2014, The Dances in Dioclesian: The Dorset Garden Theatre as performance space

During the Restoration years between 1670 and 1700, London Theatres were awash with experimentation. Among these experiments were a series of lavish dramas that included dancing and music along with spectacular sets and scenic effects. The three ‘semi-operas’ now attributed to the genius composer Henry Purcell are among the most striking of these ‘Restoration spectaculars’ Here we consider Purcell’s opera Dioclesian, first performed in 1690 in the Dorset Garden Theatre. What were the special characteristics of this theatre as a performance space that enabled this work to be presented as ‘spectacle’? In particular, the paper will consider the ways in which both music and dance exploited the facilities of this theatre to enhance the drama.

Bill Tuck