Enter a musical world of Britons and Saxons, soldiersand shepherdesses, and a rich cast of supernatural characters from Norse and Greek mythology, in music from Henry Purcell’s semi-opera, King Arthur, on Saturday, July 8, 7 pm at St. Mary the Virgin Church, 1701 Elgin Road in Oak Bay. Entry is by donation at the door, and all are welcome.

This semi-informal concert, with orchestra, wraps up a six-day SummerVoices choral workshop led by Victoria Philharmonic Choir music director Peter Butterfield, voice coaches Sarah Fryer and Gary Relyea, and choreographer David Roland. The performance features more than 50 singers in all, and the 20-plus solo roles, whether nymphs, goddesses, or soldiers who have perhaps enjoyed too much mead, will be sung by workshop participants. These include members of VPC as well as the wider choral community, some UVic voice students and a sprinkling of professional singers. The audience also gets a glimpse of the dance style common in theatrical productions of the late 17th century.

Purcell’s version of the King Arthur legend, first performed in London in 1691, is completely unrelated to the plot of the recently-released Hollywood film, or even the familiar Camelot story, though Merlin does make an appearance! It is a setting of poet John Dryden’s libretto which follows Arthur's attempts to rescue his fiancée, the Cornish Princess Emmeline, who has been abducted by his arch-enemy, the Saxon King Oswald of Kent.
Purcell’s harmonies were considered quite radical at the time, but King Arthur has become known as one of his most lyrical works, and is a delightful summer evening entertainment.



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