Jacksons Lane

THE FAIRY QUEEN at Jacksons Lane


“the ensemble company of fourteen young opera singers work tirelessly well together, invested and focused throughout”

There was a lot to like about HGO’s production of The Fairy Queen, including the twelve piece on stage Baroque HGOAntiqua Orchestra led by Seb Gillot, playing Henry Purcell’s semi-opera beautifully.

The Fairy Queen is loosely based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream but in this production it is more a series of dream like Masques, without a through story line.

The five scenes are seen through the eyes’ of a photographer played by Hannah Jessop (a movement specialist, she is the only cast member who never gets to open her mouth to sing). It tells the story through her lens, her photographic fantasy of a classical Athens coming to life. Directed by Eloise Lally, the ensemble company of fourteen young opera singers work tirelessly well together, invested and focused throughout, creating lovely classical tableaux, with each performer getting their chance to shine and sing Purcell’s glorious songs.

There were some wonderful voices on show in this production and the majority of their diction exemplary, something that HGO is renowned for. Chris Murphy has a crisp base baritone and strong comedic timing; Allyn Wu has a rich voice as both Winter and Hymen; Brenhan Alleyne is a tenor to keep an eye on, as still an undergraduate; as is Daisy Livesey as Second Fairy who has a glorious soprano; and the countertenor Richard Decker sings One Charming Night with an exquisite tone – he just needs to find his light in the reflection of the stage mirror as he sings! It would be churlish not to name the whole company: Emily Gibson, Betty Makharinsky, Elspeth Piggott, Amy Kearsley, Garreth Romain, Guy Beynon, Jack Harberd, James Holt. Finally, Issy Bridgeman as Juno, gives a witty performance in act two’s wedding scene, which does get slightly out of hand in this production with a conga dance and a Baroque rendition of YMCA – which went on for too long; with several of the singers not singing out, clearly protecting their voices.

A lot of The Fairy Queen is instrumental and probably would have had a chorus line of many dancers in early productions. Here we have some lovely movement and choreography by Monica Nicolaides, who has drilled the company hard to create interesting almost Greek dancing. Few of the company can seriously dance, but that said, the choreography works very well, and is at its best with the full company up on their feet, as one. For me, dance/movement is something that truly does need to be taught early on in opera studies, so that this new generation of opera singers move better – opera stars do not just stand and sing anymore.

It was a joy to see such beautiful Baroque instruments being played by the HGOAntiqua Orchestra, particularly hearing the three long trumpets, recorders, bass violin, theorbo and harpsichord (so delicate it needed retuning during the interval). One of the highlights was the singer Betty Makharinsky singing If Love’s a Sweet Passion so majestically with oboist Katie Lewis following her round the stage, singer and oboe together – two very strong instruments on show.

To hear and see Henry Purcell’s unique seventeenth century English style in such a vibrant and, yes, charming production, just goes to show how accessible and current Purcell’s music can be.


THE FAIRY QUEEN at Jacksons Lane

Reviewed on 19th April 2024

by Debbie Rich

Photography by Laurent Compagnon




Previously reviewed at this venue:

THIS IS NOT A CIRCUS: 360 | ★★★★★ | October 2023



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