Purcell's The Fairy Queen, in its original form an unwieldy concoction of speech, song and dance, is seldom seen on the professional opera stage, so this presentation by Birmingham Conservatoire was doubly welcome.
Michael Barry has imaginatively restructured the piece into something modern audiences can follow and understand, and it's a delightful production oozing with simple charm.
Despite the absence of visual spectacle it looks most appealing, with a Greek temple setting beautifully lit (John Bishop), serviceable costumes (fairies traditional, mortals vaguely 1950s, but it works), stunning headgear for the allegorical characters, and stylish, elegantly executed dances.
Its musical strengths are considerable. These talented young performers - Barry has largely dispensed with distinctions between those who only act, sing or dance - show a remarkably consistent understanding of English baroque style. Solos and ensembles are sung in a natural, unforced way, appropriately embellished, and the splendid choruses are also delivered with fine ornamentation, a rare thing to hear.
The little orchestra, which admittedly needs more violins, copes well with the vagaries of period instruments and playing practices.
With a cast of 37, including many principal singer/actors, selecting individuals for special praise is an invidious task. If first-night honours are to be awarded they should go to Abigail Kelly, whose sparky Helena acted everyone else into the wings, Ksynia Reynolds (Night) and Sarah Hobbs (The Plaint) for their vocal lustre, and Themba Mvula, who has the quiet makings of an excellent baritone.
David Manford and Matthew Wright gave best comedy value in the Act 3 Kissing Duet.