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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 09
A brand-new opera by Henry Purcell
Arts & Entertainment
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A brand-new opera by Henry Purcell

by Rod Parke - SGN A&E Writer

Purcell's The Indian Queen
February 24
The Good Shepherd Center


Betcha never heard of Henry Purcell's opera The Indian Queen! And I betcha never seen Massenet's Don Quichotte before this year! Whether you were looking for something different last weekend or not, Seattle certainly gave you plenty of opportunities to explore unknown, or at least very unfamiliar, fare.

The Indian Queen was presented as a cooperation between the Early Music Guild, Baroque Northwest, and Seattle Early Dance at The Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford. The music was from one of Purcell's 'semi-operas,' originally set to John Dryden's drama, described in the program notes as 'hamstrung by an enormous cast of characters, a complex and muddled plot of court intrigue, improbable denouements and a high body count when the curtain falls. & A complete performance with music would involve some five hours of melodramatic and poetic tedium.' So, Theodore Deacon, using the music from the Purcell score, substituted the plot from Act V of Rameau's ballet-opera Les Indes Galantes, making a much shorter, more palatable evening entertainment.

With all the dancers and singers, the small stage in the chapel on the third floor of The Good Shepherd Center was crowded with talent and elaborate costumes on loan from a number of sources including the UW Theatre Department. An excellent orchestra of period instruments propelled the slim plot with energy and charm.

Plot: a suitor from France and one from Spain bitch-fight a lot as they seek the hand of the beautiful Aztec queen in early America. They strut and quarrel. The queen seeks advice from the gods on how to choose, only to discover her true love in Adario, her own faithful courtier. War with Spain and/or France threatens until the two pompous suitors finally agree to join in the celebration of the queen's grace, marked by a rather longish series of courtly dances.

How much one enjoyed the show depended on how easily charmed one is by early music and dance. Certainly none of the performers offended. The highlight for me was a duet between sopranos Sibyl Adams (Spirit 2) and Ericka Chang (Spirit 1) that soon became a quartet with countertenor Jay White (Damon) and bass-baritone Aaron Cain (Don Alvaro). If the dances failed to fascinate, one could always focus instead on the fine instrumentalists.

If one wishes to be alerted to future early music events like this one, visit www.earlymusicguild.org and get on their e-mailing list.

Reviewer Rod Parke can be reached at rmp62@columbia.edu.

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