In Guilty Night (Z.134)

Saul and the Witch of Endor

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)

for soprano (f'-a''flat), tenor (f-a'flat), and bass (G-a'flat) solos, and bc

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This dramatic work, described as a Paraphrase when it was published by Henry Playford, is based on the biblical story of the ghost of Samuel being raised by the witch at the behest of the king, Saul. The desperate king, sung by the tenor, comes to the Witch (soprano) by night and in disguise. Overcoming her misgivings, he gets her to summon up the ghost of the prophet Samuel to foretell his fate. Samuel, sung by the bass, appears from the nether regions, to prophesy in doom-laden terms. Purcell exploits the drama to the full: the scene is set by the sombre opening chorus the exchanges between the characters are full of tension and suspense and it finishes with a chorus where, as Peter Holman writes,Purcell picked out the word ‘farewell’