Glyndebourne Open House

The Fairy Queen

Watch Purcell's The Fairy Queen online for free from Sunday 23 August

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About the opera

One charming night…

Taking us from rowdiest, raunchiest comedy to bewitching beauty and pathos, Purcell’s The Fairy Queen is a theatrical fantasy unlike any other. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream finds itself at the centre of a sequence of musical apparitions and conjurings – fairies romp and play, animals dance and mortals are manipulated by the gods. Through it all, love and desire weave their irresistible spell.

Purcell’s score brings everything from English choral writing to Italian laments and French dances together in a rich musical tapestry. There’s comedy from lusty shepherds and tenderness from separated lovers – a musical story that winds around Shakespeare’s play and characters to create an exhilarating fusion of theatre, music and dance.

Jonathan Kent’s ‘delectable’ production opens up a 17th-century cabinet of curiosities to reveal the contemporary magic within, working with conductor William Christie and a cast including Lucy Crowe, Carolyn Sampson and Ed Lyon to find the anarchic energy at the heart of this unusual work.

The Fairy Queen was captured live at Festival 2009. It is available on DVD from our shop.

Preview videos

Creative team

William Christie

Jonathan Kent

Assistant Director
Francesca Gilpin

Paul Brown

Kim Brandstrup

Lighting Designer
Mark Henderson

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

The Glyndebourne Chorus

Chorus Master
Oliver Gooch



Miriam Allan, Lucy Crowe, Claire Debono, Anna Devin, Helen-Jane Howells, Rachel Redmond, Carolyn Sampson

Robert Burt, Sean Clayton, Ed Lyon, Adrian Ward

Lukas Kargl, John Mackenzie

Desmond Barrit, Andrew Foster-Williams

William Gaunt

Terrence Hardiman

Helen Bradbury

Susannah Wise

Oliver le Sueur

Oliver Kieran Jones

Sally Dexter

Joseph Millson

Jotham Annan

Changeling Boy
Taliesin Knight

Desmond Barrit

Robert Burt

Paul McCleary

Jack Chissick

Brian Pettifer

Roger Sloman

Laura Caldow, Nuno Campos, Tommy Franzen, Omar Gordon, Anthony Kurt-Gabel, Caroline Lynn, Maurizio Montis, Sarah Stoner

Photos: Alastair Muir


Act I

In accordance with the law, Theseus requires Demetrius to marry Hermia, as her father, Egeus, wishes. But Hermia is in love with Lysander, while Demetrius is the unwilling object of Helena’s love. To avoid Theseus’s edict, Hermia and Lysander flee the town, pursued by Demetrius and Helena. Meanwhile, some tradesmen are preparing a play to celebrate the expected wedding and arrange to meet for rehearsals in a nearby wood. Titania, the fairy queen, comes into the wood to hide a changeling boy from her jealous husband, Oberon. The lovers and the tradesmen blunder into the wood and are tormented by Titania’s attendants.


Act II

Oberon and Titania confront each other and, refusing to forfeit the changeling boy, Titania leaves Oberon, who plots with Puck to revenge himself on her by administering a love potion, which will make her fall in love with the first thing she sees on waking. Oberon overhears a quarrel between the lovers, and instructs Puck to use the potion on them as well.

The Masque of Sleep

Titania is prepared for sleep.

Allegorical figures of Night, Mystery, Secrecy and Sleep appear to her.



The tradesmen are rehearsing their play in the wood. Puck transforms Bottom into an ass, frightening off the other workmen. Titania wakes and becomes besotted with Bottom.

The Masque of Seduction

Titania entertains Bottom with a masque which presents the delights of sensual love, with images from pastoral life.



Act IV

Oberon brings the rightful pairs of lovers back together and releases Titania from the spell.

The Masque of the New Day

The fairy monarch’s reconciliation is celebrated with a masque of renewal. Phoebus, the Sun, appears and presents the seasons.


Act V

Theseus discovers the lovers in the wood and, finding that Demetrius no longer loves Hermia, overrules Egeus’s demands and arranges a wedding for the lovers. The tradesmen present their play in celebration of the marriage.

The Masque of Marriage

The lovers are instructed by Juno in the delights and perils of matrimony. They are presented with images of hope, loss and innocence. Hymen eventually appears to officiate.

The finale

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