Paul McCreesh’s Magic Fairy Queen

SpainSpain Henry Purcell, The Fairy Queen: Soloists, The Gabrieli Consort and Players, Paul McCreesh (conductor), Auditorio Nacional, Madrid, 20.6.2012 (JNI)

Concert version

Spain is not Purcell-country. The last time I saw Purcell’s demi-opera was over 15 years ago. All the more reason to laude the Madrid Auditorium for putting it on, a concert performance at least, and admittedly without the ballet which is a fundamental part of this work.

available at AmazonH.Purcell, Harmonia Sacra,
McCreesh / Gabrieli Consort

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get an excellent opera performance. It’s just a question of assembling the right pieces for the puzzle. It also helps to have the musical quality of Henry Purcell, who was ahead of his time. You have to realize this work was premiered in 1692, Handel had not yet begun his career, and Monteverdi just finishing up his career half a century earlier. Those, and all the other necessary ingredients were present on this night and resulted in a resounding popular success. What a difference from the day—night—before at Teatro Real. (S&R review here.)

The basis for this success was The Gabrieli Consort and Players, with Paul McCreesh at the helm. This music needs instrumentalists and conductors who master the style and they did, far exceeding the Monteverdi-crew on the previous evening. McCreesh and his musicians – truly soloists all of them – seemed to enjoy playing this music and they were able to transfer that enjoyment to the public. The music flowed effortlessness.

The eleven singers performed and acted without a score and moved in the large space left at the front of the stage. Their casual outfit created a sense of proximity with the audience. In the group of singers there were some with well established careers and others we will hear from soon. They displayed good taste and exquisite musicianship.

The palm goes to Sophie Bevan, an outstanding soprano. Katherine Manley was also excellent, her voice smaller than Bevan’s, but singing with exquisite taste. The baritones Peter Harvey and Ashley Riches have a fine future cut out for them, and tenors Nicholas Mulroy, Benedict Hymas, and Joshua Ellicott, sopranos Helen-Jane Howells and the young Zoe Brown, and countertenors David Allsopp and Benjamin Turner rounded out the homogenous lineup.

José Mª Irurzun