Henry Purcell  
Henry Purcell

Henry Purcell by John Closterman, oil on canvas, (probably 1695)
Henry Purcell, (born c. 1659, London, Eng.—died Nov. 21, 1695, London), English composer of the middle Baroque period most remembered for his more than 100 songs, the miniature opera Dido and Aeneas, and his incidental music to a version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, called The Fairy Queen. Purcell, the most important English composer of his time, composed music covering a wide field: the church, the stage, the court, and private entertainment. In all these branches of composition he showed an obvious admiration for the past combined with a willingness to learn from the present, particularly from his contemporaries in Italy. With alertness of mind went an individual inventiveness that marked him as the most original English composer of his time as well as one of the most original in Europe.

Not very much is known of Purcell’s life. His father was a gentleman of the Chapel Royal, in which musicians for the royal service were trained, and the son received his earliest education there as a chorister. When his voice broke in 1673, he was appointed assistant to John Hingston, keeper of the king’s instruments, whom he succeeded in 1683. From 1674 to 1678 he tuned the organ at Westminster Abbey and was employed there in 1675–76 to copy organ parts of anthems. In 1677 he succeeded Matthew Locke as the composer for Charles II’s string orchestra and in 1679 was appointed organist of Westminster Abbey in succession to the composer John Blow. A further appointment as one of the three organists of the Chapel Royal followed in 1682. He retained all his official posts through the reigns of James II and William III and Mary. He married in 1680 or 1681 and had at least six children, three of whom died in infancy. His son Edward was also a musician, as was Edward’s son Edward Henry (died 1765). Purcell seems to have spent all his life in Westminster. A fatal illness prevented him from finishing the music for the operatic version of John Dryden and Sir Robert Howard’s verse tragedy The Indian Queen (1664), which was completed after his death by his brother Daniel (d. 1717). Daniel Purcell had also been brought up as a chorister in the Chapel Royal and was organist of Magdalen College, Oxford, from 1688 to 1695. Before his brother’s death, he was little known as a composer, but from 1695 to 1707 he was in considerable demand for music for stage productions in London until the advent of Italian opera brought his activities to an end.


Songs and independent instrumental compositions
To later ages Purcell was best known as a songwriter because so many of his songs were printed in his lifetime and were reprinted again and again after his death. The first evidence of his mastery as a composer, however, is an instrumental work—a series of fantasias (or “fancies”) for viols in three, four, five, six, and seven parts. The nine four-part fantasias all bear dates in the summer of 1680, and the others can hardly be later. Purcell was here reviving a form of music that was already out of date and doing it with the skill of a veteran. Probably about the same time he started to work on a more fashionable type of instrumental music—a series of sonatas for two violins, bass viol, and organ (or harpsichord). Twelve of these were published in 1683, with a dedication to Charles II, and a further nine, together with a chaconne for the same combination, were issued by his widow in 1697. The foreword to the 1683 set claimed that the composer had “faithfully endeavour’d a just imitation of the most fam’d Italian Masters”; but side by side with the Italianate manner there was a good deal that derived from the English chamber music tradition.

The instrumental movements are the most striking part of the earliest of Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II—a series of ceremonial odes that began to appear in 1680. Possibly he lacked experience in writing for voices, at any rate on the scale required for works of this kind; or else he had not yet achieved the art of cloaking insipid words in significant music. By 1683 he had acquired a surer touch, and from that time until 1694, when he wrote the last of his birthday odes for Queen Mary, he produced a series of compositions for the court in which the vitality of the music makes it easy to ignore the poverty of the words. The same qualities are apparent in the last of his odes for St. Cecilia’s Day, written in 1692.

Music for theatre
Purcell’s genius as a composer for the stage was hampered by there being no public opera in London during his lifetime. Most of his theatre music consists simply of instrumental music and songs interpolated into spoken drama, though occasionally there were opportunities for more extended musical scenes. His contribution to the stage was in fact modest until 1689, when he wrote Dido and Aeneas (libretto by Nahum Tate) for performance at a girls’ school in Chelsea; this work achieves a high degree of dramatic intensity within a narrow framework. From that time until his death, he was constantly employed in writing music for the public theatres. These productions included some that gave scope for more than merely incidental music—notably music for Dioclesian (1690), adapted by Thomas Betterton from the tragedy The Prophetess, by John Fletcher and Philip Massinger; for King Arthur (1691), by John Dryden, designed from the first as an entertainment with music; and for The Fairy Queen (1692), an anonymous adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which the texts set to music are all interpolations. In these works Purcell showed not only a lively sense of comedy but also a gift of passionate musical expression that is often more exalted than the words. The tendency to identify himself still more closely with the Italian style is very noticeable in the later dramatic works, which often demand considerable agility from the soloists.

Encyclopædia Britannica

Engraved portrait of Purcell by R. White after Closterman,
from Orpheus Britannicus

One of four sons, Henry Purcell revealed his musical skills at a very early age and joined the Chapel Royal in London as a boy chorister. Choristers were encouraged to develop their talents, and the eight-year-old Purcell duly obliged by composing a three-part song. "Sweet tyranness", which became a part of leading publisher Playford's "Can That Catch Can."

After his voice broke, Purcell left the choir and was engaged as assistant to the Keeper of the King's Instruments. He progressed to supervision and tuning of the organ at Westminster Abbey (1674-8) and m 1677 replaced Matthew Locke as Composer-in-Ordinary (for violins). Two years later he succeeded John Blow as the Abbey's organist and shortly after married Frances Peters, with whom he settled in a house provided with the employment.

From this stable domestic setting his compositions flowed. He wrote Latin anthems for the royal chapels, a book of trio sonatas, and other occasional pieces for the court; in all he catered with great versatility to the distinct musical differences between the royal court, public ceremonies at Westminster Abbey, and the theatre — the latter an increasing interest with Purcell. In 1685 he composed the anthem Rejoice in the Lord alway, known as the Bell anthem because of the "pealing" effect of its instrumental introduction.

He had become the official organist to the Chapel Royal in 1682 and a year later was made Organ Maker and Keeper of the King's Instruments. Purcell was evidently well able to fulfil an administrative role while remaining a creative musician, for his court positions were reconfirmed by James II, and again in 1689 when William III and Mary took the throne. For the coronations of each, Purcell composed anthems and played on the Abbey organ.

Purcell's affinity for the theatre led him to explore the medium of opera. In his thirties his efforts bore fruit with the 1689 premiere of his famous Dido and Aeneas,the first English opera of lasting significance. Although less than an hour long, it contains dances and choruses in many styles and spans a wide variety of human emotions from elation to despair. Its most famous aria is Dido's Lament, "When I am laid in earth", sung over a repeated bass line of filling semitones (the smallest interval between two notes used at that time), representing Dido's descent into the grave after her desertion by Aeneas.

After Dido, Purcell wrote largely for the theatre. Between 1690 and 1695 he composed music for no fewer than 37 productions, including King Arthur in 1691 and The fairy queen in 1692. He continued to write pieces for royal occasions, and in 1 694 composed an ode, Come ye sons of art, away, for the birthday of Queen Mary, wife of William III. The piece includes the aria "Sound the trumpet", usually sung by a pair of duelling countertenors.

When Queen Mary died of smallpox late in 1694, Purcell wrote a series of pieces for her funeral, held in Westminster Abbey in March 1695. The Funeral music for Queen Mary comprises an anthem, four profoundly bleak pieces for trumpets and trombones, and two elegies. That same year some of the music was used at Purcell's own funeral. His death at the early age of 36 was an immense loss to England and the musical world. His funeral, like Queen Mary's, was held at Westminster Abbey, with both the Chapel Royal choir and the Abbey choir in attendance, and he was laid to rest close by the organ at Westminster Abbey that he had spent years maintaining.

Dido and Aeneas
(Soloists: Evelyn Tubb, soprano (Dido & Sorceress), Thomas Meglioranza, baritone (Aeneas), Juilia Matthews, soprano (Belinda), et al.; Chorus and Orchestra of New Trinity Baroque, directed by Predrag Gosta)  - complete


Shake the Cloud (Belinda)
Ah! Belinda (Dido)
The Witches' Dance
When I Am Laid In Earth (Dido)
With Drooping Wings (chorus)
Rondeau from Abdelazer
Triosonate in C major
Let mine eyes run down with tears
(Eusemble Vocal Pythagore)  - 
Funeral music for the Queen Mary
(Eusemble Vocal Pythagore)
  - complete
Henry Purcell - Chamber Music
Purcell: Airs d'opéras & songs - Andreas Scholl
Henry Purcell: Airs d'opéras & songs

Andreas Scholl: countertenor

Accademia Bizantina
Conducted by Stefano Montanari

Directed by Olivier Simonnet © Broascast by Mezzo, 2009

Purcell - 10 Sonatas in Four Parts
Henry Purcell - 12 Sonatas of three parts (1683)
Twelve Sonatas of three parts (1683)

Sonata I in G minor Z 790

1. (Adagio)
2. Vivace
3. Adagio, Presto
4. Largo

Sonata II in B flat major Z 791

5. Adagio
6. Largo, Presto
7. Adagio
8. Allegro

Sonata III in D minor Z 792

9. (Grave), Adagio
10. Canzona
11. Poco Largo, Allegro

Sonata IV in F major Z 793

12. (Adagio)
13. Canzona
14. Poco Largo
15. Allegro

Sonata V in A minor Z 794

16. (Canzona)
17. Adagio
18. Largo
19. Grave, Canzona

Sonata VI in C major Z 795

20. (Adagio)
21. Canzona
22. Largo
23. Allegro

Sonata VII in E minor Z 796

24. (Adagio)
25. Canzona
26. Largo
27. Grave
28. Vivace

Sonata VIII in G major Z 797

29. (Canzona)
30. Poco Largo, Allegro
31. Grave, Vivace

Sonata IX in C minor Z 798

32. (Adagio)
33. Largo
34. Canzona, Adagio
35. Allegro

Sonata X in A major Z 799

36. (Adagio)
37. Largo
38. Grave, Presto

Sonata XI in F minor Z 800

39. (Adagio)
40. Canzona
41. Adagio
42. Largo

Sonata XII in D major Z 801

43. Adagio
44. Canzona
45. Poco Largo
46. Grave, Presto
47. Allegro


Rémy Baudet, violin - Sayuri Yamagata, violin
Rainer Zipperling, viola da gamba
Pieter-Jan Belder, harpsichord & organ

Purcell: Welcome, welcome, glorious morn
Ode for the birthday of Queen Mary, 1691

The King's Consort, Robert King.

Henry Purcell - Alfred Deller - Music for a while / O solitude
Alfred Deller (haute-contre), Wieland Kuijken (basse de viole), William Christie (clavecin), Roderick Skeaping (violon baroque), Robert Elliott (orgue), Jane Ryan (basse de viole). Enregistré en avril 1979.
Henry Purcell - Fantasias for strings
Fantasia for strings

1. Fantasia I a 3 Z 732 0:00
2. Fantasia II a 3 Z 733 2:55
3. Fantasia III a 3 Z 734 6:12 
4. Fantasia IV a 4 Z 735 8:35
5. Fantasia V a 4 Z 736 12:11
6. Fantasia VI a 4 Z 737 16:21
7. Fantasia VII a 4 Z 738 19:54
8. Fantasia VIII a 4 Z 739 23:56
9. Fantasia IX a 4 Z 740 27:39
10. Fantasia X a 4 Z 741 31:40
11. Fantasia XI a 4 Z 742 35:15
12. Fantasia XII a 4 Z 743 38:35
13. Fantasia XIII a 4 Z 744 41:42
14. Fantasia upon one note a 5 Z 745 42:49
15. In Nomine of six parts Z 746 45:45
16. In Nomine of seven parts Z 747 47:46


Rémy Baudet, violin - Johannes Boer, viola da gamba
Nanneke Schaap, viola da gamba - Ricardo Rodriguez, viola da gamba
Elisabeth Ingenhousz, violin (8, 10, 11, 13-16)
Nicholas Milne, viola da gamba (15, 16)
Frank Wakelkamp, viola da gamba (16)

"Dido and Aeneas"

Dido and Aeneas (Z. 626) is an opera in a prologue and three acts, written by the English Baroque composer Purcell Henry with a libretto by Nahum Tate. The first known performance was at Josias Priest's girls' school in London no later than the summer of 1688. The story is based on Book IV of Virgil's Aeneid. It recounts the love of Dido, Queen of Carthage, for the Trojan hero Aeneas, and her despair when he abandons her. A monumental work in Baroque opera, Dido and Aeneas is remembered as one of Purcell's foremost theatrical works. It was also Purcell's first opera, as well as his only all-sung dramatic work. One of the earliest English operas, it owes much to John Blow's Venus and Adonis, both in structure and in overall effect.

Background and context
Before Dido and Aeneas, Purcell composed music for several stage works, including nine pieces for Nathaniel Lee's Theodosius, or The Force of Love (1680) and eight songs for Thomas d'Urfey's A Fool's Preferment (1688). He also composed songs for two plays by Nahum Tate (later the librettist of Dido and Aeneas), The Sicilian Usurper (1680) and Cuckold-Haven (1685). Dido and Aeneas was Purcell's first (and only) all-sung opera and derives from the English masque tradition.
Originally based on Nahum Tate's play Brutus of Alba, or The Enchanted Lovers (1678), the opera is likely, at least to some extent, to be allegorical. The prologue refers to the joy of a marriage between two monarchs, which could refer to the marriage between William and Mary. In a poem of about 1686, Tate alluded to James II as Aeneas, who is misled by the evil machinations of the Sorceress and her witches (representing Roman Catholicism, a common metaphor at the time) into abandoning Dido, who symbolises the British people. The same symbolism may apply to the opera. This explains the addition of the characters of the Sorceress and the witches, which do not appear in the original Aeneid. It would be noble, or at least acceptable, for Aeneas to follow the decree of the Gods, but not so acceptable for him to be tricked by ill-meaning spirits.
Although the opera is a tragedy, there are numerous seemingly lighter scenes, such as the First Sailor's song, "Take a boozy short leave of your nymphs on the shore, and silence their mourning with vows of returning, though never intending to visit them more." Harris considers the callousness and cynicism of the song to underline the "moral" of the story, that young women should not succumb to the advances and promises of ardent young men.


No score in Purcell's hand is extant, and the only seventeenth-century source is a libretto, possibly from the original performance. The earliest extant score, held in the Bodleian Library, was copied no earlier than 1750, well over sixty years after the opera was composed. No later sources follow the act divisions of the libretto, and the music to the prologue is lost. The prologue, the end of the act 2 'Grove' scene, and several dances, were almost certainly lost when the opera was divided into parts to be performed as interludes between the acts of spoken plays in the first decade of the eighteenth century.
The first of the arias to be published separately was "Ah, Belinda" in Orpheus Britannicus. The most famous aria of the work is "When I am laid in earth", popularly known as "Dido's Lament". Both arias are formed on a lamento ground bass. "Dido's Lament" has been performed or recorded by artists far from the typical operatic school, such as Klaus Nomi (as "Death"), Ane Brun and Jeff Buckley. It has also been transcribed or used in many scores, including the soundtrack to the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers (renamed "Nixon's Walk"). It is played annually (by a military band) at the Cenotaph remembrance ceremony, which takes place on the Sunday nearest to 11 November (Armistice Day) in London's Whitehall. The music is thought by some to be too simple for Purcell in 1689, but this may simply reflect that the intended performers were schoolchildren. The work is scored for four-part strings and continuo. The fact that the libretto from the Chelsea School performance indicates two dances for guitar, the "Dance Gittars Chacony" in act 1, and the "Gittar Ground a Dance" in the 'Grove' scene of act 2, has led one scholar to suggest that Purcell envisioned a guitar as a primary member of the continuo group for the opera. Music for neither of these dances is extant, and it seems likely that Purcell did not compose them, but rather left them to be improvised by the guitarist. Several editions of the opera have been made and have been provided with a continuo realisation; a notable, if rather idiosyncratic edition being that made by Imogen Holst and Benjamin Britten. There are a number of editions with realisations, and the opera's accessibility to amateur performers is a feature that has greatly abbetted the growth of its popularity in the latter half of the twentieth century. While the Prologue's music has been lost and has not been reconstructed, several realisations of the opera include a solution to the missing ritornello at the end of the second act. Known to have been part of the score, it is now performed as a dance taken from other, similar works by Purcell, or invented outright in the same vein, to keep the integrity and continuity of the performance.

Performance history

Premiere and early revivals

The first known performance of Dido and Aeneas was at Josias Priest's girls' school in Chelsea, London no later than July 1688, although there has been speculation that it may have been written for an earlier performance at the court of Charles II or James II. Following the Chelsea performances, the opera was not staged again in Purcell's lifetime. Its next performance was in 1700 as a masque incorporated into an adapted version of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure at Thomas Betterton's theatre in London.
After 1705 it disappeared as a staged work, with only sporadic concert performances, until 1895 when the first staged version in modern times was performed by students of the Royal College of Music at London's Lyceum Theatre to mark the bicentenary of Purcell's death. Dido and Aeneas received its first performance outside England on 14 December 1895 in a concert version at the University Society in Dublin.

20th and 21st century performances

Dido and Aeneas premiered in the United States at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on 10 February 1923 performed by the girls of the Rosemary School, although The New York Times noted that "considerable liberties" had been taken with the score. A concert version with professional musicians organised by the Society of Friends of Music took place on 13 January 1924 at the New York City Town Hall, using a score edited by Artur Bodanzky, who also conducted the performance.
As new critical editions of the score appeared, and with the revival of interest in Baroque music, the number of productions steadily increased. After Jonathan Miller's visit to Bornholm, Denmark, Dido was performed in 2008 at the Rønne Theatre (which had been built in 1823). Devin Duggan conducted. Amongst the new productions of the opera in 2009 (the 350th anniversary of Purcell's birth) were those staged by the De Nederlandse Opera, the Royal Opera, London, the Divertimento Baroque Opera Company, and Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, New York. The Royal Opera production, which featured contemporary dance by Wayne McGregor Random Dance and animated effects by Mark Hatchard, formed part of a double bill with Handel's Acis and Galatea. In 2011 the opera was revived by City Wall Productions and set during World War II. A new Opera North production of the opera opened at Leeds Grand Theatre in February in 2013


A version of the opera adapted to modern dance was choreographed by the American Mark Morris, who originally danced both the roles of Dido and the Sorceress. It premiered on 11 March 1989 at the Théâtre Varia in Brussels. It has since been performed many times and was filmed in 1995 by Canadian director Barbara Willis Sweete, with Morris in the roles of Dido and the Sorceress. Another dance version, choreographed by Sasha Waltz, premiered at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin on 29 January 2005 and opened with the dancers performing underwater in an enormous tank. The production was subsequently seen at the Grand Théâtre in Luxembourg, Opéra national de Montpellier, and Sadler's Wells Theatre in London. In both the Morris and the Waltz adaptations, the characters are each portrayed by both a singer and a dancer, with the dancers onstage and the singers performing from the side of the stage or the orchestra pit.


The Meeting of Dido and Aeneas by Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland

Act 1
Dido's court

The opera opens with Dido in her court with her attendants. Belinda is trying to cheer up Dido, but Dido is full of sorrow, saying 'Peace and I are strangers grown'. Belinda believes the source of this grief to be the Trojan Aeneas, and suggests that Carthage's troubles could be resolved by a marriage between the two. Dido and Belinda talk for a time—Dido fears that her love will make her a weak monarch, but Belinda and the Second Woman reassure her that "The hero loves as well." Aeneas enters the court, and is at first received coldly by Dido, but she eventually accepts his proposal of marriage.

Act 2
Scene 1: The cave of the Sorceress

The Sorceress/Sorcerer is plotting the destruction of Carthage and its queen, and summons companions to help with evil plans. The plan is to send her "trusted elf" disguised as Mercury, someone to whom Aeneas will surely listen, to tempt him to leave Dido and sail to Italy. This would leave Dido heartbroken, and she would surely die. The chorus join in with terrible laughter, and the Enchantresses decide to conjure up a storm to make Dido and her train leave the grove and return to the palace. When the spell is prepared, the witches vanish in a thunderclap.

Scene 2: A grove during the middle of a hunt
Dido and Aeneas are accompanied by their train. They stop at the grove to take in its beauty. A lot of action is going on, with attendants carrying goods from the hunt and a picnic possibly taking place, and Dido and Aeneas are together within the activity. This is all stopped when Dido hears distant thunder, prompting Belinda to tell the servants to prepare for a return to shelter as soon as possible. As every other character leaves the stage, Aeneas is stopped by the Sorceress's elf, who is disguised as Mercury. This pretend Mercury brings the command of Jove that Aeneas is to wait no longer in beginning his task of creating a new Troy on Latin soil. Aeneas consents to the wishes of what he believes are the gods, but is heart-broken that he will have to leave Dido. He then goes off-stage to prepare for his departure from Carthage.

Act 3
The harbour at Carthage

Preparations are being made for the departure of the Trojan fleet. The sailors sing a song, which is followed shortly by the Sorceress and her companions' sudden appearance. The group is pleased at how well their plan has worked, and the Sorceress sings a solo describing her further plans for the destruction of Aeneas "on the ocean". All the characters begin to clear the stage after a dance in three sections, and then disperse.

The palace
Dido and Belinda enter, shocked at Aeneas’ disappearance. Dido is distraught and Belinda comforts her. Suddenly Aeneas returns, but Dido is full of fear before Aeneas speaks, and his words only serve to confirm her suspicions. She derides his reasons for leaving, and even when Aeneas says he will defy the gods and not leave Carthage, Dido rejects him for having once thought of leaving her. After Dido forces Aeneas to leave, she states that "Death must come when he is gone." The opera and Dido's life both slowly come to a conclusion, as the Queen of Carthage sings her last aria, "When I am laid in Earth", also known as "Dido's Lament." The chorus and orchestra then conclude the opera once Dido is dead by ordering the "cupids to scatter roses on her tomb, soft and gentle as her heart. Keep here your watch, and never never never part."


The first complete recording of the opera was made by Decca Records in 1935 with Nancy Evans as Dido and Roy Henderson as Aeneas, followed in 1945 by HMV's release with Joan Hammond and Dennis Noble. Kirsten Flagstad, who had sung the role at the Mermaid Theatre in London, recorded it in 1951 for EMI with Thomas Hemsley as Aeneas. Dido and Aeneas has been recorded many times since the 1960s with Dido sung by mezzo-sopranos such as Janet Baker (1961), Victoria de los Ángeles (1965), Tatiana Troyanos (1968), Teresa Berganza (1986), Anne Sofie von Otter (1989) and Susan Graham (2003). In addition to Joan Hammond and Kirsten Flagstad, sopranos who have recorded the role include Emma Kirkby (1981), Jessye Norman (1986), Catherine Bott (1992), Emily Van Evera (1994), Lynne Dawson (1998) and Evelyn Tubb (2004).

Beginning with Andrew Parrott's 1981 recording for Chandos with the Taverner Consort and Players, there was an increasing preference for a more genuine period sound.[ Further recordings by conductors and ensembles using this approach include those by Christopher Hogwood and The Academy of Ancient Music, William Christie and Les Arts Florissants (1986); Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert (1989); René Jacobs and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (1998); Emmanuelle Haïm and Le Concert d'Astrée (2003); and Predrag Gosta and New Trinity Baroque (2004). The Haïm recording with Susan Graham as Dido and Ian Bostridge as Aeneas was nominated for the Best Opera Recording in the 2005 Grammy Awards.

Several performances of the opera have been filmed and are available on DVD, most recently the 2008 performance at the Opéra-Comique in Paris conducted by William Christie and directed by Deborah Warner (FRA Musica FRA001) and the 2009 performance at London's Royal Opera House conducted by Christopher Hogwood and directed by Wayne McGregor (OpusArte OA1018D). The Mark Morris dance version of the opera is also preserved on DVD (recorded 1995, Image Entertainment 8741) as is the dance version by Sasha Waltz (recorded 2005, Arthaus Musik 101311)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

La obra de Henry Purcell, Dido & AEneas, interpretado por Catherine Bott, como Dido; John Mark Ainsley, como AEneas; Emma Kirkby, como Belinda. Con el coro y orquesta de The Academy of Ancient Music, bajo la dirección de Christopher Hogwood. Extraordinaria versión referencial.
Henry Purcell, Funeral Music for Queen Mary.
Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, Z. 860 is a march, canzona, and anthem for orchestra and choir written by Henry Purcell in 1695 for the funeral of Queen Mary II of England. Parts of the piece were performed again at Purcell's own funeral in November of the same year.

Intérpretes: Scottish Chamber Orchesta, dir. Oscar Shumsky.

Pinturas-Paintings: Henry Purcell y la reina Maria de Inglaterra, and the Queen Mary of England.

A Far Cry - Henry Purcell: Suite from "The Old Bachelor", Z. 607
In the end, in addition to his own vocal pieces, he provided incidental music for up to around 50 plays, including the set programmed here The Old Bachelor by Trinity College educated playwright (and friend of Jonathan Swift) William Congreve (1670-1729), with whom Purcell worked twice (his more famous collaboration with Congreve was The Double-Dealer. Congreve ended up being something of a flash-in-the-pan. The entertainment business has always been fickle.

In addition to two songs, the incidental music Purcell provided for The Old Bachelor included two hornpipe movements, a "slow air," rondeau, and a set of dances (menuet/bourrée/march/jig). Up until just several decades prior to Purcell's compositional lifetime, a suite (though not officially codified) automatically implied a set of dances. That tradition carried into the Baroque where any suite still included instrumental arrangements of these dances."

Guest artist, Catherine Liddell joins A Far Cry on Theorbo & Lute on this performance. Recorded live by Simon C. Yue & Jesse Lewis for A Far Cry, on September 24th, 2010 at our opening concert of the 2010-2011 season, titled "Primordial Darkness".

Capella Ceciliae - Magnificat by Henry Purcell
From a concert with the choir Capella Ceciliae in Luleå Cathedral, Sweden 10/4-2005.
Henry Purcell - Abdelazar Suite
1. Overture
2. Rondo
3. Aria
4. Aria
5. Minuet
6. Aria
7. Gigue
8. Hornpipe
9. Aria

Slovak Chamber Orchestra
Bohdan Warchal

Purcell: Great parent, hail to thee
Ode for the Centenary of Trinity College Dublin, 1694.

The King's Consort, Robert King

Purcell - Ode to St. Cecilia (Z.328): I-II
I. Symphony
II. Hail, bright Cecilia! (Recitative & Chorus)

"Hail! Bright Cecilia, Hail! fill ev'ry Heart!
With Love of thee and thy Celestial Art;
That thine and Musick's Sacred Love
May make the British Forest prove
As Famous as Dodona's Vocal Grove."

Hail! Bright Cecilia (Z.328), also known as Ode to St. Cecilia, was composed to a text by Nicholas Brady by Henry Purcell in 1692 in honour of the feast day of Saint Cecilia, patron saint of musicians. Annual celebrations of this saint's feast day (November 22) began in 1683, organized by the Musical Society of London, a group of musicians and music lovers. Purcell had already written Cecilian pieces in previous years, but this Ode remains the best known. The first performance was a great success, and received an encore.

In spite of Brady's conceit of the speaking forest (It should be remembered that English organs of the period typically had wooden pipes), Purcell scored the warlike music for two brass trumpets and copper kettle drums instead of fife and (field) drum. The orchestra also includes two recorders (called flutes) with a bass flute, strings and basso continuo. Purcell is one of several composers who have written music in honour of Cecilia.

Henry Purcell (10 September 1659(?) -- 21 November 1695), was an English organist and Baroque composer of secular and sacred music. Although Purcell incorporated Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, his legacy was a uniquely English form of Baroque music.

Taverner Consort and Players is a period instrument ensemble: baroque orchestra (Players), vocal consort (Consort) and Choir, named after the 16th century English composer John Taverner. Founded and directed by Andrew Parrott in 1973, the ensemble was led until the early 1990s by baroque violinist John Holloway, and has released many CDs.

Purcell : Chaconne
H. Purcell: Z 627 / The Prophetess: Or, The History of Dioclesian / Orchestral Suite from Acts I&II
Semi-opera in 5 Acts
Libretto: Thomas Betterton after John Fletcher and Philip Massinger
London, Queen's Theatre/Dorset Garden, May 1690

Act I
I. First music - 0:05
II. Overture - 2:23
III. First Act Tune (Hornpipe) - 6:51
Act II
VI. Dance of the Furies - 8:05
V. Second Act Tune - 11:40

Ashley Solomon, Rebecca Prosser (recorder)
Rachel Podger, Lucy Russell (violin)
Jane Rogers (viola)
Daniel Yeadon (bass of violin)
Neal Peres Da Costa (positive organ & harpsichord)

Florilegium Musicum Ensemble

King Arthur, or The British Worthy
King Arthur, or The British Worthy (Z. 628), is a semi-opera in five acts with music by Henry Purcell and a libretto by John Dryden. It was first performed at the Queen's Theatre, Dorset Garden, London, in late May or early June 1691.
The plot is based on the battles between King Arthur's Britons and the Saxons, rather than the legends of Camelot (although Merlin does make an appearance). It is a Restoration spectacular, including such supernatural characters as Cupid and Venus plus references to the Germanic gods of the Saxons, Woden, Thor, and Freya. The tale centres on Arthur's endeavours to recover his fiancée, the blind Cornish Princess Emmeline, who has been abducted by his arch-enemy, the Saxon King Oswald of Kent.
King Arthur is a "dramatick opera" or semi-opera: the principal characters do not sing, except if they are supernatural, pastoral or – in the case of Comus and the popular Your hay it is mow'd – drunk. Secondary characters sing to them, usually as diegetic entertainment, but in Act 4 and parts of Act 2, as supernatural beckonings. The singing in Act 1 is religious observance by the Saxons, ending with their heroic afterlife in Valhalla. The protagonists are actors, as a great deal of King Arthur consists of spoken text. This was normal practice in 17th century English opera. King Arthur contains some of Purcell's most lyrical music, much of it inspired by French dance rhythms and adventurous (for the day) harmonies.

Dryden probably wrote the original libretto for King Arthur in 1684 to mark the 25th anniversary of King Charles II's Restoration the following year. The original text of King Arthur no longer exists but it was to be in three acts with an allegorical prologue. For unknown reasons Dryden abandoned his intention to have the whole work set to music and developed the prologue into another opera, Albion and Albanius, a collaboration with the Spanish composer Louis Grabu. However, Charles II died in February 1685 and Albion and Albanius was first inauspiciously performed in June 1685 during the Monmouth Rebellion. It was a failure and Dryden shelved any plans he had for the rest of the King Arthur libretto.
In the mean time, England entered a turbulent period in its history. After the Catholic James II took the throne, Dryden too converted to Catholicism. When the Protestant William III overthrew James in the Glorious Revolution in 1688, Dryden refused to renounce his faith and so lost his job as poet laureate to his rival Thomas Shadwell. Purcell's career had also suffered after the death of the music-loving Charles II. With their sources of royal patronage gone, both playwright and composer were looking to make money as freelance professionals and the London stage offered attractive opportunities.
In 1690, the theatre manager Thomas Betterton decided to risk putting on another operatic work, the first since the ill-fated Albion and Albanius. This was the semi-opera Dioclesian (1690), an adaptation of a play by Beaumont and Fletcher. Purcell's music for the production and the lavish staging made it a triumph and Betterton was eager for another such success. He persuaded Dryden to dust off and revise the libretto for King Arthur so Purcell could set it. The two had already collaborated on stage works (Dryden had written the prologue for Dioclesian and Purcell the incidental music for Dryden's comedy Amphitryon) and Dryden was effusive in his praise of Purcell's musical abilities.
In his preface to the printed edition, Dryden explained he had had to adapt the libretto to the changed political circumstances of 1691: "But not to offend the present Times, nor a Government which has hitherto protected me, I have been oblig'd so much to alter the first Design, and take away so many Beauties from the Writing, that it is now no more what it was formerly..." He also made alterations to suit Purcell's musical needs: "the Numbers of Poetry and Vocal Musick, are sometimes so contrary, that in many places I have been oblig'd to cramp my Verses, and make them rugged to the Reader, that they may be harmonious to the Hearer: Of which I have no Reason to repent me, because these sorts of Entertainments are principally design'd for the Ear and the Eye; and therefore in Reason my Art on this occasion, ought to be subservient to his."

Performance history

The exact date of the premiere is unknown but the wordbook was advertised in The London Gazette from 4 to 8 June 1691, suggesting a recent staging. Peter Holman believes it was performed in May. The production was not as spectacular as Dioclesian or the later The Fairy Queen but it proved the most financially successful for the theatre. Betterton himself took the role of King Arthur, despite being in his fifties. The contemporary writer Roger North was most impressed by Charlotte Butler's singing of Cupid, describing it as "beyond anything I ever heard upon the stage", partly ascribing her success to "the liberty she had of concealing her face , which she could not endure should be so contorted as is necessary to sound well, before her gallants, or at least her envious sex."
King Arthur was revived at least twice during Purcell's lifetime and continued to be performed in the later 1690s. The first major revival in the eighteenth century was staged in 1736. This production left the work unaltered, but later revivals involved varying degrees of revision. They included a performance in Dublin in 1763; David Garrick and Thomas Arne's version in 1770; and John Kemble and Thomas Linley's transformation of King Arthur into a two-act after-piece entitled Arthur and Emmeline in 1784.


Political allegory?

According to Curtis Price, the original 1684-5 version was probably an allegory of the Exclusion crisis, a major political dispute over who would succeed Charles II: his Catholic brother, James, Duke of York; or the Duke of Monmouth, his illegitimate – but Protestant – son. The faction backing James was nicknamed the "Tories"; that in favour of Monmouth, the "Whigs". The latter were led by Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the Earl of Shaftesbury. Dryden was a convinced Tory and had already satirised Shaftesbury and other Whigs in his poem Absalom and Achitophel (1681). In Price's reading, King Arthur represents Charles II, the Britons are the Tories, and the Saxons are the Whigs. Oswald is the Duke of Monmouth and Osmond/Grimbald is the Earl of Shaftesbury. Philidel is the Marquess of Halifax, a political moderate much admired by Dryden (he would dedicate the printed edition of King Arthur to Halifax). Emmeline personifies the "national conscience."

Sources and influences

Dryden did not base his libretto on standard versions of Arthurian myth, although he was familiar with such books as Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae. He did, however, use other works of literature as sources of inspiration. There are clear parallels between King Arthur and Shakespeare's The Tempest (which Dryden had revised in line with Restoration taste in collaboration with Sir William Davenant in 1667 and which had been turned into a semi-opera with music by Matthew Locke in 1674). Ellen A. Harris has described the links between the characters: Prospero and Merlin are both good magicians who use an "airy spirit" (Ariel in The Tempest, Philidel and King Arthur) to defeat a potential usurper (Alonzo/Oswald). The relationship between Arthur and Emmeline is like that between Ferdinand and Miranda. Like Miranda, Emmeline is an innocent who has "never seen a man" (quite literally true in the case of the blind Emmeline). Finally, there are obvious similarities between the "earthy spirits" Grimbald and Caliban, although there is no evil wizard corresponding to Osmond in The Tempest.

Dryden also used material he found in epic poetry: the idea of the "enchanted wood" is taken from Canto XVII of Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata; and Andrew Pinnock suggests the rivalry between Arthur and Oswald is like the conflict between Gondibert and Oswald in Sir William Davenant's unfinished poem Gondibert (1650).
In his preface, Dryden explained how he had conducted historical research into Germanic paganism to write the sacrifice scene in the first act: "When I wrote it, seven years ago, I employ'd some reading about it, to inform my self out of Beda, Bochartus, and other Authors, concerning the rites of the Heathen Saxons...". But Andrew Pinnock believes "practically all the ritual came from a far handier source (which unaccountably Dryden forgot to mention): Aylett Sammes's Britannia Antiqua Illustrata (1676)."


The "Frost Scene" in the third act has always attracted praise from critics. Edward J. Dent wrote that "The Frost Scene is one of Purcell's most famous achievements" with "its bold contrasts of style, and the masterly piling up of the music to a climax at the end of the chorus ''Tis love that has warmed us'." Thomas Gray, commenting on the 1736 production, described it as "excessive fine" and claimed that the Cold Genius' solo was "the finest song in the play." This aria ("What power art thou who from below") is accompanied by shivering strings, probably influenced by a scene from Act IV of Jean-Baptiste Lully's opera Isis (1677) but, as Peter Holman writes, Purcell's "daring chromatic harmonies transform the Cold Genius from the picturesque figure of Lully (or Dryden, for that matter) into a genuinely awe-inspiring character – the more so because Cupid's responses are set to such frothy and brilliant music." It has been suggested that the whole scene was inspired by the Frost fairs held on the Thames during the 1680s.
Venus' act V air "Fairest Isle" achieved wide fame, inspiring Charles Wesley's hymn Love Divine, All Loves Excelling to the same tune.



(Musical numbers given in bold)

Act 1

Scene 1
1. Overture
2. Air
3. Overture
The Britons prepare for the battle which will decide who will rule their land: the Christian Arthur or the heathen Saxon Oswald. It augurs well for them: it is Saint George's Day and the Britons have already defeated the Saxons in ten battles. Conon, Duke of Cornwall, explains the origins of the war. Oswald had sought his daughter, the blind Emmeline's, hand in marriage but she rejected him because she is in love with Arthur. Arthur enters reading a letter of support from his magician Merlin. He meets Emmeline and tries to explain to her what seeing means. A trumpet calls Arthur to battle.
Scene 2: The scene represents a place of Heathen worship; The three Saxon Gods, Woden, Thor, and Freya placed on Pedestals. An Altar.
Oswald and his magician Osmond sacrifice horses and pray to the Saxon gods for victory in the coming battle. Osmond's servant, the spirit Grimbald, arrives and says he has persuaded six Saxons to offer themselves as a human sacrifice. He also admits he has lost control of the other spirit, Philidel, "a puleing Sprite" who "Sighs when he should plunge a Soul in Sulphur,/As with Compassion touched of foolish man." Philidel was supposed to have drawn up the vapours from the marsh and blown them in the face of the Christian soldiers but when he saw the crosses on their banners, he refused to carry out this task. Osmond says he will punish Philidel later.
The sacrifice scene:
4. "Woden, first to thee" (Tenor, bass and chorus)
5. "The white horse neigh'd aloud" (Tenor and alto)
6. "The lot is cast, and Tanfan pleas'd" (Soprano)
7. "Brave souls, to be renown'd in story" (Chorus)
8. "I call you all to Woden's hall" (Alto and chorus)
Scene 3: "A battle supposed to be given behind the Scenes, with Drums, Trumpets, and military Shouts and Excursions."
The Britons sing a song of triumph as the Saxons flee the battlefield:
9. "Come if you dare" (Symphony followed by tenor and chorus)

Act 2

Scene 1
The tender-hearted Philidel pities those soldiers who have lost their lives in the battle. Merlin arrives in his chariot and orders Philidel to tell him who he is. Philidel explains he is a spirit of the air and one of the fallen angels, but he has repented. He deserts Osmond and joins Merlin. Philidel tells Merlin that Grimbald is planning to deceive the victorious Britons by leading them to drown in rivers or fall off cliffs. Merlin leaves Philidel his band of spirits to save the Britons from this trap. Grimbald arrives disguised as a shepherd guiding Arthur and his men. Philidel and his spirits and Grimald and his spirits compete to win Arthur's trust:
10. "Hither this way" (Chorus)
11. "Let not a moonborn elf deceive thee" (Grimbald)
12. "Hither this way" (Chorus)
13. "Come follow me" (Philidel and spirits)
Grimbald admits defeat, vows revenge on Philidel and vanishes.
Scene 2: A pavilion
Emmeline and her maid Matilda await news of the battle. To pass the time, a "Crew of Kentish Lads and Lasses" entertain them with songs and dances:
14. "How blest are the shepherds, how happy their lasses" (Shepherd and chorus)
15. "Shepherd, shepherd, leave decoying" (Two shepherdesses)
16a. Hornpipe
16b. "Come, shepherds, lead up a lively measure" (Chorus of shepherds)
Oswald and his comrade Guillamar stray from the battlefield, chance upon the pavilion and kidnap Emmeline and Matilda.
Scene 3
A group of Britons continue the battle.
Scene 4
Arthur holds a parley with Oswald and begs him to return Emmeline, offering him land from the River Medway to the Severn, but Oswald refuses to relinquish her.
17. Second Act Tune: Air

Act 3

Scene 1
Arthur and his men attack Oswald's castle but Osmond's magic defeats them. Osmond has conjured a "Magick Wood" which bars access to the castle. Merlin promises to help Arthur reach Emmeline and restore her sight with potion in a vial.
Scene 2: A deep wood
Grimbald catches Philidel as he scouts the enchanted wood for Merlin. Philidel pretends to submit but secretly casts a spell on Grimbald which renders him powerless to move. Merlin asks Philidel to guide Arthur through the wood and gives him the vial, which the spirit uses to rid Emmeline of her blindness. Emmeline is amazed at the new world before her eyes. Merlin's spells also allow Arthur and Emmeline to meet for a brief moment, but Emmeline will not be free until the enchanted wood is destroyed. Osmond enters, intent on seducing Emmeline for himself, having drugged his master Oswald.
Osmond tries to win Emmeline over by showing her a masque acted by spirits. He conjures up a vision of "Yzeland" and "farthest Thule".
The Frost Scene
18. Prelude
19. "What ho! thou genius of this isle" (Cupid wakes the "Cold Genius", who is the spirit of Winter).
20. "What Power art thou, who from below..." (The Cold Genius reluctantly wakes from his slumbers)
21. "Thou doting fool" (Cupid)
22. "Great Love, I know thee now" (The Cold Genius acknowledge's love's power)
23. "No part of my dominion shall be waste" (Cupid)
24. Prelude
25. "See, see, we assemble" (Chorus and dance of the Cold People)
26. "'Tis I that have warm'd ye" (Cupid, followed by ritornello and chorus of Cold People: "'Tis Love that has warm'd us")
27. "Sound a parley" (Cupid and Cold Genius, followed by ritornello and chorus)
The masque fails to persuade Emmeline and Osmond resorts to force but the captive Grimbald's shouts interrupt him. Osmond goes to free him, promising Emmeline he will be back.
28. Third Act Tune: Hornpipe

Act 4

Scene 1
The freed Grimbald warns Osmond that Arthur is approaching the enchanted wood, where Merlin has undone his spells. Osmond decides to replace the threatening spells with seductive ones.
Scene 2: Scene of the Wood continues
Merlin leaves Arthur at the entrance to the wood with the spirit Philidel as his guide. Philidel has a wand which will banish all magical deception. Arthur hears seductive music from two Sirens bathing in a stream.
29. "Two Daughters of this Aged Stream are we"
Though tempted, Arthur realises it is an illusion and presses on. Next, "Nymphs and Sylvans" emerge from the trees singing and dancing.
30. Passacaglia: "How happy the lover"
Again, Arthur rejects them and begins the task of destroying the wood. When he chops a tree with his sword, blood pours out of it and the voice of Emmeline cries out in pain. It convinces Arthur that it is Emmeline, who has been turned into a tree by Osmond, and Arthur is just about to embrace the tree when Philidel reveals it is really a trick by Grimbald. Philidel captures Grimbald and Arthur cuts down the tree, dispelling the enchantment from the wood and freeing the way to Oswald's castle. Philidel drags off Grimbald in chains.
31. Fourth Act Tune: Air

Act 5

Scene 1
Now his magic has been destroyed, Osmond is terrified of the approaching Arthur. He decides he must persuade Oswald to fight for him.
Scene 2
32. Trumpet tune
Arthur and the Britons are preparing to storm the castle when Oswald comes out and challenges his rival to single combat for the hand of Emmeline and the crown. They fight and Arthur disarms Oswald. Arthur spares his life but tells Oswald he and his Saxons must return to Germany because the Britons "brook no Foreign Power/ To Lord it in a Land, Sacred to Freedom." Osmond is cast into a dungeon with Grimbald. Arthur is reunited with Emmeline and the work ends with a celebratory masque.
The final masque: Merlin conjures a vision of the ocean around Britain. The Four Winds create a storm which is calmed by Aeolus:
33. "Ye Blust'ring Brethren of the Skies" (Aeolus)
allowing Britannia to rise from the waves on an island with fishermen at her feet.
34. Symphony (The fishermen dance)
35. "Round thy Coasts, Fair Nymph of Britain" (Duet for Pan and a Nereid)
36. "For Folded Flocks, on Fruitful Plains" (Trio of male voices)
37. "Your hay it is Mow'd, and your Corn is Reap'd" (Comus and peasants)
38. "Fairest Isle" (Venus)
39. "You say 'tis love" (Duet for "He" and "She"; according to the printed libretto, the words were written by "Mr. Howe")
40. "Trumpet Tune (Warlike Consort) (Merlin reveals the Order of the Garter)
41. "Saint George, the Patron of our Isle" (Honour and chorus)
42. Chaconne (The masque ends with a "grand dance")

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Purcell - King Arthur
Purcell - King Arthur by the Deller Consort
"The Fairy-Queen"

Title page of original printed edition
The Fairy-Queen (1692; Purcell catalogue number Z.629) is a masque or semi-opera by Henry Purcell; a "Restoration spectacular". The libretto is an anonymous adaptation of William Shakespeare's wedding comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream. First performed in 1692, The Fairy-Queen was composed three years before Purcell's death at the age of 35. Following his death, the score was lost and only rediscovered early in the twentieth century.
Purcell did not set any of Shakespeare's text to music; instead he composed music for short masques in every act but the first. The play itself was also slightly modernised in keeping with seventeenth-century dramatic conventions, but in the main the spoken text is as Shakespeare wrote it. The masques are related to the play metaphorically, rather than literally. Many critics have stated erroneously that they bear no relationship to the play, but recent scholarship has shown that the opera, which ends with a masque featuring Hymen, the God of Marriage, was actually composed for the fifteenth wedding anniversary of William and Mary.
Growing interest in Baroque music and the rise of the countertenor contributed to the work's re-entry into the repertoire. The opera received several full-length recordings in the latter part of the 20th century and several of its arias, including "The Plaint" ("O let me weep"), have become popular recital pieces.
In July 2009, in celebration of the 350th anniversary of Purcell's birth, The Fairy-Queen was performed by Glyndebourne Festival Opera using a new edition of the score, prepared for The Purcell Society by Bruce Wood and Andrew Pinnock.
Original production

The Fairy-Queen was first performed on 2 May 1692 at the Queen's Theatre, Dorset Garden in London by the United Company. The author or at least co-author of the libretto was presumably Thomas Betterton, the manager of Dorset Garden Theatre, with whom Purcell worked regularly. This belief is based on an analysis of Betterton's stage directions. A collaboration between several playwrights is also feasible. Choreography for the various dances was provided by Josias Priest, who also worked on Dioclesian and King Arthur, and who was associated with Dido and Aeneas.
A letter describing the original performance shows that the parts of Titania and Oberon were played by children of eight or nine. Presumably other fairies were also played by children; this affects our perspective on the staging.

Context and analysis

Following the huge success of his operas Dioclesian (1690) and King Arthur (1691), Purcell composed The Fairy-Queen in 1692. Purcell's "First" and "Second Music" were played while the audience were taking their seats. The "Act Tunes" are played between acts, as the curtain was normally raised at the beginning of a performance and not lowered until the end. After Act I, each act commences with a short symphony (3–5 minutes).
The English tradition of semi-opera, to which The Fairy-Queen belongs, demanded that most of the music within the play be introduced through the agency of supernatural beings, the exception being pastoral or drunken characters. All the masques in The Fairy-Queen are presented by Titania or Oberon. Originally Act I contained no music, but due to the work's enormous success it was revived in 1693, when Purcell added the scene of the Drunken Poet and two further songs later on in the work; "Ye gentle spirits of the air" and "The Plaint".[5] As said above, each masque is subtly related to the action in the play during that particular act in a metaphorical way. In this manner we have Night and Sleep in Act II, which is apt as that act of the play consists of Oberon's plans to use the power of the "love-in-idleness" flower to confuse various loves, and it is therefore appropriate for the allegorical figures of Secrecy, Mystery et al. to usher in a night of enchantment. The masque for Bottom in Act III includes metamorphoses, songs of both real and feigned love, and beings who are not what they seem. The Reconciliation masque between Oberon and Titania at the end of Act IV prefigures the final masque. The scene changes to a Garden of Fountains, denoting King William's hobby, just after Oberon says "bless these Lovers' Nuptial Day". The Four Seasons tell us that the marriage here celebrated is a good one all year round and "All Salute the rising Sun"/...The Birthday of King Oberon". The kings of England were traditionally likened to the sun (Oberon = William. Significantly, William and Mary were married on his birthday, 4 November.). The Chinese scene in the final masque is in homage to Queen Mary's famous collection of china. The garden shown above it and the exotic animals bring King William back into the picture and Hymen's song in praise of their marriage, plus the stage direction bringing (Mary's) china vases containing (William's) orange trees to the front of the stage complete the symbolism.

The music

Written as he approached the end of his brief career, The Fairy-Queen contains some of Purcell's finest theatre music, as musicologists have agreed for generations. In particular, Constant Lambert was a great admirer; from it he arranged a suite and in collaboration with Edward Dent arranged the work to form the then new Covent Garden opera company's first postwar production. It shows to excellent effect Purcell's complete mastery of the pungent English style of Baroque counterpoint, as well as displaying his absorption of Italian influences. Several arias such as "The Plaint", "Thrice happy lovers" and "Hark! the echoing air" have entered the discographic repertory of many singers outside their original context.
The orchestra for The Fairy-Queen consists of two recorders, two oboes, two trumpets, kettledrums, string instruments and harpsichord continuo.

Performance history

Following Purcell's premature death, his opera Dioclesian remained popular until well into the eighteenth century,[7] but the score of The Fairy-Queen was lost and only rediscovered early in the twentieth century.[8] Other works like it fell into obscurity. Changing tastes were not the only reason for this; the voices employed had also become difficult to find. The list of singers below shows the frequent employment of the male alto, or countertenor, in the semi-opera, a voice which, after Purcell, essentially vanished from the stage, probably due to the rise of Italian opera and the attendant castrati. After that Romantic opera emerged, with the attendant predominance of the tenor. Until the early music revival, the male alto survived mainly in the ecclesiastical tradition of all-male church choirs and twentieth-century American vocal quartets.
However, Purcell's music (and with it The Fairy-Queen) was resuscitated by two related movements: a growing interest in Baroque music and the rise of the countertenor, led by pioneers such as Alfred Deller and Russell Oberlin. The former movement led to performances of long-neglected composers such as Purcell, John Dowland, John Blow and even George Frideric Handel, while the latter complemented it by providing a way of making such performances as authentic as possible as regards the original music and the composer's intentions (less true for Handel, where countertenors appear as castrati replacements). This has led to The Fairy-Queen's increased popularity, and numerous recordings have been made, often using period instruments. The format of the work presents problems to modern directors, who must decide whether or not to present Purcell's music as part of the original play, which uncut is rather lengthy. Savage calculated a length of four hours. The decision to curtail the play is usually taken together with the resolution to modernise to such an extent that the cohesion between music, text and action sketched above is entirely lost, a criticism levelled at the English National Opera's 1995 production directed by David Pountney. The production was released on video the same year, and revived by the company in 2002.
In July 2009, two months before the 350th anniversary of Purcell's birth, The Fairy-Queen was performed in a new edition, prepared for The Purcell Society by Bruce Wood and Andrew Pinnock, which restored the entire theatrical entertainment as well as the original pitch used by Purcell. The performance by Glyndebourne Festival Opera with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conducted by William Christie was repeated later that month at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms.


The role of Mopsa was originally performed by a soprano; however, a later revision by Purcell stated that it was to be performed by "Mr. Pate in woman's habit", presumably to have a grotesque effect and highlight the refrain "No, no, no, no, no; no kissing at all" in the dialogue between Corydon and Mopsa. Also, it is not entirely clear what the word "countertenor" means in this context. The record is ambivalent as to whether Purcell (himself a countertenor) used a tenor with a particularly high range (though lighter at the top) and tessitura (known sometimes as a haute-contre, the descendants of the contratenors alti of medieval polyphony) or a falsettist. It seems that throughout his career he used both. However, purely for reasons of dramatic verisimilitude, it is more likely than not that the travesty role of Mopsa was taken by a falsettist, and the presence of a duet for two male altos ("Let the fifes and the clarions") makes it seem more probable that for this work falsettists were employed.

View of the stage of the Dorset Garden Theatre,
as it was pictured in the libretto of The Empress of Morocco (1673)



Act 1
The first scene set to music occurs after Titania has left Oberon, following an argument over the ownership of a little Indian boy. Two of her fairies sing of the delights of the countryside ("Come, come, come, come, let us leave the town"). A drunken, stuttering poet enters, singing "Fill up the bowl". The stuttering has led many to believe the scene is based on the habits of Thomas d'Urfey. However, it may also be poking fun at Elkanah Settle, who stuttered as well and was long thought to be the librettist, due to an error in his 1910 biography.
The fairies mock the drunken poet and drive him away.

Act 2

It begins after Oberon has ordered Puck to anoint the eyes of Demetrius with the love-juice. Titania and her fairies merrily revel ("Come all ye songsters of the sky"), and Night ("See, even Night"), Mystery ("I am come to lock all fast"), Secrecy ("One charming night") and Sleep ("Hush, no more, be silent all") lull them asleep and leave them to pleasant dreams.

Act 3

Titania has fallen in love with Bottom (now equipped with his ass' head), much to Oberon's gratification. A Nymph sings of the pleasures and torments of love ("If love's a sweet passion") and after several dances, Titania and Bottom are entertained by the foolish, loving banter of two haymakers, Corydon and Mopsa.

Act 4

It begins after Titania has been freed from her enchantment, commencing with a brief divertissement to celebrate Oberon's birthday ("Now the Night", and the abovementioned "Let the fifes and the clarions"), but for the most part it is a masque of the god Phoebus ("When the cruel winter") and the Four Seasons (Spring; "Thus, the ever grateful spring", Summer; "Here's the Summer", Autumn; "See my many coloured fields", and Winter; "Now Winter comes slowly").

Act 5
After Theseus has been told of the lovers's adventures in the wood, it begins with the goddess Juno singing an epithalamium, "Thrice happy lovers", followed by a woman who sings the well–known "The Plaint" ("O let me weep"). A Chinese man and woman enter singing several songs about the joys of their world. ("Thus, the gloomy world", "Thus happy and free" and "Yes, Xansi"). Two other Chinese women summon Hymen, who sings in praise of married bliss, thus uniting the wedding theme of A Midsummer Night's Dream, with the celebration of William and Mary's anniversary.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

H. Purcell - The Fairy Queen (Z.629) - Suite for orchestra
THE FAIRY QUEEN (Z.629), a semi-opera in 5 acts, by Henry Purcell.
1st performance in London, Dorset Garden, on May 2 1692
Libretto by Anonymous, after Shakespeare

I. 1st music: Prelude
II. 1st music: Hornpipe
III. 2nd music: Air
IV. 2nd music: Rondeau
V. Overture
VI. Jig

VII. Suite: A prelude
VIII. "A bird's Prelude"
IX. Echo
X. A Fairies Dances
XI. A dance for the Followers of Night
XII. Air

XIII. Suite: Prelude "Love's a sweet passion"
XIV. Overture symphony while the swams come forward
XV. Dance for the Fairies
XVI. Dance for the Green men
XVII. Dance for the Haymakers
XVIII. Hornpipe

XIX. Symphony: Prelude, Canzona, Largo, Allegro, Adagio, Allegro
XX. Entry of Phoebus
XXI. Air

XXII. Suite: Prelude
XXIII. Entry dance
XXIV. Symphony
XXV. Monkey's dance
XXVI. Chaconne, Dance for the Chinese Man and Woman
XXVII. "Fifth act tune"

Performed by Les Concert des Nations
dir. Jordi Savall

Henry Purcell - The Fairy Queen - If love's a sweet passion
The Fairy Queen
"If love's a sweet passion"
Veronique Gens, soprano
Les artes florissants, dir. William Christie

If Love's a Sweet Passion, why does it torment?
If a Bitter, oh tell me whence comes my content?
Since I suffer with pleasure, why should I complain,
Or grieve at my Fate, when I know 'tis in vain?
Yet so pleasing the Pain, so soft is the Dart,
That at once it both wounds me, and tickles my Heart.

I press her Hand gently, look Languishing down,
And by Passionate Silence I make my Love known.
But oh! I'm Blest when so kind she does prove,
By some willing mistake to discover her Love.
When in striving to hide, she reveals all her Flame,
And our Eyes tell each other, what neither dares Name.

Ye Gentle Spirits of the Air, appear;
Prepare, and joyn your tender Voices here.
Cath, and repeat the Trembling Sounds anew,
Soft as her Sighs and sweet as pearly dew,
Run new Division, and such Measures keep,
As when you lull the God of Love asleep.

Gemälde: J. H. Füssli, Titania erwacht, 1793/94

"The Indian Queen"
The Indian Queen (Z. 630), is a semi-opera in five acts with music by Henry Purcell, first performed at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London in 1695. The libretto is a revised version of the play "The Indian Queen" (1664) by John Dryden and his brother-in-law Sir Robert Howard.
It was Purcell's last semi-opera. The performance history of the piece is uncertain. The exact date of premiere is unknown but Peter Holman surmises it may have been performed in June, without the Masque in Act 5, which had to be completed after Purcell's death in November by his brother Daniel.


The original play was premiered in 1664. In 1694 Thomas Betterton was given £50 to transform it into an opera, he commissioned Purcell to compose the music.


Some years before the Spanish Conquest, in Central America - the court then war conflict between kings of Peru and Mexico.


Movt. 1, 1st Music, (Air and Hornpipe)
Movt. 2, 2nd Music, (Air and Hornpipe)
Movt. 3, Overture, (Grave and Canzon)
Movt. 4a, Trumpet Tune
Movt. 4b, Aria, "Wake Quivera, wake"
Movt. 4c, Prelude
Movt. 4d, Aria, "Why should men quarrel"
Act 2
Movt. 5, Symphony
Movt. 6, Aria and Chorus, "I come to sing great Zempoalla's story"
Movt. 7, Trio, "What flatt'ring noise is this"
Movt. 8, Trumpet tune
Movt. 9, Symphony
Movt. 10, Dance
Movt. 11, 2nd Act Music (Trumpet Tune reprise)
Act 3
Movt. 12, Dance
Movt. 13, Aria, "Ye twice ten hundred deities"
Movt. 14, Symphony
Movt. 15, Aria, "Seek not to know what must not be reveal'd"
Movt. 16, Trumpet Overture (Canzon and Adagio)
Movt. 17a, Duet and Quartet, "Ah! Ah! How happy are we!"
Movt. 18, 3rd Act Tune (Rondeau)
Movt. 19, Aria, "They tell us that you mighty powers above"
Movt. 20, 4th Act Tune
Movt. 21a, Prelude and Chorus, "While thus we bow before your shrine"
Movt. 21b, Aria, "You who at the altar stand"
Movt. 21c, Prelude
Movt. 21d, Chorus, "All dismal sounds thus on these off'rings wait"
Movt. 22, Air

Henry Purcell - The Indian Queen, Z. 630
First Music - First Aire 00:01:27
First Music - Second Aire 00:01:05
Second Music - First Aire 00:01:00
Second Music - Second Aire (Hornpipe) 00:00:57
Curtain Music And Overture: Overture 00:03:35
Prologue and Act I: Trumpet Tune 00:00:39
Act I - Solo (Boy): Wake, Quivera, Wake 00:02:24
Act I - Solo (Girl): Why Should Men Quarrel 00:01:26
Act I - Solo (Boy): By Ancient Prophesies 00:00:50
Act I - Duet (Boy and Quivera): If These Be They 00:03:38
Act I - Trumpet Tune 00:00:46
Act II - The Masque of Fame and Envy: Symphony 00:04:06
Act II - Solo (Fame) and Chorus: I Come to Sing 00:01:16
Act II - Trio (Envy and Two Assistants): What flatt'ring noise 00:00:52
Act II - Solo (Fame): Scorn'd Envy 00:00:57
Act II - Solo (Envy): I Fly from the Place 00:01:16
Act II - Solo (Fames): Begone, Curst Fiends of Hell 00:01:05
Act II - Dance, Solo (Fame) and Chorus: I Came to Sing Great Zempolla's S 00:02:02
Act III - Dance 00:00:58
Act III - Solo (Ismeron): You Twice Ten Hundred Deities 00:05:01
Act III - The God of Dreams Rises 00:01:11
Act III - Solo (God of Dreams): Seek Not to Know 00:03:07
Act III - The God of Dreams Descends 00:01:15
Act III - Trumpet Overture 00:02:40
Act III - Duet (Aerial Spirits): Ah! How Happy We Are 00:02:05
Act III - Duet (Another Two Aerial Spirits) and Chorus: We the Spirits of the Air 00:01:35
Act III - Solo (Zemoalla): I Attempt from Love's Sickness 00:03:23
Act III - Third Act Tune (Rondeau) 00:02:06
Act IV - Prelude and Song (Orazia): They Tell Us That Your Mighty Powers 00:06:13
Act V - Symphony 00:00:33
Act V - Chorus: While Thus We Bow 00:01:13
Act V - Solo (High Priest) and Chorus: You, Who at the Altar Stand 00:01:17
Act V - Symphony and Chorus: All Dismal Sounds 00:02:37
Henry Purcell - Indian Queen - (Selected instrumental parts ) - Christopher Hogwood
Henry Purcell - Instrumental parts selected from Indian Queen -
- 1st and 2nd Music -
- Overture -
- Symphony
- Trumpet Overture
- Fourth Act Tune: Air
Christopher Hogwood, Chorus and Orchestra of The Academy of Ancient Music
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