Review: The Fairy Queen, by English Touring Opera at Malvern Festival Theatre
Yes, it might be problematical as to how to stage a 17th-century masque in the 21st, and this production of Purcell’s Fairy Queen, at odds with itself, proves the point.
For the tenuous reason that he created a few canvases on the topic of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (upon which the Purcell is equally tenuously based), the early 19th-century painter Richard Dadd becomes the pivot of director Thomas Guthrie’s conception, set in the Bedlam to which Dadd was consigned, and revolting in its bedpan humour and mocking of the inmates.
Yet there are moments of great compassion, too, from the trio of nurses (difficult to identify them from the cast-list), and they often catch the sublimity of Purcell’s limpid music.
Under Joseph McHardy’s conducting this is a musical performance of almost the highest order, bird-like recorders so evocative, and erasing the memories of grindingly rolling and obvious harpsichord chords.
There are also some wonderful balletic offerings, both from the aerial artists and from a sexy couple who had obviously escaped from the witches’ coven in Dido and Aeneas.