PURCELL: The Fairy-Queen

Music composed by Henry Purcell. Libretto anonymously adapted from William
Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

First Performance: 2 May 1692, Queen’s Theatre,
Dorset Garden, London.

Drunken Poet Bass
First Fairy Soprano
Second Fairy Soprano
Night Soprano
Mystery Soprano
Secrecy Countertenor
Sleep Bass
Corydon Bass
Mopsa Soprano/Countertenor
Nymph Soprano
3 Attendants to Oberon 1 Soprano, 2 Countertenors
Phoebus Tenor
Spring Soprano
Summer Countertenor
Autumn Tenor
Winter Bass
Juno Soprano
Chinese Man Countertenor
Chinese Woman, Daphne Soprano
Hymen Bass


Act 1

The first scene set to music occurs after Titania has left Oberon, following
an argument over the ownership of a little Indian boy. Two of her fairies sing
of the delights of the countryside (“Come, come, come, come, let us leave
the town”). A drunken, stuttering poet enters, singing “Fill up the
bowl”. The stuttering has led many to believe the scene is based on the
habits of Thomas d’Urfey. However, it may also be poking fun at Elkanah Settle,
who stuttered as well and was long thought to be the librettist, due to an
error in his 1910 biography.

The fairies mock the drunken poet and drive him away.

Act 2

It begins after Oberon has ordered Puck to anoint the eyes of Demetrius with
the love-juice. Titania and her fairies merrily revel (“Come all ye
songsters of the sky”), and Night (“See, even Night”),
Mystery (“I am come to lock all fast”), Secrecy (“One
charming night”) and Sleep (“Hush, no more, be silent all”)
lull them asleep and leave them to pleasant dreams.

Act 3

Titania has fallen in love with Bottom (now equipped with his ass’ head),
much to Oberon’s gratification. A Nymph sings of the pleasures and torments of
love (“If love’s a sweet passion”) and after several dances,
Titania and Bottom are entertained by the foolish, loving banter of two
haymakers, Corydon and Mopsa.

Act 4

It begins after Titania has been freed from her enchantment, commencing with
a brief divertissement to celebrate Oberon’s birthday (“Now the
Night”, and the abovementioned “Let the fifes and the
clarions”), but for the most part it is a masque of the god Phoebus
(“When the cruel winter”) and the Four Seasons (Spring;
“Thus, the ever grateful spring”, Summer; ”Here’s the
Summer”, Autumn; “See my many coloured fields”, and Winter;
”Now Winter comes slowly”).

Act 5

After Theseus has been told of the lovers’s adventures in the wood, it
begins with the goddess Juno singing an epithalamium, “Thrice happy
lovers”, followed by a woman who sings the well–known “The
Plaint” (“O let me weep”). A Chinese man and woman enter
singing several songs about the joys of their world. (“Thus, the gloomy
world”, “Thus happy and free” and “Yes, Xansi”).
Two other Chinese women summon Hymen, who sings in praise of married bliss,
thus uniting the wedding theme of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with the
celebration of William and Mary’s anniversary.

[Synopsis Source: Wikipedia]

Click here
for the complete libretto

Click here
for the complete text of A Midsummer Night’s

Prelude to The Fairy Queen — Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Conducted by William Christie:

image_description=A Midsummer-Night’s Dream by Arthur Rackham
first_audio_name=Henry Purcell: The Fairy-Queen
product_title=Henry Purcell: The Fairy-Queen
product_by=Pamela Coburn, Soprano; Lynne Dawson, Soprano; Elisabeth von Magnus, Alto; Paul Esswood, Countertenor; Neil Mackei, Tenor; Robert Holl, Bass. Concentus Musicus Wien. Arnold Schoenberg Chor. Nikolaus Harnonocurt. Live performance, 8 July 1992, Stefaniensaal des Grazer Congress im Rahmen der “Styriarte 1992”.