By John Harle and David Pountney

ANGEL MAGICK’ was the first opera written on the subject of Dr Dee by the composer and saxophonist JOHN HARLE, with a libretto by DAVID POUNTNEY. It was commissioned by the BBC Proms in 1995, and was performed for a season at the Salisbury Festival and at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in 1998 in fully-staged versions. The score took two years to complete, and consists of 350 pages of musical full-score, in A1 size. It was written in ink and pencil, with illustrations. The video extracts below follow the original score, kindly lent to us by John Harle.
(The Council of The Areopagus)



THE FOUR CASTLES From Angel Magick




Director - David Pountney
Choreographer - Ian Spink
Set Designer - Paul Bonomini
Costume Designer - Marie-Jeanne Lecca
Lighting Designer - David Cunningham
Associate Director - Emma Jenkins
Sound Design - Sound Intermedia
Production Manager - Robert Pagett
Stage Managers - Jocelyn Bundy/Kate Palmer/Richard Haddon
Costume Supervisors - Karen Creighton/Froo Gauger
Wigs and Make-up - Victoria Peters


Dr Dee - Christopher Good (actor)
Edward Kelley - Donald Maxwell (baritone)
Sir Philip Sidney - William Purefoy (counter-tenor)
Edmund Spenser - Jaqueline Miura (mezzo-soprano)
Queen Elizabeth 1 - Sarah Leonard (soprano)
Giordano Bruno - Andrew Forbes-Lane (tenor)
Jane Dee - Lucy Burge (dancer)
Joan Kelley - Jan Pearson (actress)
Voice of the Planets - Jim Carter (actor)


Conductor - John Harle
The Bauhaus Band
Andrew Crowley/Paul Archibald (trumpets) David Purser (trombone) Richard Edwards (bass trombone) Gareth Brady/Christian Forshaw/ Simon Haram/Tim Lines (saxophones) Gary Carpenter (keyboards) James Woodrow (electric and acoustic guitars) Peter Wilson (bass guitar) Helen Tunstall (harp) Paul Clarvis/Gary Kettel/ Frank Ricotti/Chris Wells (percussion)
Fretwork (Viol Consort)
Richard Boothby/Richard Campbell/Wendy Gillespie/Julia Hodgson/ William Hunt/Susanna Pell

Production photos

Costume Designs

Press and Reviews


ANGEL MAGICK is a moving affirmation of the humanist spirit contained in the English renaissance. And it was - perhaps surprisingly, given the complexity of the ideas involved - transfiguringly good. The music never upstaged the carefully wrought unity of the performance as a whole. Angel Magik was, in the words of Sir Philip Sidney, a delight from start to finish.



The composer John Harle and his librettist David Pountney have made an opera of the proper sort, and one which almost breaks the rules of the genre by appearing to work as drama as well as music. Spells are cast, angels are summoned, and the characters exchange views on the music of the spheres and other recondite matters, but as singers and actors in a theatrical space they succeed in holding your attention...Angel Magick proved to be a resounding success. The non-singing role of Dr Dee provided a satisfyingly down-to-earth centre for the airy perorations of the other principals to revolve around. The music served the purposes of the drama admirably, and it remained suitably rigorous in its attention to historical detail while never descending into the kind of cod-Elizabethan pastiche that could have been expected.

Angels at the Albert Hall
This summer's Proms presents its first operatic commission in the shape of an innovative piece by saxophonist and composer John Harle. To a libretto by David Pountney, and using a flamboyant cast of singers, an actor, dancer and 22-piece orchestra incorporating the viol consort Fretwork, Harle's Angel Magick, subtitled A Scientific Ritual in Seven Parts, explores the strange world of Elizabethan astrologer and alchemist John Dee. With a libretto drawn from Dee's own writings as well as contemporary literature, Angel Magick follows the magus's attempt, aided by his sidekick, the sinister and Mephistopholean Edward Kelley, to converse with angels. "Angels do, indeed, appear," says Harle, "though some are of the fallen variety. In fact, a major subtext of the piece concerns Dee's attempt to overreach himself as he finds himself dabbling in a territory over which he has no control." In addition to the black-magic aspects, a spot of wife-swapping occurs to keep the diabolic dimension merrily bubbling along. Though Harle is adamant that he is not setting out to be sensationalist for its own sake, Angel Magick is a bizarre, exotic, perhaps Gothic musico-dramatic exploration of what actually occurred or might have occurred". Already premiered in a preview to considerable acclaim at the Salisbury Festival, Angel Magick seems to be just the right sort of forward-thinking new piece the Proms needs.

Letter to the Guardian - 5th July 2011
Dave Simpson gives a fascinating account of Damon Albarn's opera Dr Dee (G2, 5 July), but he is wrong to describe John Dee as a figure "barely known outside academic circles before this unusual platform". Since the 1970s Dee has been frequently represented in popular and avant-garde art forms. He appears as a character in novels, for example, by Peter Ackroyd, John Crowley, Michael Moorcock, Dorothy Dunnett, Michael Scott Rohan and Phil Rickman, as well as in the graphic novels of Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore. He featured in Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth: The Golden Age, as well as in one of the episodes of Elizabeth R, and played a particularly important framing role in Derek Jarman's punk film, Jubilee. There are two plays about him, Stephen Lowe's The Alchemical Wedding and Richard Byrne's Burn Your Bookes, and one previous opera, John Harle's Angel Magick. The two aspects of Dee's long career which seem of most interest to modern artists are his attempts to converse with angels and the episode where (following angelic instruction) he agreed to swap wives with his assistant Kelly. Professor Rowland Wymer Anglia Ruskin University