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The Boston Globe


In Handel & Haydn Society’s concert, Purcell’s stage works for a cold winter’s night

The current bout of frigid weather seemed almost made to order for the first half of the Handel and Haydn ­Society’s Jordan Hall program Friday night, directed by Harry Christophers. “Tho quiv’ring with cold we chatter and tremble,” sang the chorus in the Frost Scene from Purcell’s “King ­Arthur.” Moments before, the British bass-baritone Jonathan Best had charismatically sputtered out the pleadings of the Cold Genius (”I can scarcely move or draw my breath”), with the H&H Orchestra flicking staccato ice-crystals behind him. Not to worry, of course: Cupid, naturally, arrives to ­defrost the proceedings.

The scene was just one of many charming moments in a congenial evening that offered a sampler of Purcell’s dramatic works written for the ­London stage. Music from the rarely performed “Indian Queen” received top billing and was the focus of the second half, but Christophers seemed ­determined to find merriment along the way, opening the night with the scene of the drunken poet from “The Fairy Queen.” Here, Best stumbled his way onto stage and bent a rich, flexible bass-baritone around Purcell’s music of poetic inebriation.

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