King Arthur

Delightful! That's the only valid attribute for the performance of Henry Purcell's semi staged opera King Arthur, the dress rehearsal of which I am just returning from. The Hochschule für Musik and the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis of the Musikakademie Basel are staging this only this weekend (which is an incomprehensible waste of preparation), and unfortunately, all three performances are already completely sold.

Just to get it off my chest before I start: This is a music student performance, so it's not perfect in terms of technique and interpretation. But these occasional deficits are more than made up for by the palpable enthusiasm of everybody involved. Purcell's libretto offers many opportunities for a creative director's setting of imaginative tableaux and Thomas Schneider uses them all. Wonderful how the lascivous mood of act IV is captured in frivolous stills. The grand finale of act V with a slapstick comedy duel between King Arthur and Oswald, both played by the same actor and a victory celebration in the form of a music show entitled A song for England is just the icing on the cake for a great contemporary interpretation of this unabashedly rough 17th century material full of wonderful tunes. There's a definite whiff of the last night of the Proms with waving of the Union Jack in the air in that vivid and comic closing act when the three Earl Greys have their cuppa, complete with strutting little fingers, or when four drunk English football hooligans coarsely crow their Your hay it is mow'd into the audience. Here are the funniest parts, recorded in awful quality on my phone. If you don't have a ticket already - your loss! Otherwise: don't miss it - or hand over that ticket already!

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