Wednesday 4 July 2012

Recreating the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens

A prospect of Vauxhall Gardens in 1751
The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens have completely disappeared, being successfully obliterated by the railway and 19th century development. There is little, beyond a rather grim open space and a gay pub to suggest what the area might have been. St. Peter's Church, Kennington Lane, SE11 5HY is a 19th century church on the site of the pleasure gardens, and its altar is the site of the garden fountain. It is here that, on Saturday 7 July, London Early Opera under their musical director Bridget Cunningham will be evoking the 19th century gardens.

The culture of the pleasure gardens has been even more ephemeral than the gardens themselves. The rather civilised, but slightly racy atmosphere, has evaporated; they were in fact rather cultured, but with enormous popularity. Handel's rehearsal for the Royal fireworks attracted a reputed 12,000 people. It was a cradle of art, architecture and music, with important and influential rococo buildings, but also a place of dark places where you could have an assignation!

London Early Opera, with Ildiko Allen (soprano), Dan Moult (organ), conducted by Bridget Cunningham, will be performing composers associated with the gardens. Though Handel is the prime one, there were a number of house composers such as Arne and Lampe (now best known for his comic opera The Dragon of Wantley). Dr Alan Borg, author of the book Vauxhall Gardens: A History will be providing a narration so that we can appreciate a little of the varied delights on offer.

The concert starts at 7.30pm, tickets are available on the door. Further details at the London Early Opera website.

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