The Indian Queen (opera)

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The Indian Queen (Z. 630), is a semi-opera in five acts with music by Henry Purcell, first performed at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London in 1695. The libretto is a revised version of the play "The Indian Queen" (1664) by John Dryden and his brother-in-law Sir Robert Howard.

It was Purcell's last semi-opera. The performance history of the piece is uncertain. The exact date of premiere is unknown but Peter Holman surmises it may have been performed in June, without the Masque in Act 5, which had to be completed after Purcell's death in November by his brother Daniel.[1]


The original play was premiered in 1664. In 1694 Thomas Betterton was given £50 to transform it into an opera, he commissioned Purcell to compose the music.[2][3]

The Indian Queen is one of Purcell's less often performed stage works. This is probably more a reflection of the incomplete state of the score rather than the quality of the music.

In the twenty-first century there was a major new production by Tchaikovsky Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre (Perm), Teatro Real (Madrid), and English National Opera (London). Peter Sellars completely rewrote the text to tell the story of the Spanish Conquista. He drew on a book by the Nicaraguan writer Rosario Aguilar. This version, with designs by Gronk, was premiered at Perm in 2013. It was performed at the Teatro Real in 2014, when Sellars said spectators who responded negatively, especially to the end of the first part where Indians are machine-gunned by Spanish soldiers, “don’t understand that a work like this is about trying to complete a journey together through difficult issues and history.” [4]


Some years before the Spanish Conquest, in Central America - the court then war conflict between kings of Peru and Mexico.

Musical numbers[edit]

  • Movt. 1, 1st Music, (Air and Hornpipe)
  • Movt. 2, 2nd Music, (Air and Hornpipe)
  • Movt. 3, Overture, (Grave and Canzon)
  • Prologue
    • Movt. 4a, Trumpet Tune
    • Movt. 4b, Aria, "Wake Quivera, wake"
    • Movt. 4c, Prelude
    • Movt. 4d, Aria, "Why should men quarrel"
  • Act 2
    • Movt. 5, Symphony
    • Movt. 6, Aria and Chorus, "I come to sing great Zempoalla's story"
    • Movt. 7, Trio, "What flatt'ring noise is this"
    • Movt. 8, Trumpet tune
    • Movt. 9, Symphony
    • Movt. 10, Dance
    • Movt. 11, 2nd Act Music (Trumpet Tune reprise)
  • Act 3
    • Movt. 12, Dance
    • Movt. 13, Aria, "Ye twice ten hundred deities"
    • Movt. 14, Symphony
    • Movt. 15, Aria, "Seek not to know what must not be reveal'd"
    • Movt. 16, Trumpet Overture (Canzon and Adagio)
    • Movt. 17a, Duet and Quartet, "Ah! Ah! How happy are we!"
    • Movt. 18, 3rd Act Tune (Rondeau)
    • Movt. 19, Aria, "They tell us that you mighty powers above"
    • Movt. 20, 4th Act Tune
    • Movt. 21a, Prelude and Chorus, "While thus we bow before your shrine"
    • Movt. 21b, Aria, "You who at the altar stand"
    • Movt. 21c, Prelude
    • Movt. 21d, Chorus, "All dismal sounds thus on these off'rings wait"
    • Movt. 22, Air



  1. ^ Peter Holman Henry Purcell (Oxford University Press, 1994) p.219
  2. ^ The Indian Queen
  3. ^ C.A. Price. Henry Purcell and the London Stage
  4. ^ Minder, R. (2014). "Spain's Conquest of America as Opera". New York Times. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  • Holden, Amanda (Ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2001 ISBN 0-14-029312-4
  • Warrack, John and West, Ewan, The Oxford Dictionary of Opera New York: OUP: 1992 ISBN 0-19-869164-5

External links[edit]