures and challenges of delivering a staged, as opposed to a regular concert performance? 

I am an opera and theatre director, so I am used to creating staged performances, but the main challenge in directing new pieces — be it opera or theatre — is to resist the pressure to stay as close to the text/context as possible and to fulfil the expectations of what it was or should be. The apposition of these three pieces in these very new translations highlights certain things that I think we should be wrestling with — and, for the performers, things that we should be embodying today.

What do you hope the audience will get out of this production?

I hope they’ll feel the fear, anger and despair, and the joy and love too. Along with everything Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre felt when composing and that we felt while rehearsing. All of that, accelerated. 

Join Dunedin Consort for Out Of Her Mouth this June.

Universal Hall, Findhorn — Friday 23 June, 8pm
Platform, Midland Street, Glasgow — Saturday 24 June, 8pm
Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh — Sunday 25 June, 8pm
Village Underground, Spitalfields, London — Sunday 9 July, 6.30pm
National Centre for Early Music, York — Wednesday 12 July, 7pm