4 - The Fairy Queen - View 2

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					                                                                                                                      The Fairy Queen at Glyndebourne




     4 – The Fairy Queen – View 2

    ike Mozart and Schubert, all Purcell’s
L   works are early ones. He died in 1695 at
the age of 36. His output would be colossal for
a composer twice his age: 26 Odes and
Welcome Songs, music for 42 plays, as many
secular cantatas, some 50 catches (often
bawdy), over one hundred solo songs, 70
verse-anthems, many string fantasias, sonatas
and harpsichord pieces, one opera – Dido and           set in China. Many of these effects were also        Enlightenment: very good recorders and much
Aeneas – plus five semi-operas or masques,             visible at Glyndebourne.                             spirited violin playing from Alison Bury.
including The Fairy Queen, just now produced               The production was slow in the first Act,            It is worth remembering that two com-
at Glyndebourne. These last were theatre               very little music after the overture and an          posers played a considerable part in rescuing
pieces in which speech, mime and dancing               orchestral There’s not a Swain but subsequently      Purcell from 19th-century oblivion. Their love
were almost as important as the music.                 things speeded up, a good mixture of fast and        for the composer was set forth accordingly:
    The Fairy Queen is a take on A Midsummer           serious, innocent and impish, rompish and            ‘His unfettered rhythms, boldly dissonant har-
Night’s Dream, although Purcell did not set            erotic… The costumes were gorgeous and the           monies, long soaring melodies without auto-
any of Shakespeare’s text. It is conjectured that      design (Paul Brown) sumptuous. Jonathan              matic repetitions of ‘memorable’ phrases, and
Betterton supervised the text, although Purcell        Kent was the brilliant director. The rustics         especially his love of the virtuoso, the operatic
probably had a hand in it. The first perform-          were funny: particularly to be admired was           and conscious exploration of brilliant sounds.’
ance was in Dorset Garden, London, in May              Desmond Barrit’s Bottom, Sally Dexter’s              (Britten); ‘…a rounded man … outwardly
1692 and is said to have cost £3,000 (now-             Titania, likewise the singing of Lucy Crowe in       gay, so bawdy in some of the drinking songs
adays, that equals about half a million), the          Now the Night and Hark the Echoing Air…              he set, yet in his string fantasias and verse
money largely spent on machinery, elaborate            and Carolyn Sampson in The Plaint. Chorus            anthems he is as serious as Gibbons, as
lighting effects, glass bowls filled with col-         first class; the generally young chorus could all    passionate as Weelkes or Dowland.’ (Tippett)
oured liquid, a cloud machine, Phoebus                 act. The musical director was William Christie,          No wonder Purcell was dubbed the British
entered in a chariot drawn by four horses,             magisterial, full of vitality, leading from the      Orpheus.
Juno in one drawn by peacocks, the finale was          harpsichord the Orchestra of the Age of              John Amis



Royal Opera revivals to close 2008-2009 season
To bring their 2008-2009 season to what               became a truly musical highlight. What so often                           Tosca
became a triumphant close the Royal Opera             had made me shudder with emotional
restaged four of its most successful Italian          revulsion became a dramatic tour de force.             onathan Kent’s 2006 production of Puccini’s
producti
				
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