I received this from Amazon UK a week ago and am very pleased with it. It is beautifully recorded and all the solo singers adhere to the pure vibrato-free style of the period. The historical orchestra is well balanced with some delectable archlutes and theorbos to the fore, and the choir is precise with good diction and tuning. A full libretto is enclosed (unusual at mid-price nowadays) with two scholarly essays about the sources used and decisions made in constructing the performance. I didn't find the sound effects as intrusive as my fellow reviewer.
All in all I think Purcell himself would have relished this performance and would recommend it to anyone seeking a first version of the opera.
With so many versions of Dido and Aeneas available, and no guide for the perplexed to make a decision from amongst such a wide choice being offered to us, what on Earth is one to do? Well your search is over. This is the "if you only get one version, get this" version.
Hogwood seems to have a bit of a Midas touch, combining fabulous performances by Catherine Bott and Emma Kirby at their finest, a great supporting cast and musicians directed with impeccable timing and pace.
Now it's not entirely perfect. In striving for authenticity, trouser and skirt roles are retained - I generally prefer to hear those parts in versions where the sorceress is played by a woman and the sailors by men - plus the sorceress and witches do ham it up a bit. But overall there is no better performance than this.
usually I'm not a great fan of operas but this opera stunned me for life, it is not dull nor boring or long... it lasts cca. 50 min. and same time accomplished every aspects of opera.I have several recordings of Dido and Aeneas and this one I must say is very BEST recording ever made, it is recorded on period instruments and sung by the best voices specialised for baroque art of singing (no dramatic vibrato and purity of voice)including the unique voice of Emma Kirkby :))) One of most interesting parts is that the chief sorceress is sung by a male and it sounds GREAT!! so, I give two thumbs up for this superb recording.
at William and Mary's court. Crisp, clean and sharp recording. Catherine Bott is particularly good - she dips and soars like a lark - beautiful. Michael Chance also very good. Purcell's score skips along with purposeful drama leading to the inevitable heart breaking 'When I am laid in earth'. It was so moving I literally cried...all in all a great recording.
With the recording Dido And Aeneas The choral singing is of the highest standard all the way through. Academy of Ancient music is tidy and refined under the direction of Christopher Hogwood.
Christopher Hogwood's gives sensitive direction. John Mark Ainsley is a romantic, valiant and heroic Aeneas, Emma Kirkby's Belinda is exquisite, and Catherine Bott is a riveting Dido. Purcell offers us a poetic composition. The Libretto is contrived of rhyming couplets with expressive touches. The composer gives us drama and inspiration through this truly English music that has hints of the music fashion of the day influenced from Europe, "Christopher Hogwood gives a sprightly tempi that is not rushed. Through the composition and the masterly of Hogwood we get pastoral, comic and heroic elements realised excellently. Once again Bott and Kirkby contrast each other effortlessly with their singing, The male voices are excellent too. Hogwood also gives the part of the sorceress to David Thomas. The male voice may seem odd to listeners of modern performances but Hogwood justifies this with the historical research in relation to casting stage witches having a Bass sound to give confidence of the role. This works brilliantly and Thomas adds crucial and alert atmosphere. The whole performance is complete with stage sound effects of thunder and lighting etc This is a terrific release on period instruments and authentic performance. And this recording is one of the finest by Hogwood who will be sadly missed in the classical music world of authentic recordings,
As a long-time fan of the authentic approach to baroque music and of Kirkby, Bott, Chance and Hogwood as interpreters, I went for this recording when I was working towards a performance of Dido and Aeneas. Charged with emotion, it does not disappoint. The singing has clarity and purity, beautifully balanced by sensitive instrumental playing. The additional MP3 download proved a great bonus when learning the work as I could go back and back over just a very few bars at a time.
This is certainly a good rendition of Purcell's chamber opera, well sung and performed, although I find the sound effects of thunder and lightning overdone and partly disturbing, especially since they are not in accordance with the otherwise "authentic practice" of this recording. (I am sure there was no prefabricated thunder and lightning at hand in Purcell's time, was it?) Still, there are more interesting versions of "Dido and Aeneas" available. If you are getting your first CD with this opera, try out the legendary 1961 recording with the English Chamber Orchestra, featuring Janet Baker as Dido. It's full of drama, and the sound engineering is excellent. If you prefer a version on period instruments, take a look at William Christie's 1994 recording with Les Arts Florissants. The playing is more transparent than on the Hogwood CD and the sound altogether more brilliant.
I won this lovely recording in a Secret Santa and it must be the best present I have ever had on such an occasion.
I do have three other recordings of this phenomenal work covering a range of different performing styles and must say that this is the most star-studded of the ones on original instruments.
One fascinating thing is to see Emma Kirkby and David Thomas reunited in this opera, not as the title characters (as they were in the Andrew Parrott recording from 1984) but as Belinda and the Soceress. She is very classy and he is wonderfully evil without distorting either his voice or the musical line.
It is interesting to hear a tenor in John Mark Ainsley as Aeneas and very fine he is. Also interesting is the experience of hearing a treble rather than a tenor Sailor.
Of course the most important element is Dido herself and Catherine Bott is simply stunning. She sings with marvellous line and expression. A gorgeous creation.
Hogwood's conducting is really sprightly and thoroughly enjoyable. The chorus and orchestra provide a wonderful backdrop to the drama and I was stunned by their collective virtuosity.
One last thing. I loved the timpanist on this recording with his earth shattering contributions (totally OTT) which made the recording come alive.
This is a very enjoyable performance which really hangs together well and all the parts are very well sung. There is more movement than in the early Janet Baker performance but speeds are never excessive and Dido's Lament is beyond reproach I think. Aeneas sounds better here than as sung by Ian Bostridge in my other previous recording, so overall I think this is a fine performance to own. If there is one thing open to debate it is the witches and the thunder machine. The witches have been criticised in the Baker performance for being too pantomime and the voices here are also modified quite a bit, though the Sorceress is very successfully replaced with a Sorcerer. However, I was surprised that the thunder machine (very frightening!) is allowed to sound over a lot of the orchestral music (though not the singing) but, I suppose, if a thunder machine were available at the time it might well have been over-used. With a slightly higher than usual volume setting the recording comes beautifully into focus. Overall I really like this recording and suspect that you will too.
The Pinnock Dido still remains my first choice for some reason but with the magnificent Catherine Bott, some wonderful thunder effects in between and the brilliant Christopher Hogwood in charge, make this download a very close second and I could never be without both on my Android :-) I've got both on CD too.