The Indian Queen

The Indian Queen

Joanne Lunn, Julia Gooding & Tone Braaten (sopranos)
Christopher Robson & Mark Chambers (countertenors)
Andrew King & Joseph Cornwell (tenors)
Michael George, Simon Grant & Mark Rowlinson (bass-baritones)

New London Consort:
Mark Bennett (trumpet)
Adrian Bending (kettledrums)
Louise Strickland & Heather Moger (recorders)
Gail Hennessy & Hilary Stock (oboes)
Sally Holman (bassoon)
Adrian Chandler & Sarah Moffatt (violins)
Peter Collyer (viola)
Catherine Finnis (bass violin)
David Roblou (harpsichord)
Paula Chateauneuf (theorbo)
Philip Pickett

Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter

Reviewed: 6 April, 2006
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

“The Indian Queen” was originally a straight play, first performed in 1664. Forty years later, Betterton and Henry Purcell devised this ‘operatic’ version, adding lyrics and music to a truncated original. From a mish-mash of surviving scripts, Philip Pickett has assembled a usable text.In stentorian voice, Edward de Souza narrated the bare bones and some of the lyrics of the highly complex plot. Interspersed with this – and not always where one might have expected, since the music for several numbers is missing – we heard purely instrumental sections as well as solos, duets and choruses. There was a list of dramatis personae, but, unfortunately, no matching of individual singers’ names to the characters.

Within the instrumental ensemble, the strings were a little thin but benefited from the Paula Chateauneuf’s engaging theorbo playing and David Roblou’s omnipresent harpsichord. The participation of brass and woodwinds rounded the sound out even further, although the trumpet tended to dominate when pressed into service – which, wisely, was not very often.

Of the singers, the sopranos made most impact. Each in her own way was pleasing to hear – giving us a clear, bell-like tone that was comfortable, articulate and stylish. There was no hint of strain or vibrato. The bass-baritones were rather more of a mixed bag, with Michael George sounding rather reedy, except for some pleasant and silky lower notes (whenever the tempo gave him the time and space to produce them). Countertenor Christopher Robson sounded a little too old and sedate for the boy he sang in the first duet but he had a sure sense of style; tenors Andrew King and Joseph Cornwell sang a very pleasing duet just before the interval.

The show-stopper, however, was the masque “TWO MARRIED PEOPLE (and Hymen)” written principally for soprano and bass-baritone by “Mr Daniel Purcell (Mr Henry Purcell being dead)”. As Philip Pickett robustly argues, Purcell’s plays with music look forward to Gilbert & Sullivan and American musicals, rather than seeking to imitate baroque contemporaries across the Channel, such as Lully and Rameau.

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