Maggie Cotton reviews New London Consort at Birmingham Town Hall.
A splendid programme-book was produced for this unusual performance of Purcell’s semi-opera King Arthur: all characters noted with imagination and care, an all-embracing text, exits and entrances etc.
However all this careful detail was wasted as we were immediately plunged in darkness with no possibility of reading anything.
Philip Pickett directed the New London Consort to tell the tale of a wide human spectrum from love to betrayal via battles and magic.
Twelve singers were ably accompanied throughout by neat playing, although more expression from instrumentalists could have added more colour at times.
Underlying fine continuo from harpsichord and bass viol was admirable although one wonders why a theorbo was included, apart from the spectacular look of the instrument.
Much prior tuning, but no perceptible sound in situ. Very frustrating.
The link man was actor Nicholas le Prevost, telling the story in disturbing modern vernacular; raising laughs and groans from the absorbed listeners however.
Ace McCarron’s interesting and imaginative lighting helped throughout from a flitting airy spirit single moving spot, to cool icy shadows.
The stage management was most impressive, with smooth interchanges and movements from the soloists.
Four male soloists responded wonderfully to sparky tabor for a lively front of stage dance, after which soprano Joanne Lunn sang the familiar Fairest Isle with true commitment and lovely tone.
Purcell was a mere 32 when this was composed, writing well for the language. His genius was an ability to transport text with ease to his eager listeners: a joy to sing.