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Purcell: The Fairy Queen / Christie, Sampson, Crowe [2 DVD]

Album Summary

>Purcell, Henry : Fairy Queen, Z 629
Performers Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Jonathan Kent's spectacular production of Purcell's huge semi-opera is joyous, imaginative and witty. Glyndebourne, with its intimate auditorium, provides the perfect setting for a drama, which is partly spoken and partly sung. Based on an adaptation of Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', the story is lavished with a brilliance that justifies this production's acclaim. Paul Brown's inventive designs, Kim Brandstrup's exquisite choreography, an excellent cast of actors and singers and outstanding playing by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under William Christie combine to make a seamless theatrical experience, here recorded in High Definition and true surround sound. A BLU-RAY disc of this performance is available as BOA 7065D.

"...The production is a treat to watch: Kent has imaginatively realised the connections between the masques and the spoken drama, mixing coherently the three worlds of late-17th-century aristocratic England (Thebes), the modern day (the mechanicals preparing Pyramus and Thisbe), and the Fairy kingdom at night. The stage action is packed with good humour, affection and excellent use of colours and contrasts (although you might want to cover your childrens' eyes at the rather saucy choreography for giant pink rabbits at the end of Act 3). The masque of the four seasons in Act 4 is a veritable feast on the eye.

Much of the credit for the charm of this production must go to the actors, especially the four confused lost lovers, the quarrelling Oberon and Titania, and, of course, Desmond Barrit's Welsh Bottom. Of the principal singers, Lucy Crowe has stage magnetism and a terrific voice, but "Hark! the echoing air" suggests that her steely timbre is slightly less at home in 17th-century music than in Handel. Ed Lyon has the lion's share of tenor solos; he makes heavy weather of some things but his higher-lying passages are excellent. Andrew Foster-Williams sings with gusto and appears comfortable as an extraordinary variety of characters. Carolyn Sampson steals the show in the Plaint, as the mood instantly switches from prior jollity to intense pathos; she sings "I shall never see him more" with devastating pathos but also impeccable style (plaudits also to Alison Bury's tender violin obbligato). There are a few CD versions that I'd rather listen to for the music alone, but this DVD conveys an exceptionally spectacular event in the theatre. For a visual and dramatic feast, this reunification of play and music for The Fairy Queen is an absolute triumph." -Gramophone Awards, 2010 / DVD Performance winner

"Jonathan Kent's joyous Glyndebourne production burst[s] with opulent stagecraft...Kent is abetted by William Christie in the pit, a man of the theatre down to his gainfully-employed fingertips...Altogether a riotously funny, ravishingly intelligent production." -BBC Music Magazine

Notes & Reviews:

Run Time: 221 min.
Region: All
Picture Format: NTSC, 16:9, Color
Sound Format(s): LPCM Stereo, DTS 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish


Jonathan Kent and William Christie have successfully reinvented a masterpiece and possibly an art form as well. In his notes and in the interview Kent states that 'The Fairy Queen' is impossible to categorize because there's nothing like it now. His vision creates a world where the piece exists apart from time and convention. It heeds the past while embracing the future. As he explains in the interview Christie uses the text and the action to shape the musical dynamics for the production. The result is a work that melds beautifully in all areas. Each note has the right emphasis. The tempi work beautifully. The music pulsates with a life so vibrant it sounds as if it could just have been written. If there's a complaint with this set it's that there should have been more closeups of the singers, and probably a few more of most of the performers as well. But in view of everything else the complaint is trivial. The photography is excellent and overall, the shoot is good. The piece flows briskly and never appears static. The clarity of the sound superb. A triumph: nothing more need be said.
Submitted on 08/24/10 by Brian J Hay 
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Works Details

>Purcell, Henry : Fairy Queen, Z 629
  • Performers: Desmond Barrit (Voice); Lucy Crowe (Soprano); Sally Dexter (Voice); Andrew Foster-Williams (Bass); Edward Lyon (Tenor); Joseph Millson (Voice); Carolyn Sampson (Soprano)
  • Conductor: William Christie
  • Ensemble: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Vocal
  • Written: 1689