Purcell’s Playhouse

Purcell’s Playhouse


Experience a musical «double bill» from 17th-century England, where art music and popular songs and dances mingled and merged in the pubs and bars of the day.

This evening’s concerts are the result of a new collaboration between the Edvard Grieg Vokalensemble and Barokksolistene, led by Norwegian baroque violinist Bjarte Eike. British soprano Mary Bevan is this evening’s special guest.

Mary Bevan, soprano (photo: Victoria Cadisch)

In the first part of the evening – Purcell’s Playground – we hear a musical portrait of one of England’s greatest composers. HenryPurcell’s unique musical style captured the essence of the political dramas of his time, presenting his material with typically sharp British humour; he was also one of the great musical interpreters of Shakespeare and other contemporary writers. In this concert, Barokksolistene and the Edvard Grieg Vokalensemble create their own interpretations of Purcell’s rich oeuvre, including excerpts from the operas Dido and Aeneas and The Fairy Queen, sacred music and secular songs and dances.

Purcell’s Playground (photo: Anja Koehler)

Afterwards we make our way to the tavern (this evening in the form of Grieghallen’s foyer), where one in the 17th century might often find a little stage hidden in a back room. When Oliver Cromwell closed the theatres of England in 1642, performing artists moved their work into the pubs. Guests of the day could encounter improvised shows in which actors, dancers and musicians performed a mixture of art music, drama and folk pieces. These became hugely popular, and even after the theatres opened, such informal concerts continued – becoming an important source of both income for performers and artistic exchange.
Bjarte Eike, Barokksolistene and the Edvard Grieg Vokalensemble bring us a show straight from the 1600s – probably with beers in hand.

Bjarte Eike and Barokksolistene have whipped up a storm throughout Europe and the USA with The Alehouse Sessions and related concepts.

The Spectator’s reviewer summed up the atmosphere after an Alehouse performance in London’s Temple: “… you haven’t lived until you’ve heard a hall full of pinstriped QCs bellowing like dockers …”

Recordings of The Alehouse Sessions (2017) and its successor The Playhouse Sessions (released in September 2022) have been warmly received by reviewers in the Norwegian and international press. The Playhouse Sessions was recently «Editor’s Choice» in Gramophone Magazine, and has at the time of writing received rave reviews in British, German, Dutch and Italian media.