Mr. Purcell: His Ground

“The Delight of the Nation and the Wonder of the World.”

“Our all-pleasing Britain’s Orpheus.”

“Harry the Great, the Blest!”

Tributes from contemporaries

Mr Purcell: His Ground was commissioned as the graduation show for English National Opera’s performance course ‘The Knack’ (2005-2006). Composer: David Knotts. Librettist: Tamsin Collison

The opera traced a day in the life of overworked Court Composer Henry Purcell. Taking the idea that Purcell was probably the busiest and most exhausted man in London – Court composer, Keeper of King’s Instruments, Organist at Westminster Abbey, Theatre composer, Chorister at the Chapel Royal (bass and counter tenor!), private music teacher, music copyist, music publisher, Court Harpsichordist, Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal, father of 7 (2 surviving)etc. – the piece followed Purcell as he raced around the city, from court to tavern to theatre pit, always one appointment behind where he should be, haunted by the plaintive ghost of his wife. At the end of the opera, as his empty coat falls to the ground amid drifting sheets of manuscript paper, Purcell is revealed to have been the ghost himself, haunting the memory of his grieving wife. (Purcell died at the age of 36, the same age as Mozart. Some say it was because his wife locked him out all night after he stayed too long in a tavern, but it may well have been TB or pneumonia of some kind)

“Sometimes a Hero in an age appears
“But once a Purcell in a thousand years.”

(Henry Hall, Purcell’s boyhood friend)

“If Purcell had lived, he would have composed better music than this.”
(George Frederick Handel c. 1752)

Extract from Mr. Purcell: His Ground

(Queen Mary’s Courtiers introduce Mr. Purcell)

 Scribbler of songs,
Teacher of scales,
Spinner of plates,
Teller of tales.

Singer of psalms,
Whistler of airs,
Weaver of words,
Peddler of wares.

Switcher of hats,
Tuner of strings,
Comrade of rogues,
Servant of Kings.

Scratcher of notes,
Juggler of balls,
Jack of nine trades,
Master of all.

Stringer of bows,
Fixer of flutes,
Cleaner of pipes,
Mender of lutes.

Snatcher of scraps,
Bender of rules,
Clutcher of straws,
Critic of fools.

Speaker of truths,
Copier of parts,
Seller of smut,
Breaker of hearts.

Stroller of streets,
Friend of the stage,
Patron of pubs,
Flower of the Age.

Production Pictures