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Henry Purcell – The Fairy Queen

Henry Purcell – The Fairy Queen

Recorded at St. Silas Church, London, from 18th to 21st November, 1992.

About this work:
The Fairy-Queen (1692; Purcell catalog 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. 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. 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 modernized 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. 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. Following Purcell’s premature death, his opera Dioclesian remained popular until well into the eighteenth century, but the score of The Fairy-Queen was lost and only rediscovered early in the twentieth century. 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 modernize to such an extent that the cohesion between music, text and action sketched above is entirely lost. A video of an English National Opera production of the work was released in 1995.

Track List:
cd1:
01. Overture (1:26)
02. Act I – Duet (2:01)
03. Act I – Scene of the Drunken Poet (6:47)
04. Act I – First Act Tune – Jig (1:08)
05. Act II – Prelude and song (2:06)
06. Act II – Prelude (1:04)
07. Act II – Chorus (0:58)
08. Act II – Chorus (0:30)
09. Act II – Solo, Chorus & Dance of Fairies (2:09)
10. Act II – Night (4:49)
11. Act II – Mystery (0:54)
12. Act II – Secresie (2:14)
13. Act II – Sleep and Chorus (5:09)
14. Act II – Dance for the followers of Night (1:21)
15. Act III – Prelude, solo & Chorus (2:27)
16. Act III – Symphony while the swans come forward (1:40)
17. Act III – Dance for the Fairies (0:51)
18. Act III – Dance for the Green Men (1:40)
19. Act III – Song (5:21)
20. Act III – Dialog between Coridon and Mopsa (3:41)
21. Act III – Dance for the Haymakers (0:55)
22. Act III – A Nymph (3:12)
23. Act III – Song & Chorus (2:23)
cd2:
01. Symphony (6:24)
02. An Attendant & Chorus (2:02)
03. Two Attendants (1:28)
04. Entry of Phoebus (0:38)
05. Phoebus (2:50)
06. Chorus (1:53)
07. Spring (2:01)
08. Summer (1:09)
09. Autumn (2:36)
10. Winter (2:38)
11. Chorus (1:57)
12. Prelude (1:07)
13. Juno (2:51)
14. The Plaint (7:04)
15. Symphony (0:50)
16. A Chinese Man (4:21)
17. A Chinese Woman (1:02)
18. A Chinese Man (2:22)
19. Monkeys’ Dance (0:54)
20. First Woman (2:02)
21. Second Woman (2:35)
22. Two Women (2:56)
23. Prelude (0:19)
24. Hymen (2:14)
25. Two Women (1:31)
26. Hymen (1:04)
27. Chaconne – The Grand Dance (2:44)
28. Trio (2:08)
29. First Musick Prelude (1:49)
30. First Musick Hornpipe (0:57)
31. Second Musick Air (0:56)
32. Second Musick Rondeau (1:27)
33. Second Act Tune (Air) (1:17)
34. Fourth Act Tune (Air) (0:57)
35. Third Act Tune (Hornpipe) (0:59)
36. Entry Dance (1:35)

The Players:

Stereo, DDD, mp3, 320 kbps, 299.55 Mb, 2 hours 8 minutes. Covers & info included.

Part1 —–   Part2 —–   Part3

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