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The Fairy Queen

Roger Wright Roger Wright | 15:22 UK Time, Monday, 22 June 2009

picture_promo_purcell.jpgI have just had the pleasure of attending the new production of Purcell's The Fairy Queen at Glyndebourne.

It was a huge undertaking for the company, not least because there is no real performing tradition for staging the piece.

The text is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream but the incidental music is often performed without the text. At Glyndebourne we are given the text, the music and wonderful choreography in the masques.

Judging by the response so far - "Imaginations run riot in a glorious musical romp" (The Times) and "Purcell's dream scales breathtakingly erotic heights" (The Guardian) - it promises to be a huge critical success. It was certainly a huge hit with the audience over the weekend.

Jonathan Kent's inventive production and William Christie's authoritative musical direction combine to provide a thrilling evening. There was elegant and touching solo singing featuring (among others) Lucy Crowe, Carolyn Sampson, Andrew Foster-Williams and Ed Lyon and fine orchestral playing by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

This new production will come to the Proms on July 21st and, as ever, it is a real challenge for my Proms colleagues and for the Glyndebourne team to semi-stage the piece - in effect to reduce the stage production - within the space limitations of the Royal Albert Hall and with the time restrictions on rehearsal in the hall.

The annual visit of Glyndebourne to the Proms is always one of the highlights of the season and this year promises to be no exception. You can of course catch it, like all the Proms, live on Radio 3. A real celebration of the extraordinary music of Purcell and a magnificent chance to hear it in its full context.



  • Comment number 1.

    This focus on ancient opera is all well and good, but when are we going to get a chance to hear all seven days of 'Licht'? I believe this has been broadcast on the continent; why not here, too? Thanks, anyway, for all the other treasures.

  • Comment number 2.

    Let us hope that you will do 'The Fairy Queen' justice at the proms, Roger. As for 'Licht', Henry, I should perhaps add that I attended the BBC Proms 2008 Stockhausen Day, which was surprisingly inspiring.


    Although 'Stimmung' was perhaps no match for 'Licht', perhaps Roger would like to consider the possibility of staging such a cycle in some future Proms Season. The Proms' Ring Cycle (2004-7) was an unexpected critical and popular hit, revisiting Richard Wagner's nineteenth century 'Zeitgeist' of terminal disintegration at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

    'Licht' could be an interesing experience for Proms in the Park around the country. There is, in principle, no reason why 'Proms in the Park' should be a dumbed down version of the 'Last Night', Roger. Indeed, it makes some sense to descend from the classical temple of the Royal Albert Hall and share a bit of twentieth century 'Licht' with the rest of the world.


  • Comment number 3.

    Yes. It has had great reviews. When will we see it on BBC TV?

    Also, an execellent comment by henrywcg above, when will we see Licht? I too attended the proms last year with the various Stockhausen items and enjoyed the experience, but what was so heartening was the positive response in the audience. In particular, the performance of Punkt which was sandwiched between some very ordinary Mahler, Beethoven & Schubert and was clearly the most successful performance that evening.

  • Comment number 4.

    I can't wait to hear Susannah Wise's 'Hermina' on 21 July (is this a new 'Fairy Queen' role?).

  • Comment number 5.

    Couldn't a "Proms" approach for the modern age be to provide streaming audio-visual relay of the Glyndebourne production?

    I don't want to seem ungrateful for the Proms Albert Hall performance we're promised, but in fairness a Masque Entertainment was a multimedia spectacle in which acting, speech, dance, drama, spectacular costumes and astounding stage machinery were equal partners with the music. To have the pieces shorn of all these aspects seems a tragic waste. This is not like having a concert performance of a work, done to save the time and costs of preparing a staged production... the staged production already exists, but it's been left behind in E Sussex in order to put the show on in the grim Victorian Swimming Baths on the South side of Hyde Park :( A more unsympathetic venue for a baroque Masque couldn't easily be imagined :(

    Couldn't the Beeb partner with Glyndebourne to bring these world-class performances to a world audience, but over the internet... leap-frogging the Met's cinema presentations and realising Henry Wood's desire to bring the very best to the broadest of possible publics? :)

    Give it a thought, eh, Rog? :)

  • Comment number 6.

    Reiner - I definitely agree that would be a fantastic idea, but a quick glance at the Glyndebourne website confirms my fears that Sky Arts have got their hands on the festival first... I find it somewhat ironic that one of the most exclusive opera-going experiences should partner up with a satellite tv station only available to those who spend a considerable amount of money on exclusive subscription deals. So I suppose we should be grateful that the Fairy Queen deigns to come to the Proms and at least perform on R3.
    Following on from comments relating to Stockhausen, I'd love to see the "visualisations" that R3 is experimenting with being turned to some of the contemporary works (especially premieres) in this year's Proms. In my personal experience it is so much easier to assimilate something new musically when one can watch the performance as well as listen.


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