Circus performers, from acrobats to jugglers and even an astonishing balancer of cube-frames on his forehead cropped up in Purcell’s semi-opera The Fairy Queen. Are we back with the intrusion of commedia dell’arte knockabout into Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos?
Not a bit. Although it takes a while to get used to the concept, this is a transposition into modern times of the kind of presentation Purcell’s piece would have received at its 1692 premiere. And it is also a subliminal homage to Peter Brook’s wonderful circus-based production for the RSC nearly half-a-century ago of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, from which Fairy Queen is derived.
But there is not much of that wonderful play in this production. Characters are updated (though some of them are faintly recognisable), the action is transformed into an Arcadian sojourn, but Purcell’s generous flow of gorgeous nocturnal music maintains the link.
Philip Pickett’s New London Consort, cosily tucked up in a corner of the Town Hall Stage, delivered the score brightly and lovingly, and his soloists (complicated to identify from the otherwise informative programme) sang with immense style, technical brilliance and emotional communication.
This co-production with de Doelen Rotterdam and The Sage, Gateshead, in collaboration with Circus Space, is sympathetically directed by Mauricio Garcia Lozano. I do hope a DVD will be made of this.
Rating * * * * *