Henry Purcell - The Fairy Queen / English National Opera
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Based on an incident in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Henry Purcell's The Fairy Queen is extraordinarily beautiful and contains some of the most inspired arias penned for the English language. David Pountney's production for the English National Opera is a spectacular offering as phantasmagorical as the enchanted dreams in the magical moonlit woods. The tale is a joyful fusion of music, dance and comedy which brings alive the splendor of the Baroque for a modern audience. Thomas Randle, Simon Rice, Richard Van Allan, Yvonne Kenny.
Opera in 3 parts, Sung in English
Choreographed and Staged by Quinny Sacks
Titania: Yvonne Kenny
Oberon: Thomas Randle
Puck: Simon Rice
Theseus/Hymen: Richard Van Allan
The Indian Boy: Arthur Pita
Orchestra And Chorus Of The English National Opera
Henry Purcell wrote only one opera, Dido and Aeneas, in a form that would be called operatic today. Other Purcell works that bear the operatic label, including The Fairy Queen and King Arthur, are actually masques or pageants, royal divertissements that sadly illustrate the decline of English drama during the late 17th century. Being the work of Purcell, The Fairy Queen has a lot of musical value. Its melodies are fresh and lilting, and its rhythms have a distinctive sparkle and vitality. Purcell's brilliantly baroque imagination was allowed to run wild in embroidering themes inspired (rather remotely, to be sure) by the fairyland fantasies of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Lovers of the Bard should be warned, however, that not a single line of Shakespeare's masterpiece has been set to Purcell's music in this adaptation. For its revival in 1692, Shakespeare's text was considered not good enough. The play was rewritten, probably by the profoundly forgettable Elkanah Settle. The plot was altered, and characters and incidents added (nymphs, shepherds, a Chinese man and woman, the God of Marriage, the four seasons personified, and even a dance of monkeys). The text was spoken, not sung, except for long, elaborately staged musical extravaganzas (bearing little thematic relation to Shakespeare's text) that were tacked on at the end of each of the play's five acts. These songs, dances, and choruses--more than two hours of them--are the content of the English National Opera's production of The Fairy Queen.
No effort has been made--wisely--to preserve any plot or other form of thematic coherence. The numbers are simply presented as a sort of mildly erotic variety show. There is a recurring cast of characters, including supernatural beings, humans, and animals. Costumes and props are wildly eclectic, ranging from modern realism to antiquarian fantasy. The attraction of this production lies in its skilled combination of baroque music and modern dance, both performed deftly and working together more smoothly than might have been expected. --Joe McLellan, Amazon.com
Top customer reviews
Thomas Randle, as Obregon, has the daunting task of singing well enough, dancing passably, and acting superbly; his jealous tantrums, after all, are the force that spurs all the confusion. His sidekick Puck, danced and acted wittily by Simon Rice, has not a single word of text to deliver, but if he were to speak, he'd likely declaim "Lo, what fools these opera-lovers be!" The fairy courts are effectively divided between athletic dancers and cross-dressing singers, all of the highest skill. The Mortals are a bawdy bunch, singing lustily and craftily and bungling their amorous impulses amusingly. Alto Michael Chance, as a 'gentle', and bass Jonathan Best, as the Drunken Poet, deliver some of the musical highlights as well as the humorous lowlights. Soprano Yvonne Kenny, as the Fairy Queen Titania, sings artfully but remains an oddly incongruous stage presence. Her costumes are strangely becoming, and her movements are stiff and proper, even when she's engaged in caressing that Indian Boy. It's as if she disdained the antics of her consort Oberon and her court, and found a clause in her contract that allowed her to sing without acting, ignoring stage director David Pountney's nonsense completely. Once again, does it matter? A little, but not enough to spoil the fun.
If your interest is to hear the musical divertissements of Henry Purcell sung and played virtuosically, you may well detest this staged bedlam. A CD performance will suit you better. If you're not uncomfortable with vulgar humor, gender-bending, and silliness, you'll find that this production is a fanciful blend of excellent music and dance with creative foolery.
I live in Spain. I tried to play the dvd in two different dvd players (Sony and Panasonic) and it was the same in boht.
Could you please give me the necessary instructions to put it right? In other case, how can I take my money back?
Thanks in advance.
Of course, this is some kind of Masque and not an opera but I still felt let down. The choreography is somewhere between Bob Fosse and Tyla Tharp...totally at odds with the music. Singing, that is serious singing which we define as "classical" is a very difficult art to master. Try carrying on a conversation while someone is caressing your private parts. Like as not you will somewhat distracted. Can you imagine what the singer feels like having to keep up with the musical requirements as well as singing with proper support while being fondled? Directors who ask for this kind of nonsense are totally insensitive to anything but their own need to provide titilation to the audience, who, if they cannot enjoy the music (and dancing) on its own merit, shouldn't be there. People don't simulate singing when they are having sex; why should singers have to simulate having sex while they are singing. Things can be implied without being actually shown. Some of us are adults I believe. I for one find that overt sexuality greatly detracts from concentrating on the music. One of the earliest English masters, Purcell is poorly served by this travesty. Based on others reviewers opinions of this staging I was prepared to like it. Intead I found it utterly tasteless.
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