Friday Fun: When I have often heard young maids complaining (Purcell)

I know, I know, it’s more Purcell.  Anyone would think I had no imagination at all.  But the thing with Purcell is that if you are looking for gorgeous church music, there he is, writing it.  If you are looking for delicate, beautiful artsong, there’s Purcell again, writing that, too.  If you are looking for opera, or drunken rounds with impeccable music, he’s your man.

So it’s hardly a surprise that when you are in search of hilariously funny opera – in English, too, which does give us more scope, don’t you think? – Purcell is one of the names that comes up.

Incidentally, if you are watching this at work, you may want to switch it off as soon as the initial aria is finished.  The aria itself is mildly naughty, but the naughtiness is largely from the words.  What happens after the aria is probably not something you want the boss watching over your shoulder.  (There’s no nudity, but it is still decidedly not safe for work)

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  I’m not sure Purcell intended the bunnies, but I’m certain he would have approved.  But – if you can still remember it after the alarming bunny bonkfest – how about that delightfully coy aria, then?  I do love the logic of it… This aria is sung by a random fairy in Purcell’s pleasingly silly version of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  One gets the impression that Purcell wasn’t taking this opera very seriously.  It includes a lot of random dances, a very drunk aria by one of the Mechanicals (presumably Bottom), who is attacked by fairies who pinch him for his bad poetry, and a duet between bass and falsetto tenor called “No Kissing At All”, which is much favoured by my choir director (it starts about two thirds of the way through this clip here).

And in between, it has some of the most gorgeous arias Purcell wrote.

I’ve never seen this opera performed (though I note that this particular performance is now available on DVD, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it), and it must be said that the music on its own doesn’t really tell a coherent story.  In fact, I gather this work tends to be described as a semi-opera, since the operatic numbers are interspersed with dances, masques, and non-musical scenes which feature Shakespeare’s text.  Frankly, to a Shakespeare and Purcell fan like me, it sounds like about the most fun thing ever, bunnies or no bunnies.

(I have to say though, those bunnies have scarred me for life…)

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