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Purcell: Dido & Aeneas

4.7 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Purcell, H.: Dido and Aeneas [Opera] Amazon Music Unlimited
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Audio CD, CD, 5 Jan 2009
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Product details

  • Performer: Sarah Connolly, Gerald Finley, Lucy Crowe, Patricia Bardon, John Mark Ainsley, et al.
  • Orchestra: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
  • Conductor: Elizabeth Kenny, Stephen Devine
  • Composer: Henry Purcell
  • Audio CD (5 Jan. 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Chaconne
  • ASIN: B001KS96N8
  • Other Editions: Audio CD |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 56,811 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Product description

Product Description

Chandos' featured release is a new recording of the first English operatic masterpiece, Purcell's tragedy Dido and Aeneas. Starring Sarah Connolly, Gerald Finley, with the Orchestra and Choir of the Age of Enlightenment, it is released to commemorate the 350th anniversary of Purcell's birth. Directed from the keyboard by Steven Devine and Elizabeth Kenny as in recent concert performances, the ensemble presents the opera in a version that incorporates other dance works by Purcell, a version which Sarah Connolly performed at Teatro alla Scala in 2006. There have been two revolutions in scholarly thinking about Dido and Aeneas and both had serious implications for historically inclined performers, and demand a creative response today. The musicological backdrop to this recording results in a performance closer to the court entertainment of Purcell's day, in which musical dramas evolved from the English theatre tradition. Sarah Connolly, the quintessential Dido of the early twenty-first century, has been the driving force behind this recording. She writes of the project, 'It seems I have known Purcell's Dido all my life and feel able to express myself in this music like no other... As a character, Dido fascinates me to the point of obsession'. Connolly has performed with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on many occasions, including two productions at Glyndebourne - Giulio Cesare and St Matthew Passion - as well as Dido and Aeneas at the Proms, the South Bank Centre and Tetbury Festival. One recent review of Connolly's Dido had the following to say: 'It was the sheer depth of emotion Connolly infused in her portrayal of Dido that was truly remarkable. Emotion flowed off the stage from the intensity in her voice and through her actions. Her final aria, one of the most beautiful in English baroque music, brought a tear to the eye in a hall so quiet you could hear a pin drop... a moving portrayal of this tragic heroine' (MusicalCriticism.com). This impressive performance by an extraordinary group of musicians makes for a significant addition to the catalogue.

BBC Review

Forgive me a sweeping generalisation, but its fair to say that great British operas, pre-Britten, can be counted on one hand. Half a hand, even. However, what we lack in quantity, we make up for in quality, as illustrated by Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. This new recording for Chandos from the Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is surely set for widespread critical acclaim.

The performance takes into account new developments in scholarly thinking, aiming to emulate more closely the court entertainment of Purcell's day. Most noticeable is the incorporation of other dance works by Purcell: a tune from Bonduca, the Almand from his G minor keyboard suite and, my personal favourite, two improvised guitar dances played by the OAE's plucked-continuo players. These inclusions do give the opera a different, more courtly feel to previous recordings; they open it out, allowing more contemplation on the unfolding action. The orchestra, directed by Steven Devine and Elizabeth Kenny, plays with rather more reserve than in Christopher Hogwood's Academy of Ancient Music recording, but this turns out to be no bad thing. In fact, it strangely enhances the dramatic punch.

Sarah Connolly as Dido is magnificent; from her opening ''Ah, Belinda'', she presents a queen emotionally removed from her surroundings, a subdued loner, predicting disaster even amidst present happiness. Her lament, the crowning climax of a weighty performance, is as vocally beautiful as her acting has been insightful. Lucy Crowe as Belinda, bright and pure of tone, is the perfect foil to Connolly's Dido, whilst Patricia Bardon's Sorceress oozes stage presence. Carys Lane and Rebecca Outram as the witches are a more sophisticated 21st century pair than the traditional hags hopping around a fire: think Bewitched rather than Macbeth. I prefer the latter, but it's a matter of personal taste. Then, Gerald Finley as Aeneas is in fine voice, capturing to a T the hapless lover torn between war and his queen.

This truly feels like the 'Dido' for the 21st century. --Charlotte Gardner

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