The new production of Purcell's The Fairy Queen launched in 1995 by the English National Opera (ENO) was received with great enthusiasm by both the public and musical press. This atmospheric production was prepared by David Pountney, Robert Israel created the stage set, Dunya Ramicova was responsible for costume design and Quinny Sacks was responsible for the choreography of the dance roles as well as the numerous breathtaking ballet scenes. Under the musical direction of Nicholas Kok, the English National Orchestra played a baroque music which was as crystal clear as it was expressively infectious. Next to outstanding performers of the dancing roles such as Puck (Simon Rice) and the Indian boy (Arthur Pita), an entire armada of excellent singers was summoned up such as one seldom experiences together on the baroque opera stage. These included Yvonne Kenny as Titania, Thomas Randle as Oberon and Richard Van Allan as King Theseus. Jonathan Best, with his comic portrayal of the drunken poet, was loved by the audience and praised highly by the press, while other singers like Michael Chance, Mary Hegarthy, Janis Kelly, Marc Le Brocq and Christopher Ross all contributed their talents to produce an unusual musical theatre experience that has been masterfully preserved on this DVD.
The viol consort was introduced to England in the early sixteenth century and was mainstay of domestic music until the middle of the seventeenth century. After the Restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660, things rapidly changed with the rise in popularity of the violin amongst court musical lfe and amateurs. Composers soon ceased to contribute to the viol consort repertory, with some of Purcell's contemporaries such as Roger North regretting the change. North acknowledged that the violin was 'very excellent in it's kind', but thought that the 'noble Base Viol' embodied all its 'sublimitys'. As North recognised, the viol was not entirely supplanted by the violin in the Restoration period. The bass viol remained in use as a continuo instrument in chamber music until the early eighteenth century, and the instrument acquired a new repertory of solos, duet and trios with continuo. This recording is a survey of this little-known but rewarding repertory.
This is the second creative project bringing together conductor Teodor Currentzis and director Peter Sellars (the first being the operatic double-bill of Iolanta and Perséphone staged in Madrid in 2012), and also the first collective production of three opera companies — the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre, the Spanish Teatro Real and the English National Opera. The action is set in Central America. Spanish colonialists are at war with the native Mayan people. In the face of the armed forces the locals appear armed with bows and arrows, but they are mere children. Blood runs like a river. The Mayans resort to trickery – in order to infiltrate the enemy, the daughter of the Mayan chief becomes a concubine to the commander of the Spanish army. The plan brings her unexpected happiness (she falls in love with the commander and has children with him) but also tragedy (the Spanish colonialists continue the massacre of the Mayans). With nowhere to turn for help, the only hope is that the great Mayan gods will descend from the sky to the earth at the critical moment…
The odes that Purcell wrote for annual concerts in honor of St. Cecilia (the patron saint of music) are among his most celebrated works. Chief among them is Hail! Bright Cæcilia, which calls for the "Warb'ling Lute … airy Violin … Am'rous Flute," and all the Harmony of War," along with chorus and a bevy of soloists, to demonstrate their prowess… –Matthew Westphal
This is an SACD reissue on Alia Vox of a CD originally released in 1996 as Astrée 8717. Fans of Savall know that his conducting reflects similar values to his viola da gamba solos: a nuanced view of phrasing, exceptional attention to the beauty and clarity of textures, and a knowledge of appropriate embellishments. These qualities can be found in some of the outstanding slow movements on this disc, most notably “Love’s a Sweet Passion” from act III of The Fairy Queen . Savall’s version takes 3:06 to play; by comparison, Goodman/Parley of Instruments (Hyperion 67001) gives it to us at 1:34; and Gardiner/English Baroque Soloists (Archiv Produktion 992902) is not much longer. It isn’t that Savall’s Le Concert des Nations plays twice as much content, but that they inflect far more, slowing for embellishments to the theme, pausing at the climax of a phrase, or at its conclusion. It’s anyone’s guess which approach is more authentic, but I find Savall’s phrasing, along with a slightly lower pitch and predominance of darker string instruments, mines the natural melancholy of Purcell’s piece to greater advantage without danger of anachronism.
The period instruments of the Toronto-based Aradia Baroque Ensemble provide spry, vibrant accompaniment…The voices sing with relish, fluency and refined inflection of the words, and Kevin Mallon directs with a good rhythmic bounce and an acute ear for apt phrasing.