11 Apr 2006
The Indian Queen—Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Tim Ashley [Guardian, 10 April 2006]
The Indian Queen is Purcell's problem piece. It was written in 1695 and consists of incidental music and masques for an otiose play co-authored by John Dryden and John Howard 30 years previously. The mind-bogglingly complex plot deals with a war between Peru and Mexico, and the eventual ousting of the eponymous queen Zempoalla - usurper of the Peruvian throne, and a woman much given to religious intolerance. Legitimacy of rule and the moral probity of monarchs are the work's central themes: Dryden and Howard were clearly thinking of the restoration of Charles II after Cromwell's Commonwealth. By 1695, however, the play also carried awkward overtones of Protestant triumphalism after the expulsion of Catholic James II.