horizontal line

Daniel Purcell’s The Judgment of Paris is one of four operas composed in 1701 for a competition to further ‘The Encouragement of Musick’, or, more precisely, all-sung English opera. By a nice conceit, the subject chosen for William Congreve’s libretto was itself a legendary competition, that between the goddesses Pallas, Juno and Venus to win the golden apple from Paris. There were four entrants in 1701: Purcell (probably the brother of Henry), John Eccles, John Weldon and German immigrant Gottfried Finger. Their efforts were judged following lavishly staged performances at the Dorset Gardens Theatre and – to general surprise – the award was given to Weldon, the youngest and least experienced of the four.

Three of the four scores have survived (Finger’s is lost), the most elaborate setting being that by Purcell. Scored for lavish forces including timpani and trumpets, with many instrumental ‘symphonies’ the music is recognisably ‘Purcellian’. The vocal writing is also more ambitiously conceived, with profuse divisions and many a melismatic flourish. The florid writing is extremely well handled here by a splendid cast, Samuel Boden’s Paris and Ashley Riches’ Mercury in particular, while the opera is directed by Julian Perkins with verve and wit. If my vote would probably still go to Eccles’ more classically restrained setting, the Purcell makes for a fine runner-up.

Brian Robins Read the full review on Agora Classica

   Read full review   

To continue reading, please upgrade to a premium account. You will have immediate full access.

Read more classical music reviews online here:

Early Music Today, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing