Purcell The Fairy Queen, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, London

4.00

Purcell’s “semi-opera” is a response – an elaborate and deliciously well-endowed one – to “an anonymous adaptation” of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – and with as much text as Jonathan Kent included here you might be forgiven for wondering quite when that response would materialise.

The opening scenes are played out at length here within an exquisite Restoration drawing room (designer Paul Brown), its walls lined with showcases of memorabilia, theatrical and otherwise. You can all but hear bewildered opera-goers wondering when the singing and dancing might commence? Patience.

The walls of said drawing room now recede to the night’s enchantments while black-sequined Titania (a rapacious Sally Dexter) leads out her “designer” fairies, winged, chic and darkly capricious. We will recognise them by their Nicole Farhi attire. But by the time the boiler-suited mechanicals arrive - a dubious chorus-line of yellow-page jobbers loudly rallied by Desmond Barrit’s splendid Bottom (with designs on all the parts) and Jack Chissick’s Snout (never without a handful of his business cards) - all bets are off as to the chaos and magic that will ensue. Splendid actors, singers, and dancers share disciplines and it’s open season for flying and special effects as Purcell’s tune-laden masques unfold, musing and elaborating on Shakespeare’s narrative.

William Christie’s buoyant direction of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment rejoices in Purcell’s joyous counterpoint with drums, tambourines, and nutty woodwinds alternating with rosiny strings to convey the abiding spirit of the dance. Kim Brandstrup’s choreography is both discreet and exquisite and the singing variously stylish.

But the show’s the thing and it’s not often you see a director and designer collude so seamlessly, so imaginatively, and so amusingly in their endeavours. In the wake of Puck’s misdirected chicanery “The Masque of Seduction” brings mounting naughtiness, the spring sprung to the strains of lovely Lucy Crowe reflecting on the exquisite pain of the lovelorn and Carolyn Sampson harvesting Purcell’s most gorgeous embellishments. Upon her summoning of “Ye Gentle Spirits of the Air”, a giant haystack spills out a Benny Hill-like wench insisting “No Kissing at All” before the whole scene goes arse over tit with a bevy of rambunctious bunnies behaving badly.

But there is pathos, too, as Carolyn Sampson attends the score’s most enduring gem, “The Plaint”, tellingly finding refuge at Theseus’ knee and in so doing softening his heart to allow the lovers their true partners. A truly magical moment.

Of course, the God of Marriage, Hymen – a harassed vicar with a Sainsbury’s bag (excellent Andrew Foster-Williams) – is sceptical. But even he comes round. And so should you. Call daily for returns.

edwardseckerson.biz

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices