Dance and the pastoral in English Opera; Eccles, Purcell, and others

One of the interesting features of late 17th - and early 18th –century English opera was extent to which it drew on aspects of the pastoral. The pastoral scenes, usually involving shepherds and shepherdesses, were often neutral, or simply presented as an entertainment; sometimes, they provided comic diversions, such as that in the scene of Corydon and Mopsa in Purcell's 1692 The Fairy-Queen. It is also noticeable, however, that the pastoral themes are often expressed in dance as well, and drawing distinctions between the different types of dance, this paper will examine what defined a pastoral, how the pastoral was adapted for theatre dance, and will try and identify conventions for its use in opera in late 17th-century and early 18th century England.

Michael Burden
Symposium Title: 
Dance and the Pastoral - 2005
Author affiliation: 
New College, Oxford