qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Queens and Fairies

A couple of years ago, in that short period of time known as the ohnosecond, kharin and I booked our holiday to Barcelona to clash with a Proms performance of Dido and Aeneas, so when I spotted Purcell's The Fairy Queen in the listings, it seemed like an opportunity to make amends.

It seems a slightly unusual piece now, not quite an opera, but rather more than incidental music to a play; the programme notes described its place in the transition from a mediaeval masque to baroque opera. Loosely based (and kharin tells me, very loosely) on A Midsummer Night's Dream, this semi-opera is a performing collection of Purcell's music, instrumental and vocal. Confusingly, the singers did not play fixed roles, but interchanged from one act to another, but in reality there was no real long-lived storyline anyway. Nevertheless, the music was pleasant, and the singers took great effort to imbue the performance with an appropriate light-hearted spirit. A small orchestra, the Gabrielli Consort might have been expected to struggle to fill the Albert Hall with sound; but the pieces were played with character and clarity, and at one section off-stage recorders were used to good dramatic effect (probably up in the gallery, I think) - though they did not entirely seem to be mutually in tune. Despite an outbreak of cross-dressing and morris-dancing in Act Three, the performance was enjoyable and effective. Paul McCreesh was vigorous and demonstrative in conducting where necessary, but did not distract from the singers. The Radio 3 announcer received ironic applause while the orchestra waited for him to finish his synopsis to the listeners between Acts Four and Five. There was an encore, not yet published on the BBC site, but probably a little more Purcell.

Having started slightly earlier than usual, the concert finished in time for us to return to Paddington by walking back through a barmy and twilit Hyde Park.
Tags: music
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