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Purcell The Fairy Queen - advice for full performance

I'm planning to perform the full version of The Fairy Queen this spring and would appreciate any tips or advice available from those who are familiar with the work, or better yet, have performed it! I have an auditioned adult chamber choir and will hire instrumentalists and soloists as needed (would like to use singers from the choir for smaller parts).
Did you find that the choral singers had enough to do?
Any tips for partial or minimal staging?
Linda Blanchard
Replies (2): Threaded | Chronological
on November 19, 2013 7:43am
Hello Linda,
When you say "full version" do you mean to do it as part of the slightly altered version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream as originally intended?  As you undoubtedly know, the music was never intended to be performed on its own, but rather as incidental music to the play (symphonies to introduce each act, Drunken Poet scene to follow Oberon and Titanias act I quarrel, Night-Sleep-Secrecy-Mystery to follow Oberon's act II instructions to Puck to get the flower that induces love, etc...).  I have performed a "full version" of the play with the masks placed in their appropriate places, and it is wonderful--although, if I recall, the performance lasted about 4 hours, and, of course, you need an entire troup of actors to execute the play!  
That all being said, there is a modern tradition of attempting to string all the masques and other incidental music together without using the play at all.  It is a bit strange--sort of like listening to a movie soundtrack without watching the movie.  Sure, the music if fine, but the story is missing.  I did see a wonderfully clever attempt at creating a through-story from the music alone at the English National Opera about 15-20 years ago.  As I recall, some of the "roles" in the masques were reassigned to characters representing Oberon, Titania and others from the fairy kingdom.  The four lovers were represented by 4 dancers who intereacted with the singers and sort of mimed familiar scenes from the play which helped carry the story along.  
If, however, you are only intending to perform the music (without the play and without an attempt to superimpose the Shakespeare onto the music), then I might suggest one of two things.
1.) Create a very condenced synopsis of the play that can be read by a narrator in order to deliver the famililar story and tie the music together.  I did something very similar at UC Berkeley when we presented King Arthur--without the Dryden play which the music was inteded to accompany.  I simply turned to the audience between masques and told them--in a fire-side story sort of way--what was going on in the play in between each musical interlude.
2.) Just forget the Shakespeare all together and present each of the masques as speparate vingnettes without trying to make them relate to one another.  In other words, just perform the music for the music's sake--a sort of recital of masques.  
Matt Oltman
Applauded by an audience of 1
on December 2, 2013 11:03am
I can't thank you enough for your insight and advice! So helpful. You have made my day and saved me much time and trouble.
I'll let you know what we end up doing.
Best wishes,
Linda Blanchard
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