The Fairy-Queen

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The Fairy-Queen (1692; Purcell catalogue number Z.629) is a masque or semi-opera by Henry Purcell; a "Restoration spectacular". The libretto is an anonymous adaptation of William Shakespeare's wedding comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream. First performed in 1692, The Fairy-Queen was composed three years before Purcell's death at the age of 35. Following his death, the score was lost and only rediscovered early in the twentieth century.

Purcell did not set any of Shakespeare's text to music; instead he composed music for short masques in every act but the first. The play itself was also slightly modernised in keeping with seventeenth-century dramatic conventions, but in the main the spoken text is as Shakespeare wrote it. The masques are related to the play metaphorically, rather than literally. Many critics have stated erroneously that they bear no relationship to the play, but recent scholarship has shown that the opera, which ends with a masque featuring Hymen, the God of Marriage, was actually composed for the fifteenth wedding anniversary of William and Mary.

Growing interest in Baroque music and the rise of the countertenor contributed to the work's re-entry into the repertoire. The opera received several full-length recordings in the latter part of the 20th century and several of its arias, including "The Plaint" ("O let me weep"), have become popular recital...
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