Henry Purcell (/ˈpɜːrsəl/ or /pɜːrˈsɛl/; c. 10 September 1659[Note 1] – 21 November 1695) was an English composer. Although incorporating Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, Purcell's legacy was a uniquely English form of Baroque music. He is generally considered to be one of the greatest English composers; no later native-born English composer approached his fame until Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, William Walton and Benjamin Britten in the 20th century.
Purcell was born in St Ann's Lane, Old Pye Street, Westminster – the area of London later known as Devil's Acre – in 1659. Henry Purcell Senior, whose older brother, Thomas Purcell, (died 1682) was a musician, was a gentleman of the Chapel Royal and sang at the coronation of King Charles II of England. Henry the elder had three sons: Edward, Henry and Daniel. Daniel Purcell, the youngest of the brothers, was also a prolific composer who wrote the music for much of the final act of The Indian Queen after Henry Purcell's death. Henry Purcell's family lived just a few hundred yards west of Westminster Abbey from 1659 onwards.
After his father's death in 1664, Purcell was placed under the guardianship of his uncle Thomas, who showed him great affection and kindness. Thomas was himself a gentleman of His Majesty's Chapel, and arranged for Henry to be admitted as a chorister. Henry studied first under Captain Henry Cooke, Master of the Children, and afterwards under Pelham Humfrey, Cooke's successor. The composer Matthew Locke was a family friend and, particularly with his semi-operas, probably also had a musical influence on the young Purcell. Henry was a chorister in the Chapel Royal until his voice broke at around age fourteen in 1673, when he became assistant to the organ-builder John Hingston, who held the post of keeper of wind instruments to the King.
Purcell is said to have been composing at nine years old, but the earliest work that can be certainly identified as his is an ode for the King's birthday, written in 1670. (The dates for his compositions are often uncertain, despite considerable research.) It is assumed that the three-part song Sweet tyranness, I now resign was written by him as a child. After Humfrey's death, Purcell continued his studies under Dr John Blow. He attended Westminster School and in 1676 was appointed copyist at Westminster Abbey. Henry Purcell's earliest anthem Lord, who can tell was composed in 1678. It is a psalm that is prescribed for Christmas Day and also to be read at morning prayer on the fourth day of the month.
In 1679, he wrote songs for John Playford's Choice Ayres, Songs and Dialogues and an anthem, the name of which is unknown, for the Chapel Royal. From an extant letter written by Thomas Purcell we learn that this anthem was composed for the exceptionally fine voice of the Rev. John Gostling, then at Canterbury, but afterwards a gentleman of His Majesty's Chapel. Purcell wrote several anthems at different times for Gostling's extraordinary basso profondo voice, which is known to have had a range of at least two full octaves, from D below the bass staff to the D above it. The dates of very few of these sacred compositions are known; perhaps the most notable example is the anthem They that go down to the sea in ships. In gratitude for the providential escape of King Charles II from shipwreck, Gostling, who had been of the royal party, put together some verses from the Psalms in the form of an anthem and requested Purcell to set them to music. The challenging work opens with a passage which traverses the full extent of Gostling's range, beginning on the upper D and descending two octaves to the lower.
In 1679, Blow, who had been appointed organist of Westminster Abbey 10 years before, resigned his office in favour of Purcell. Purcell now devoted himself almost entirely to the composition of sacred music, and for six years severed his connection with the theatre. However, during the early part of the year, probably before taking up his new office, he had produced two important works for the stage, the music for Nathaniel Lee's Theodosius, and Thomas d'Urfey's Virtuous Wife. Between 1680 and 1688 Purcell wrote music for seven plays. The composition of his chamber opera Dido and Aeneas, which forms a very important landmark in the history of English dramatic music, has been attributed to this period, and its earliest production may well have predated the documented one of 1689. It was written to a libretto furnished by Nahum Tate, and performed in 1689 in cooperation with Josias Priest, a dancing master and the choreographer for the Dorset Garden Theatre. Priest's wife kept a boarding school for young gentlewomen, first in Leicester Fields and afterwards at Chelsea, where the opera was performed. It is occasionally considered the first genuine English opera, though that title is usually given to Blow's Venus and Adonis: as in Blow's work, the action does not progress in spoken dialogue but in Italian-style recitative. Each work runs to less than one hour. At the time, Dido and Aeneas never found its way to the theatre, though it appears to have been very popular in private circles. It is believed to have been extensively copied, but only one song was printed by Purcell's widow in Orpheus Britannicus, and the complete work remained in manuscript until 1840, when it was printed by the Musical Antiquarian Society under the editorship of Sir George Macfarren. The composition of Dido and Aeneas gave Purcell his first chance to write a sustained musical setting of a dramatic text. It was his only opportunity to compose a work in which the music carried the entire drama. The story of Dido and Aeneas derives from the original source in Virgil's epic the Aeneid.
Soon after Purcell's marriage, in 1682, on the death of Edward Lowe, he was appointed organist of the Chapel Royal, an office which he was able to hold simultaneously with his position at Westminster Abbey. His eldest son was born in this same year, but he was short-lived. His first printed composition, Twelve Sonatas, was published in 1683. For some years after this, he was busy in the production of sacred music, odes addressed to the king and royal family, and other similar works. In 1685, he wrote two of his finest anthems, I was glad and My heart is inditing, for the coronation of King James II. In 1690 he composed a setting of the birthday ode for Queen Mary, Arise, my muse and four years later wrote one of his most elaborate, important and magnificent works – a setting for another birthday ode for the Queen, written by Nahum Tate, entitled Come Ye Sons of Art.
In 1687, he resumed his connection with the theatre by furnishing the music for John Dryden's tragedy Tyrannick Love. In this year, Purcell also composed a march and passepied called Quick-step, which became so popular that Lord Wharton adapted the latter to the fatal verses of Lillibullero; and in or before January 1688, Purcell composed his anthem Blessed are they that fear the Lord by express command of the King. A few months later, he wrote the music for D'Urfey's play, The Fool's Preferment. In 1690, he composed the music for Betterton's adaptation of Fletcher and Massinger's Prophetess (afterwards called Dioclesian) and Dryden's Amphitryon. In 1691, he wrote the music for what is sometimes considered his dramatic masterpiece, King Arthur, or The British Worthy . In 1692, he composed The Fairy-Queen (an adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream), the score of which (his longest for theatre) was rediscovered in 1901 and published by the Purcell Society. The Indian Queen followed in 1695, in which year he also wrote songs for Dryden and Davenant's version of Shakespeare's The Tempest (recently, this has been disputed by music scholars), probably including "Full fathom five" and "Come unto these yellow sands". The Indian Queen was adapted from a tragedy by Dryden and Sir Robert Howard. In these semi-operas (another term for which at the time was "dramatic opera"), the main characters of the plays do not sing but speak their lines: the action moves in dialogue rather than recitative. The related songs are sung "for" them by singers, who have minor dramatic roles.
Purcell's Te Deum and Jubilate Deo were written for Saint Cecilia's Day, 1694, the first English Te Deum ever composed with orchestral accompaniment. This work was annually performed at St Paul's Cathedral until 1712, after which it was performed alternately with Handel's Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate until 1743, when both works were replaced by Handel's Dettingen Te Deum.
He composed an anthem and two elegies for Queen Mary II's funeral, his Funeral Sentences and Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary. Besides the operas and semi-operas already mentioned, Purcell wrote the music and songs for Thomas d'Urfey's The Comical History of Don Quixote, Bonduca, The Indian Queen and others, a vast quantity of sacred music, and numerous odes, cantatas, and other miscellaneous pieces. The quantity of his instrumental chamber music is minimal after his early career, and his keyboard music consists of an even more minimal number of harpsichord suites and organ pieces. In 1693, Purcell composed music for two comedies: The Old Bachelor, and The Double Dealer. Purcell also composed for five other plays within the same year. In July 1695, Purcell composed an ode for the Duke of Gloucester for his sixth birthday. The ode is titled Who can from joy refrain? Purcell's four-part sonatas were issued in 1697. In the final six years of his life, Purcell wrote music for forty-two plays.
Purcell died in 1695 at his home in Marsham Street, at the height of his career. He is believed to have been 35 or 36 years old at the time. The cause of his death is unclear: one theory is that he caught a chill after returning home late from the theatre one night to find that his wife had locked him out. Another is that he succumbed to tuberculosis. The beginning of Purcell's will reads:
In the name of God Amen. I, Henry Purcell, of the City of Westminster, gentleman, being dangerously ill as to the constitution of my body, but in good and perfect mind and memory (thanks be to God) do by these presents publish and declare this to be my last Will and Testament. And I do hereby give and bequeath unto my loving wife, Frances Purcell, all my estate both real and personal of what nature and kind soever...
Purcell is buried adjacent to the organ in Westminster Abbey. The music that he had earlier composed for Queen Mary's funeral was performed during his funeral as well. Purcell was universally mourned as "a very great master of music." Following his death, the officials at Westminster honoured him by unanimously voting that he be buried with no expense in the north aisle of the Abbey. His epitaph reads: "Here lyes Henry Purcell Esq., who left this life and is gone to that Blessed Place where only His harmony can be exceeded."
Purcell fathered six children by his wife Frances, four of whom died in infancy. His wife, as well as his son Edward (1689–1740) and daughter Frances, survived him. Frances the elder one, died in 1706, having published a number of her husband's works, including the now famous collection called Orpheus Britannicus, in two volumes, printed in 1698 and 1702, respectively. Edward was appointed organist of St Clement's, Eastcheap, London, in 1711 and was succeeded by his son Edward Henry Purcell (died 1765). Both men were buried in St Clement's near the organ gallery.
Purcell worked in many genres, both in works closely linked to the court, such as symphony song, to the Chapel Royal, such as the symphony anthem, and the theatre.
Among Purcell's most notable works are his opera Dido and Aeneas (1688), his semi-operas Dioclesian (1690), King Arthur (1691), The Fairy-Queen (1692) and Timon of Athens (1695), as well as the compositions Hail! Bright Cecilia (1692), Come Ye Sons of Art (1694) and Funeral Sentences and Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary (1695).
After his death, Purcell was honoured by many of his contemporaries, including his old friend John Blow, who wrote An Ode, on the Death of Mr. Henry Purcell (Mark how the lark and linnet sing) with text by his old collaborator, John Dryden. William Croft's 1724 setting for the Burial Service, was written in the style of "the great Master". Croft preserved Purcell's setting of "Thou knowest Lord" (Z 58) in his service, for reasons "obvious to any artist"; it has been sung at every British state funeral ever since. More recently, the English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a famous sonnet entitled simply "Henry Purcell", with a headnote reading: "The poet wishes well to the divine genius of Purcell and praises him that, whereas other musicians have given utterance to the moods of man's mind, he has, beyond that, uttered in notes the very make and species of man as created both in him and in all men generally."
Purcell also had a strong influence on the composers of the English musical renaissance of the early 20th century, most notably Benjamin Britten, who created and performed a realisation of Dido and Aeneas and whose The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra is based on a theme from Purcell's Abdelazar. Stylistically, the aria "I know a bank" from Britten's opera A Midsummer Night's Dream is clearly inspired by Purcell's aria "Sweeter than Roses", which Purcell originally wrote as part of incidental music to Richard Norton's Pausanias, the Betrayer of His Country.
Purcell is honoured together with Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on 28 July. In a 1940 interview Ignaz Friedman stated that he considered Purcell as great as Bach and Beethoven. In Victoria Street, Westminster, England, there is a bronze monument to Purcell, sculpted by Glynn Williams and erected in 1994.
Purcell's works have been catalogued by Franklin Zimmerman, who gave them a number preceded by Z.
A Purcell Club was founded in London in 1836 for promoting the performance of his music, but was dissolved in 1863. In 1876 a Purcell Society was founded, which published new editions of his works. A modern-day Purcell Club has been created, and provides guided tours and concerts in support of Westminster Abbey.
So strong was his reputation that a popular wedding processional was incorrectly attributed to Purcell for many years. The so-called Purcell's Trumpet Voluntary was in fact written around 1700 by a British composer named Jeremiah Clarke as the Prince of Denmark's March.
Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary was reworked by Wendy Carlos for the title music of the 1971 film by Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange. The 1973 Rolling Stone review of Jethro Tull's A Passion Play compared the musical style of the album with that of Purcell. In 2009 Pete Townshend of The Who, an English rock band that established itself in the 1960s, identified Purcell's harmonies, particularly the use of suspension and resolution that Townshend had learned from producer Kit Lambert, as an influence on the band's music (in songs such as "Won't Get Fooled Again" (1971), "I Can See for Miles" (1967) and the very Purcellian intro to "Pinball Wizard").
In the 21st century, the soundtrack of the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice features a dance titled "A Postcard to Henry Purcell". This is a version by composer Dario Marianelli of Purcell's Abdelazar theme. In the German-language 2004 movie, Downfall, the music of Dido's Lament is used repeatedly as the end of the Third Reich culminates. The 2012 film Moonrise Kingdom contains Benjamin Britten's version of the Rondeau in Purcell's Abdelazar created for his 1946 The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. In 2013, the Pet Shop Boys released their single "Love Is a Bourgeois Construct" incorporating one of the same ground basses from King Arthur used by Nyman in his Draughtsman's Contract score. Olivia Chaney performs her adaptation of "There's Not a Swain" on her CD "The Longest River."
The distinctive nature of the symphony song, a genre as closely linked to the court as the symphony anthem was to the Chapel Royal, 16 is underlined by the principal concordance of the longer works in R.M. 20.h.8, Lbl Add. 33287
The 1959 Grand National was the 113th renewal of the Grand National horse race that took place at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool, on 21 March 1959.
The race was won by the 8/1 second-favourite Oxo, ridden by Michael Scudamore and trained by Willie Stephenson. Thirty-four horses ran, including the previous year's winner Mr. What, who finished third. Wyndburgh was second and Tiberetta was the only other finisher, each finishing in the places for the third consecutive year.There was one equine fatality during the race: Henry Purcell, who was one of fourteen horses to fall or be brought down at Becher's Brook. Additionally, Slippery Serpent broke a bone in his leg in falling at the thirteenth fence and was euthanised during the week after the race. A debate was held in parliament and the Home Secretary, Rab Butler, met the National Hunt Committee in response to safety concerns raised by the League Against Cruel Sports.Abdelazer
Abdelazer, Abdelazar, or or The Moor's Revenge is a 1676 play by Aphra Behn, an adaptation of the c. 1600 tragedy Lust's Dominion.
The composer Henry Purcell wrote incidental music (Z 570) for a revival in the summer of 1695, with movements:
The rondeau was used by Benjamin Britten as the theme for his set of variations The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1946). It was also used as the theme of the television series The First Churchills (1969), as the intro song for Intellivision video game Thunder Castle (1986), and may be heard as dancing music at the Netherfield ball in the 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice. The Britten arrangement is used as a recurrent motif in the 2012 film Moonrise Kingdom.Come Ye Sons of Art
Come Ye Sons of Art, Z.323, also known as Ode for Queen Mary's birthday, is a musical composition by Henry Purcell. It was written in 1694, and is one of a series of odes in honour of the birthday of Queen Mary II of England. The text of the ode is often attributed to Nahum Tate, who was poet laureate at the time.Dido's Lament
Dido's Lament is the aria "When I am laid in earth" from the opera Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell (libretto by Nahum Tate).
It is included in many classical music textbooks on account of its exemplary use of the passus duriusculus in the ground bass. The conductor Leopold Stokowski wrote a transcription of the piece for symphony orchestra. It is played annually in London by the massed bands of the Guards Division at the Cenotaph remembrance parade in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday, the Sunday nearest to November 11 (Armistice Day).Dido and Aeneas
Dido and Aeneas (Z. 626) is an opera in a prologue and three acts, written by the English Baroque composer Henry Purcell with a libretto by Nahum Tate. The dates of the composition and first performance of the opera are uncertain. It was composed no later than July 1688, and had been performed at Josias Priest's girls' school in London by the end of 1689. Some scholars argue for a date of composition as early as 1683. The story is based on Book IV of Virgil's Aeneid. It recounts the love of Dido, Queen of Carthage, for the Trojan hero Aeneas, and her despair when he abandons her. A monumental work in Baroque opera, Dido and Aeneas is remembered as one of Purcell's foremost theatrical works. It was also Purcell's only true opera, as well as his only all-sung dramatic work. One of the earliest known English operas, it owes much to John Blow's Venus and Adonis, both in structure and in overall effect. The influence of Cavalli's opera Didone is also apparent.Dido and Aeneas discography
This is a discography of Dido and Aeneas, an opera by Henry Purcell. The first known performance was at Josias Priest's girls' school in London in the spring of 1689.Dioclesian
Dioclesian (The Prophetess: or, The History of Dioclesian) is a tragicomic semi-opera in five acts by Henry Purcell to a libretto by Thomas Betterton based on the play The Prophetess, by John Fletcher and Philip Massinger, which in turn was based very loosely on the life of the Emperor Diocletian. It was premiered in late May 1690 at the Queen's Theatre, Dorset Garden. The play was first produced in 1622. Choreography for the various dances was provided by Josias Priest, who worked with Purcell on several other semi-operas.
Betterton reworked the play extensively, making room for a great deal of Purcell's music, notably in the 'monster' scene at the end of Act II and the final Masque about the victory of Love, which remained popular until well into the eighteenth century.
The premier production had a Prologue written by John Dryden that was suppressed after only one performance; it was far too critical of King William's military campaign in Ireland.Funeral Sentences and Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary
The English composer Henry Purcell wrote funeral music that includes his Funeral Sentences and the later Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, Z. 860. Two of the funeral sentences, Man that is born of a woman Z. 27 and In the midst of life we are in death Z. 17, survive in autograph score. The Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary comprises the march and canzona Z. 780 and the funeral sentence Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts Z. 58C. It was first performed at the funeral of Queen Mary II of England in March 1695. Purcell's setting of Thou knowest, Lord was performed at his own funeral in November of the same year. In modern performances the march, canzona and three funeral sentences are often combined as Purcell's Funeral Sentences, Z. 860.Hear my prayer, O Lord (Purcell)
Hear my prayer, O Lord, Z. 15, is an eight-part choral anthem by the English composer Henry Purcell (1659–1695). The anthem is a setting of the first verse of Psalm 102 in the version of the Book of Common Prayer. Purcell composed it c. 1682 at the beginning of his tenure as Organist and Master of the Choristers for Westminster Abbey.King Arthur (opera)
King Arthur, or The British Worthy (Z. 628), is a semi-opera in five acts with music by Henry Purcell and a
libretto by John Dryden. It was first performed at the Queen's Theatre, Dorset Garden, London, in late May or early June 1691.The plot is based on the battles between King Arthur's Britons and the Saxons, rather than the legends of Camelot (although Merlin does make an appearance). It is a Restoration spectacular, including such supernatural characters as Cupid and Venus plus references to the Germanic gods of the Saxons, Woden, Thor, and Freya. The tale centres on Arthur's endeavours to recover his fiancée, the blind Cornish Princess Emmeline, who has been abducted by his arch-enemy, the Saxon King Oswald of Kent.
King Arthur is a "dramatick opera" or semi-opera: the principal characters do not sing, except if they are supernatural, pastoral or, in the case of Comus and the popular Your hay it is mow'd, drunk. Secondary characters sing to them, usually as diegetic entertainment, but in Act 4 and parts of Act 2, as supernatural beckonings. The singing in Act 1 is religious observance by the Saxons, ending with their heroic afterlife in Valhalla. The protagonists are actors, as a great deal of King Arthur consists of spoken text. This was normal practice in 17th century English opera. King Arthur contains some of Purcell's most lyrical music, using adventurous harmonies for the day.Music for a While
Music for a While is a song for voice and basso continuo by the English Baroque composer Henry Purcell.
It is the second of four movements from his incidental music (Z 583) to Oedipus, a version of Sophocles' play by John Dryden and Nathaniel Lee, published in 1679. The song was composed for a revival of the work in 1692.Nymphs and Shepherds
Nymphs and Shepherds is a song by the English composer Henry Purcell, from the play The Libertine by Thomas Shadwell. When the play was first performed, in 1675, the accompanying music was by William Turner. Purcell's music was first used in either 1692 or 1695; the musicologist Ian Spink has concluded that the latter year is the more probable, although the earlier date is often cited.The Libertine is a version of the Don Juan legend. The song "Nymphs and shepherds, come away" occurs in a pastoral interlude at the beginning of Act IV, after an orchestral introduction – a "Symphony of Rustick Musick". In the nineteenth century it became a popular concert piece, generally for soprano voice, and a second stanza, by William Hayman Cummings, was added to Shadwell's original verse.
Nymphs and shepherds, come away,
In this grove let's sport and play;
For this is Flora's holiday,
Sacred to ease and happy love,
To music, to dancing and to poetry.
Your flocks may now securely rest
While you express your jollity!
Nymphs and shepherds, come away.
Nymphs and shepherds, pipe and play,
Tune a song, a festal lay;
For this is Flora's holiday,
Lightly we tread o'er all the ground,
With music, with dancing and with poetry.
Then trip we round with merry sound,
And pass the day in jollity!
Nymphs and shepherds, come away.Pride
Pride is an inwardly directed emotion that carries two antithetical meanings. With a negative connotation pride refers to a foolishly and irrationally corrupt sense of one's personal value, status or accomplishments, used synonymously with hubris. In Judaism, pride is called the root of all evil. With a positive connotation, pride refers to a humble and content sense of attachment toward one's own or another's choices and actions, or toward a whole group of people, and is a product of praise, independent self-reflection, and a fulfilled feeling of belonging.
Philosophers and social psychologists have noted that pride is a complex secondary emotion which requires the development of a sense of self and the mastery of relevant conceptual distinctions (e.g. that pride is distinct from happiness and joy) through language-based interaction with others. Some social psychologists identify the nonverbal expression of pride as a means of sending a functional, automatically perceived signal of high social status. In contrast, pride could also be defined as a lowly disagreement with the truth. One definition of pride in the former sense comes from St. Augustine: "the love of one's own excellence". A similar definition comes from Meher Baba: "Pride is the specific feeling through which egoism manifests."Pride is sometimes viewed as corrupt or as a vice, sometimes as proper or as a virtue. While some philosophers such as Aristotle (and George Bernard Shaw) consider pride (but not hubris) a profound virtue, some world religions consider pride's fraudulent form a sin, such as is expressed in Proverbs 11:2 of the Hebrew Bible. When viewed as a virtue, pride in one's abilities is known as virtuous pride, greatness of soul or magnanimity, but when viewed as a vice it is often known to be self-idolatry, sadistic contempt, vanity or vainglory. Pride can also manifest itself as a high opinion of one's nation (national pride) and ethnicity (ethnic pride).Remember not, Lord, our offences
Remember not, Lord, our offences, Z.50, is a five-part choral anthem by the English baroque composer Henry Purcell (1659–95). The anthem is a setting of a passage from the litany compiled by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, and later included in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. It was composed circa 1679–82 at the beginning of Purcell's tenure as Organist and Master of the Choristers for Westminster Abbey.Semi-opera
The terms "semi-opera", "dramatic[k] opera" and "English opera" were all applied to Restoration entertainments that combined spoken plays with masque-like episodes employing singing and dancing characters. They usually included machines in the manner of the restoration spectacular. The first examples were the Shakespeare adaptations produced by Thomas Betterton with music by Matthew Locke. After Locke's death a second flowering produced the semi-operas of Henry Purcell, notably King Arthur and The Fairy-Queen. Semi-opera received a deathblow when the Lord Chamberlain separately licensed plays without music and the new Italian opera.
Semi-operas were performed with singing, speaking and dancing roles. When music was written, it was usually for moments in the play immediately following either love scenes or those concerning the supernatural.
It has been observed that several of Calderón's comedias with music by Juan Hidalgo de Polanco are closer to semi-opera than to the pastoral Zarzuela.The Fairy-Queen
The Fairy-Queen (1692; Purcell catalogue number Z.629) is a masque or semi-opera by Henry Purcell; a "Restoration spectacular". The libretto is an anonymous adaptation of William Shakespeare's wedding comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream. First performed in 1692, The Fairy-Queen was composed three years before Purcell's death at the age of 35. Following his death, the score was lost and only rediscovered early in the twentieth century.
Purcell did not set any of Shakespeare's text to music; instead he composed music for short masques in every act but the first. The play itself was also slightly modernised in keeping with seventeenth-century dramatic conventions, but in the main the spoken text is as Shakespeare wrote it. The masques are related to the play metaphorically, rather than literally. Many critics have stated that they bear no relationship to the play. Recent scholarship has shown that the opera, which ends with a masque featuring Hymen, the God of Marriage, was composed for the fifteenth wedding anniversary of William III and Mary II.Growing interest in Baroque music and the rise of the countertenor contributed to the work's re-entry into the repertoire. The opera received several full-length recordings in the latter part of the 20th century and several of its arias, including "The Plaint" ("O let me weep"), have become popular recital pieces.
In July 2009, in celebration of the 350th anniversary of Purcell's birth, The Fairy-Queen was performed by Glyndebourne Festival Opera using a new edition of the score, prepared for the Purcell Society by Bruce Wood and Andrew Pinnock.The Indian Queen (opera)
The Indian Queen (Z. 630) is a largely unfinished semi-opera with music by Henry Purcell, first performed at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, in 1695. The exact date is unknown, but Peter Holman surmises it may have been in June.It was created as a revised version of the 1664 play The Indian Queen, in a prologue and five acts, by John Dryden and his brother-in-law Sir Robert Howard. More specifically, in 1694, Thomas Betterton was given £50 to transform the play into an opera, and he commissioned Purcell to compose the music. Purcell, who died in November 1695, left music only for the Prologue and Acts II and III. His brother Daniel completed a masque for Act V.The Indian Queen is one of Purcell's less often performed stage works. This is probably more a reflection of the incomplete state of the score than of its quality.The Moor's Pavane
The Moor's Pavane is a 20-minute ballet based upon the tragedy Othello by William Shakespeare. The ballet was choreographed by José Limón in 1949 to music from Henry Purcell's Abdelazer, The Gordion Knot Untied, and the pavane from Pavane and Chaconne for Strings, arranged by Simon Sadoff.. This ballet is José Limón's most famous work and his influence from Doris Humphrey is evident in his choreography. It was created on the Limón Company.
There are only four dancers who appear in this rendition of Othello. These dancers represent The Moor, originally played by Limón himself, Desdemona, originally played by Betty Jones, Iago, originally played by Lucas Hoving, and Emilia, originally played by Pauline Koner. Desdemona, an innocent character and tragic victim, is betrayed by Iago who hints that she has been unfaithful. This causes Othello to murder her. These dramatic actions and events take place in the form of a pavane, which is a type of courtly dance. The stately and formal choreography provides a stark contrast to the emotional and passionate characters and the violent story.
The work premiered at the Connecticut College American Dance Festival on August 17, 1949. American Ballet Theatre was the first company outside Limon's company to include the work in its repertory. Notable interpreters of the Moor include Rudolf Nureyev and Cynthia Gregory.
Since its creation, The Moor's Pavane has been added to the repertories of many different companies, including major ballet companies, showing the fading divisive line between modern dance and ballet.