I attended a rare semi-staged production of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen at the Barbican, performed by the Academy of Ancient Music. Before the performance I went to the talk in the Fountain Room, which discussed the history of the 1692 masque. It originally stemmed from the incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but the text itself is not Shakespearean, with only one reference to Oberon and no references to other characters. The speakers talked about the differences in the kinds of voices that would have been heard then and now, talking about semitones and tuning, but to be honest this was all a bit specialist-sounding for me.
The production itself was interesting: the main reason I went to see it was to get some historical insight into the time in which the masque was written, so I was disappointed to see that it was being done in modern dress. However, someone going solely for the music would not have been disappointed – it was beautifully performed. I wasn’t convinced by all of the staging choices, but it was still a reasonably enlightening experience.