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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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