The re-founding of the traditions of the Chapels Royal after the 1660 Restoration to the throne of England of King Charles II (1630 – 1685) brought music of excellence before the public who rejoiced in the opportunity to hear sacred and secular musical entertainments on a grand scale. Composer Henry Purcell’s flair and understanding of theatre produced rare musical gestures that combined both Italian and French stylistic influences.
Just three years before his death aged 35 he composed the delicate dance of the Chinese man and Chinese woman, which reveals the lilting grace of his music. It was composed for the masque the Fairy Queen whose score was lost following his death until the early twentieth century when a copy was discovered. The libretto for the Fairy Queen was an anonymous adaptation of Will Shakespeare’s wedding comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream and it delighted audiences then as it still does now.
Today it features among a rich legacy of sacred and secular works, that includes the one great true opera that graces English musical history, Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.