Monday, 11 February 2008

54. Henry Purcell - Dido And Aeneas (1683 or 1689)


Title: Dido & Aeneas
Performers: Academy Of Ancient Music And Chorus, Catherine Bott etc.
Director: Christopher Hogwood
Year: 1992
Length: 1 hour


Another short British Opera, there is a major problem with these short operas, much like in John Blow's Venus And Adonis the story is extremely simple to be able to fit it in one hour, with prolonged arias which take their time to put plot across and interludes and dances, there is very little left in terms of a plot.

Plot is not, however, the only reason to listen or see an opera, and Dido and Aeneas rewards the listener in other ways. There are some delightful sections here, but none more so than Dido's Lament, near the end of the third act, a beautiful aria. Meanwhile there are some pretty amazing parts by the Sorceress which in the case of this recording is played by a man with an appropriately demonic voice.

It is hard to grade this opera, because while it works brilliantly as music it works less well as a theatrical item. Because even if most people think of Opera as music it is much more than that, it is a play with music. Another reason to hate the Josh Grobans and Boccelis of this world, although Bocelli would have problems following stage directions without bumping into the scenery.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

This work is somewhat problematic, since no score in Purcell's hand is extant, and the only seventeenth century source is a libretto, possibly from the original performance. The difficulty is that no later sources follow the act divisions of the libretto, and the music to the prologue is lost. Part of this stems from the practice of the time of using such entertainments to add spice to another piece, such as a play, breaking up the original work and only using parts of it, rather than putting it on as a complete work.([2] pg. iv) It is a monumental work in the Baroque opera, remembered as one of Purcell's (and perhaps England's) foremost operatic works. It may be considered Purcell's only true opera, as compared with his other musical dramatic works such as King Arthur and The Fairy-Queen, as well as the first English opera. It owes much to John Blow's Venus and Adonis, including structure and overall effect.

Maria Ewing as Dido at the end of the Opera, starting with the amazing lament:

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