The Fairy Queen
by Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Come, let us leave the Town
And in some lonely place,
Where Crowds and Noise were never known,
Resolve to spend our days.

27-29 May 2016, 8:00 pm
Special pre-show chat at 7:15 each night
Friday & Saturday SOLD OUT. Please call 416-410-4561 to be added to our waiting list.
Sunday: limited availability.

The Arts & Letters Club, 14 Elm Street, Toronto
Steps from the Dundas St. subway station

The Great Hall of the Arts & Letters Club is the magnificent location for Toronto Masque Theatre’s new interpretation of Henry Purcell’s The Fairy Queen. A popular entertainment in its day, this 17th-century masterpiece is re-imagined by director and choreographer Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière who casts the themes of the work into a contemporary setting, creating a new scenario that follows the fate of a number of lost souls in search of love, happiness and meaning. Lacoursière uses the precision of baroque dance to explore the passion that informs and drives Purcell’s stunning music.

The production will feature an all-star baroque ensemble, led from the violin by Artistic Director Larry Beckwith, a company of some of our finest singers and, from the Montreal-based Les Jardins Chorégraphiques, dancers Stéphanie Brochard and Lacoursière.


Juliet Beckwith
Vania Chan
Charlotte Knight
Janelle Lapalme

Simon Honeyman

Cory Knight
Jonathan MacArthur

Alexander Dobson
Graham Robinson

Stéphanie Brochard
Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière

An all-star instrumental ensemble led from the violin by Artistic Director Larry Beckwith, featuring:

Sylvain Bergeron, lute
Valerie Gordon, violin
Gillian Howard, oboe and recorder
Noam Krieger, harpsichord
Stephen Marvin, viola
Kerri McGonnigle, cello
Alison Melville, recorder

Lighting Design by Gabriel Cropley
Directed by and choreographed Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière


Background on The Fairy Queen
Based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Purcell wrote the music for The Fairy Queen in 1692. Although we don’t know for sure who the librettist is, it has often been speculated that it was the actor and impresario, Thomas Betterton.

Our new production features a seamless scenario that focuses on the brilliant musical numbers, allowing us to present the compositions Purcell created for the original and that rank among his very best, including some of his most familiar solo songs such as:

  • If love’s a sweet passion;
  • Hark, the echoing air;
  • Night;
  • Ye gentle spirits of the air,
  • Now the night is chas’d away; and
  • One charming night.

As well as fantastic ensemble numbers:

  • Come, let us leave the town;
  • the dialogue of Corydon and Mopsa; and
  • the brilliant final trio.

The first performances of The Fairy Queen were so successful that the production was brought back in 1693. After those shows, and following Purcell’s untimely death two years later, the full score was for a long time considered lost. Although efforts were made to locate the score – including, apparently, several ads in London papers in the early 1700s offering rewards for its safe return – it wasn’t until 1900 that the score was fully recovered.

After this discovery, the score was included in the Purcell Society’s editions of his complete works and, throughout the 20thcentury, it emerged as one of Purcell’s most beloved pieces. With the advent of the early music revival in the 1960s and 70s the quality of the products improved immensely and there have been many fine recordings of The Fairy Queen by leading early music companies.

Any production of The Fairy Queen has to grapple with what to do with the spoken text.  Despite coming almost a century after the original, the text featured in The Fairy Queen is somewhat more convoluted and antiquated-sounding than Shakespeare’s original.  In addition, a full production, using all the spoken text, would last as long as six hours. 

With this production, Artistic Director Larry Beckwith and Artistic Associate Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière have decided to focus on the music and the splendid dances that they believe form the emotional heart of the work.

Henry Purcell: a biographical sketch
Born in 1659 to a musical family, Henry Purcell came of age during the Restoration of the English monarchy, a period of tremendously rich artistic rebirth.

As a member of the Chapel Royal, where he was trained as a boy chorister, he came into contact with the leading musicians of the day: including John Cooke, Pelham Humphrey, Matthew Locke and John Blow.  Their influence, along with Purcell’s great natural talent, helped him to become accomplished in all styles and genres of music of the time. His early fantasias for viol consort are sublime, his sacred music for choir is first-rate and he quickly developed a gift for writing devotional and secular songs for both the chamber and the theatre.

Purcell served three monarchies: Charles II, James II and William and Mary. For all three reigns, he provided ceremonial and occasional music, including the birthday odes for Queen Mary and her funeral sentences.

On top of his busy life as a court composer, he was organist and choirmaster at both the Chapel Royal and Westminster Abbey, as well as gaining prominence as a composer of music for theatre. Throughout the 1680s, he supplied a steady stream of songs, music for dance and more elaborate musical scenes for stage plays and spectacles.

By 1690, he was writing a new form of full-evening entertainment known as “semi-operas”: full plays interspersed with operatic-length scenes. Of these, the Purcell-John Dryden collaboration on King Arthur along with The Fairy Queen are masterpieces of the genre.

$50 General
$43 (65 and over)
$20 (30 and under)

BY PHONE: 416-410-4561

Friday 27 May 2016, 8pm SOLD OUT. Please call 416-410-4561 to be added to our waiting list
Saturday 28 May 2016, 8 pm SOLD OUT. Please call 416-410-4561 to be added to our waiting list
Sunday 29 May 2016, 8 pm Limited availability