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The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's wild epic poem is (re)mixed with music by Henry Purcell to create an immersive journey through calm seas, auspicious gales and supernatural elements.
London, Southbank Centre's Queen Elizabeth Hall



Music by Purcell
from The Fairy Queen, King Arthur, The Tempest, Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, Dido and Aeneas, Dioclesian, Hail Bright Cecilia, Come Ye Sons of Art, The Gordion Knot Unty’d, ‘Hear my prayer, o Lord’, Evening Hymn and Chacony in G minor.

Rory Kinnear narrator
Zoe Brookshaw soprano
Bethany Horak-Hallett mezzo
Jeremy Budd tenor
Jonathan Brown bass
Steven Devine director


6.00pm in the Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer with Katharina Spreckelsen (OAE Principal Oboe who has curated this evening’s concert), Steven Devine (director/harpsichord) and Rory Kinnear (narrator).

Travel and the idea of leaving of home left a deep impression on the British mindset in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Purcell imagined distant worlds – timeless and brave, new and old – in his operas The Fairy Queen, King Arthur, The Tempest and Dido and Aeneas. In this programme Purcell’s music is curated by our musicians to provide a dramatic counterpoint to a reading of ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by actor Rory Kinnear.

The promise of adventure on the high seas as a symbol for spiritual discovery is found throughout literature of the Enlightenment. Think Candide, Gulliver’s Travels and the emergence of the travelogue. It reached a peak around the time of Captain James Cook’s expeditions to Australia and Antarctica, and with the publication of ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ in 1798. There’s a reminder too that there were was often a dark side and consequences for those caught up in these expeditions.