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KING ARTHUR Act 1 & 2 New York 2023 Juilliard School of Music

Information on the Performance
Information about the Recording
  • Published by: The Juilliard School  
  • Date Published: 2023  
  • Format: Streaming
  • Quality Video: 4 Audio:4
  • Subtitles: nosubs  
  • This Recording is NOT AVAILABLE from a proper commercial or public source

Quote from Juilliard School:
King Arthur, first performed in 1691—just four years before Purcell died, at 36—combines singing and instrumental music with speaking parts for actors and dancing. “I was hoping we could include a dance element, too, since there’s quite a lot of dance music. That was one piece that grew to be too complicated to plug into the project,” said Robert Mealy, the director of the Historical Performance program. “But you will certainly hear the ballet music.”

Unlike the better-known Dido and Aeneas, the English composer’s only through-sung opera, King Arthur is classified as a “semi-opera” because it interweaves musical sections with a spoken play. The genre emerged during England’s Restoration period (1660-88), but its interdisciplinary quality has a fresh resonance for contemporary artists eager to cross boundaries.

Purcell collaborated with the poet and playwright John Dryden, whose libretto, despite the title, is not based on what you might expect from Arthurian legend. “There’s no Camelot, no swords being pulled out of stones,” Mealy said. Instead, the story revolves around the conflict between Arthur and the leader of the pagan Saxons over the love of the blind Princess Emmeline.

Magic and deception figure prominently as each side battles the other. The unfolding spells provide some of the occasions for Purcell’s musical interpolations (including the “Cold Song”). In fact, the supernatural figures are represented by singers, whereas the chief characters in the plot (including those of Arthur, his rival Oswald, Emmeline, and Merlin and his counterpart magician) are entirely spoken roles. In the late 17th century, thanks to England’s deeply skeptical attitude toward opera, actors ranked higher in status than singers.

“King Arthur is very much a piece of extravagance and spectacle, the last work in magic,” Mealy said. “It was designed to be performed in one of the best-equipped theaters in all of Europe, which could present some of the best special effects around. Alice Tully is not a space that lends itself to trapdoors and flying machines, but we have commissioned the video artist Camilla Tassi to create real- time video projections, which will add an endlessly shifting series of evocative backdrops for the production”

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