Synopsis of "The Fairy Queen" Opera

by Lee Johnson Google
The famous English composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695) scored

The famous English composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695) scored "The Fairy Queen."

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"The Fairy Queen" should technically be classed as a semi-opera, because some of the dialogue is spoken and some sung. The main bulk of the dialog and plot is taken directly from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and the music was composed by Henry Purcell. It was first staged at the Queen's Theater in Dorset Garden, London, in 1692. The opera is split into five different acts, all focusing on the misunderstandings of lovers and the disagreement between Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of fairies.

Act One

In act one of "The Fairy Queen," Titania has already left Oberon as a result of a disagreement over her adoption of a small Indian boy. The scene focuses on a drunken poet, who arrives to disrupt a group of fairies singing about the countryside and its joys. The fairies proceed to mock the drunken poet: "punch him, pinch him for his crimes, his nonsense and his doggerel rhymes." The poet eventually leaves as a result of this mockery.

Act Two

The second act is set just after Oberon has ordered the fairy Puck to sprinkle the love-juice (which makes a person fall in love with the first thing he sees after awaking) in Demetrius's eyes, with the aim of getting him to fall in love with Helena. Titania, the fairy queen, and a group of fairies sing in revelry. After this, Night, Mystery, Secrecy and Sleep appear to put them to sleep, giving them pleasant dreams: "Bring pleasing dreams; let nothing stay to give offence."

Act Three

The third act of "The Fairy Queen" begins after Titania has had the love-juice sprinkled in her eyes, to resolve the argument between her and Oberon. When she awakes, the first thing she sees is Bottom, who has been given the head of a donkey by the impish Puck. The act opens on a nymph singing a song about love and its good and bad aspects and is then continued through a conversation between Corydon and Mopsa. Corydon wishes to "kiss the sweet time away," but Mopsa playfully denies him the opportunity.

Act Four

Act four begins with the birthday of the king of fairies, Oberon. After this brief interlude, Pheobus "gives all things a birth" and celebrates the role of nature. This is followed by each of the seasons -- Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter -- singing about its role in the year.

Act Five

The fifth and final act of "The Fairy Queen" begins with the goddess Juno singing a song to two lovers. A Chinese man and woman enter and begin to sing songs about the world's joys, which is followed by two Chinese women summoning Hymen. Hymen sings a song about marriage and the bliss of requited love.

About the Author

Lee Johnson has written for various publications and websites since 2005. His articles have appeared in "Sandman" magazine, the "Crewe Chronicle" and on the website Beyond Hollywood. He is primarily a music journalist but has written on many subjects. Johnson has a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from Manchester Metropolitan University.

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