Madness and passion run through this selection of songs and instrumental numbers by Purcell and his English contemporaries, with Bess of Bedlam, Ophelia, and Dido, spurned queen of Carthage, among the deranged divas in the spotlight.
German soprano Dorothée Mields (above, right) and the Berlin Lautten Compagney treat this repertoire as part of a popular, stage-musical tradition, Purcell being the Restoration’s answer to Andrew Lloyd Webber (indeed, the two composers went to the same school, albeit three centuries apart). The performers swing, swagger and romp their way through this kaleidoscopic sequence, Mields transforming from airy sprite to suicidal queen with convincing ease. Most effective are the ballads and lighter, folksy numbers, where Mields’s agile voice enchants; less compelling is her account of Dido’s lament, which lacks that last ounce
of intensity and gravitas.
Purists may find the ensemble takes a few too many liberties, orchestrating these pieces with a battery of percussion, wind and stringed instruments, but there’s no denying that it’s all done with terrific style and bravura. The plush recording flatters the voice but words are occasionally lost in the echo and the overall effect is rather too churchy for the theatrical numbers. Still, a very fine album.