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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 17 April 2009
It is sometimes too easy to allow ones initial impressions of a piece of music, or a particular recording, to become the standard by which all others are judged. Subjectivity is, by its very nature, relative, and as such will always influence the opinions of those expressing them.

In writing this review, I have tried to be mindful of allowing any conceit on my part to unduly influence my opinion; I would hope that when I say that I consider this recording of Dido & Aeneas to be quite simply the greatest that I have ever heard, the reader will forgive any lack of objectivity on my part that they may perceive.

This recording, made in 1961, is quite astonishing in its precision, vitality, depth, and clarity. The engineers responsible for re-mastering this work have produced something quite superb. From the overture (which from the very beginning tells you that this is not a story that will have a happy ending) to the heart-rending finale, the beauty of this work resonates throughout. The vocal and instrumental performances are harmonious, poised, and express fully the emotional depth of the opera in all its glory.

Should you decide to purchase this particular recording, I am sure that it will become one of the treasures in your collection.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 September 2008
Henry Purcell's (1659-1695) opera "Dido and Aeneas" tells, in approximately one hour, of the frustrated passion of Dido, queen of Carthage, for the Trojan hero Aeneas, whose destiny it is to found Rome. The opera is based upon Virgil's Aeneid with a highly compressed libretto by Nahum Tate. Purcell's opera includes three parts for women and only one, Aeneas, for a male. The brief opera is in three Acts. According to "The New Grove Book of Operas", Purcell based his work on an earlier English opera, "Venus and Adonis" by John Blow. With its heavy emphasis on dance and chorus, "Dido and Aeneas" also draws heavily on French baroque opera.

This reissue of a 1961 recording of a young Janet Baker in the role of Dido is an outstanding way to get to know Purcell's only opera. Baker performed "Dido and Aeneas" many times during her career. Her voice is glowing and rich. She sings with force of Dido's initially repressed love and her soon-to-be dashed love. Interestingly, Dame Baker's most famous role was another Dido -- in Berlioz' lengthy opera, "The Trojans". Anthony Lewis conducts the English Chamber Orchestra with a supporting cast of Patricia Clark as Dido's confidante Belinda, Raimund Herincx as Aeneas and Monica Sinclair as a snarling Sorceress. I greatly enjoyed the cello obligato which permeates this opera.

For all its brevity, the opera encompasses a wide variety of emotion and scenes. The opera makes great use of the chorus. In general, after an aria by one of the principals, the chorus comments extensively, much in the manner of a Greek tragedy. Sometimes the chorus repeats the music of the soloist, but at other times it takes themes of its own. In "Dido and Aeneas" the chorus appears in scenes involving the court at Carthage, as huntsmen, witches, and sailors. It also appears at the close of the opera, following the death of Dido, in elegaic music of comfort.

In addition to his use of the chorus, Purcell uses the dance as a key element of his story. In "Dido and Aeneas", there are dance scenes displaying the love of Dido, a dance of the furies, who plot to destroy her happiness, an erotic dance for Aeneas, performed by Dido's entourage, a sailors' hornpipe, and a witches' dance in which the sorceress and her compatriots celebrate their destruction of the couple.

In the concluding scene of the opera, Janet Baker powerfully sings Dido's
sad and stark lament for the loss of Aeneas and for her impending death accompanied to a dirge-like theme in the orchestra. This is music of great tragedy.

This CD includes a complete libretto and good program notes. It is an wonderful way to experience an early operatic masterpiece.

Robin Friedman
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on 13 February 2007
This is a true masterpiece. Of course Janet Baker is legendary as Dido, but everything else about this recording is wonderful too. Of particular interest is the recording quality, which shows what Decca could do back in 1962. Those old Neumann M50 microphones used by engineer Kenneth Wilkinson have arguably never been surpassed, or even equalled -just look at the used prices!

It's great that such a wonderful and historic performance was captured so beautifully.
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on 18 November 2011
I have had this CD for some weeks now,I also have four other versions.
This one has for me a solitary beauty not quite found in the other "modern" versions,though they are lovely.
For me it is Janet Bakers voice,the beauty,grace and a quality in tone that I cannot find words for.
I know that each time I hear it,and yes especially "When I am Laid in Earth" I feel fabulous,and that is just one of the things that this music does for me.
Yes it is "of it's time"but it is no worse for that.If you can listen to it as yet another version of a sublime piece of music,then I hope you too will feel as fab as I do.
I highly recommend this versionPurcell: Dido and Aeneas
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This is one of three fine performances I have of this splendid opera by English Elizabethan baroque composer, Henry Purcell, to a libretto by Nahum Tate. He is regarded by many as the greatest English composer before Edward Elgar in the 20th century. The performance here by the St. Anthony Singers and the English Chamber Orchestra under Anthony Lewis is generally regarded as the benchmark recording against which others are assessed. The original was recorded in October 1961in London, but this is a digitally re-mastered version by Decca re-issued in 2000. The role of Dido is sung by Janet Baker, that of her companion Belinda by Patricia Clark, and Aeneas by Raimund Herincx. The role of the Spirit is sung by Dorothy Dorow. Thurston Dart provides the harpsichord continuo. The booklet gives a general synopsis of the course of the action, though not in as much detail as in the version on Naxos. This is a fine recording with clear diction.

Purcell: Dido and Aeneas
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on 28 October 2010
This particular CD was recommended as a worthwhile addition to my collection.

Not having much experience of Purcell's music - but I have heard of Janet Baker - I decided to "bite the bullet" and purchase the CD.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this particular production. It was worth every penny as it has now become one of my favourites; and I shall now try other Purcell music.
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on 16 April 2013
I'm so glad this is now in CD form. Janet Baker is the very, very best and I doubt will be surpassed.
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on 20 June 2013
Janet Baker is superb as Dido - her Lament is the best I have heard.and the ECO are wonderful also.
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on 5 November 2013
I very beautiful recording of Purcell's famous work. Dame Janet Baker's rendition is absolutey beautiful and moving and the quality of the sound is incredible considering it was recorded over 50 years ago. A must for all Purcell / Baker fans.
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on 13 February 2015
I already have a copy of this CD as I am a great fan of Dame Janet Baker. Her performance on this recording is beautiful. This purchase was part of my Christmas present for a loved sister-in-law who enjoyed it as much as I do.
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