Opera Scotland

Dido and Aeneas

Music
Henry Purcell (born London, 1659; died London, 21 November 1695)

Text
Nahum Tate.

Source
Tragedy Brutus of Alba (1678) by Tate (1652-1715) and The Aeneid (29-19 BC) by Virgil.

Premières
First performance: London (Josias Priest’s School), Spring 1689 (probably earlier).
First performance in Scotland: To be confirmed.
Scottish Opera première: Aix-en-Provence (Théâtre de l' Archeveché), 20 July 1978.

Background
Dido and Aeneas like John Blow’s Venus and Adonis of 1684, was performed at Priest’s school for young women. No record of an earlier performance survives, though it is widely believed that, like Blow's work, it was composed for Charles II's court in 1684, with roles for soloists (Dido, Aeneas and Belinda), and a chorus of single voices, who took the small solo parts as required. Several sections of Purcell's music are believed to have been lost. Even so, this short opera is a piece of great originality and emotional power, fast moving, and full of variety.

Characters
Dido, Queen of Carthage (soprano)
Belinda, a lady in waiting (soprano)
Woman (soprano)
Sorceress (mezzo-soprano)
First Witch (soprano)
Second Witch (mezzo-soprano)
Aeneas, a Trojan prince (baritone)
Spirit (mezzo-soprano)
Sailor (tenor)

Plot Summary
Aeneas, after many adventures following his escape from the sack of Troy, arrives in Carthage, where the recently widowed Queen Dido makes him welcome. To the joy of the other members of her court, she falls in love. A sorceress, who hates Dido, is determined to bring about her downfall by forcing Aeneas to abandon her. Dido and Aeneas go on a hunting party which is disrupted by a storm conjured up by the sorceress. As everyone returns to town, a spirit controlled by the sorceress, and disguised as Mercury, approaches Aeneas. He tells the Trojan that his destiny is to leave Carthage. As the sailors prepare to depart and the witches anticipate success, Dido berates Aeneas for his deceit. Aeneas persists in his decision to leave, and Dido, abandoned, commits suicide.

The Cast

Aeneas
 a Trojan prince
Belinda
 a lady in waiting
Dido
 Queen of Carthage
First Witch
 
Sailor
 
Second Lady
 
Second Witch
 
Sorceress
 
Spirit
 in the form of Mercury

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