King Arthur

Semi-Opera in five acts (1691)
Music by Henry Purcell
Concertante performance in English
Conductor: Robert King

Saturday, 29 November 2014
7 pm

With Carolyn Sampson, Rebecca Outram et al.

The King´s Consort

Synopsis

The semi-opera King Arthur, or The British Worthy, which premiered in 1691, is based on a libretto by John Dryden (1631-1700) that was written in 1684. Dryden, a celebrated writer and dramatist in his lifetime, so admired the music of the equally famous composer Henry Purcell (c. 1659 -1695) that in 1690 he offered his revised King Arthur to Purcell for setting. The result was the first semi-opera; it was not based on an existing theatre play, but nevertheless combined spoken dialogue with musical scenes. King Arthur remained in the repertoire until well into the 18th century, its lasting popularity being chiefly due to Purcell’s intimate and innovatively constructed score. In his plot, Dryden moved away from the legend of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table and the Holy Grail which had been continually embellished since the Middle Ages. Instead, a tale of love and war unfolds. The blind Emmeline is the daughter of Conon, Duke of Cornwall, and not just the object of King Arthur’s affections, but those of the Saxon King Oswald too. A conflict over territory leads to the first military skirmish between the two. Oswald is defeated, but manages to abduct Emmeline. Now she becomes the reason for war: the rivals are aided in battle by magicians and spirits, principal among whom is Merlin on Arthur’s side. Merlin is thus virtually the only leftover from the famous legend. Oswald is defeated again and Arthur wins Emmeline. Arthur shows benevolence and pardons Oswald, and this leads Merlin to envision a united Britain under a just ruler.

Cast

Semi-Opera in five acts (1691)

Music by Henry Purcell
Libretto by John Dryden

Concertante performance in English

Conductor

Robert King

Biography
Soprano

Carolyn Sampson

Biography
Soprano

Julie Cooper

Biography
Soprano

Rebecca Outram

Biography
Countertenor

Robin Tyson

Biography
Countertenor

Richard Wyn Roberts

Biography
Tenor

Daniel Auchincloss

Biography
Tenor

James Oxley

Biography
Tenor

Tom Robson

Biography
Bass

Peter Harvey

Biography
Bass

Andrew Rupp

Biography
Bass

Philip Tebb

Biography
Orchestra

The King´s Consort

Biography
Choir

Choir of The King´s Consort

Biography