The King Arthur Seance - On Henry Purcell´s Shoulders
The semi-opera King Arthur by the “Orpheus britannicus” Henry Purcell with a libretto by John Dryden was first performed in 1691 and combines drama, music, dance and spectacle. “Music and poetry can exist separately,” wrote Dryden, who from 1668 was Poet Laureate at court, “but they will produce the most impressive effect when united: spirit and beauty in one person.” Over the course of five acts, King Arthur tries to free his betrothed, the blind princess Emmeline, from the arms of the Saxon king, Oswald of Kent. Although a success, the work was overshadowed by the rising popularity of Italian opera and forgotten. Purcell’s handwritten score is today thought to be lost, and the over sixty different sources that have survived contradict each other. The composer Helmut Jasbar has added contemporary elements from classical music and visuals to the work. Jasbar presents many different variations on the famous Cold Genius aria, but the heart of Purcell’s composition remains intact. The addition of new tone colours, newly composed interludes and audio recordings creates a composite timbre that adds a chorus, orchestra and electronics to Purcell’s King Arthur.