Henry Purcell (1659−1695)

Semi-opera by John Dryden and Henry Purcell

In tackling the chivalric legend of King Arthur, the writer John Dryden and the composer Henry Purcell turned to a myth about the foundation of England as a nation and elaborated a subject that offered numerous points of reference during politically turbulent periods. Conceived as a semi-opera, it involved musical episodes interpolated into the spoken drama and commenting on the action. Passages of music involving dancing and stage action served to link the story together. It was with this challenging concept of music theatre that Dryden and Purcell impressed their audience at King Arthur’s first performances in London in 1691. Thomas Hengelbrock has prepared a performing version of the work that condenses the text and weaves together the words and the breath-taking music to create a new and compelling format. The Scottish actor Graham F. Valentine plays all the characters in an impressive and incomparable way. The members of the Balthasar Neumann Choir demonstrate not only their musical strengths but also their acting abilities and, by using the simplest of means, transport us into a world filled with poetry and drama.


“Twenty-two insanely gifted singers, sometimes performing en masse as a choir, sometimes as soloists, and all the time acting, dancing, grieving, fighting, driving people mad as ghosts, freezing in winter, falling in love and striking nationalist poses. This physical theatre effortlessly relocates Purcell’s music and places it firmly in the twenty-first century.” WESTDEUTSCHER RUNDFUNK

“What Hengelbrock achieves with his orchestra is so fantastic that it sends a shiver down your spine.” WESTFÄLISCHE NACHRICHTEN

“The spoken word and a fully-composed drama are woven together by Thomas Hengelbrock to create a form of contemporary and exciting music theatre. The Balthasar Neumann Ensemble plays with feathery lightness but also with spirit, and one can only admire their tone and verve.” KÖLNISCHE RUNDSCHAU

“This type of performance is possible only with an orchestra and a choir that can do everything asked of them. Hengelbrock has prepared them admirably. Purcell’s great music is in the best possible hands.” BADISCHE ZEITUNG


Constanze Backes Soprano
Andrea Brown Soprano
Simone Kermes Soprano
Laurie Reviol Soprano
Benoît Haller Tenor
Henning Kaiser Tenor
Manfred Bittner Bass
Marek Rzepka Bass
Petteri Salomaa Bass
Graham F. Valentine Narrator

Balthasar Neumann Choir and soloists
Balthasar Neumann Ensemble
Thomas Hengelbrock Concept, Stage and Musical Direction


Baden-Baden, Bottrop, Brüssel, Dortmund, Lörrach, Ludwigsburg, Köln