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One of the greatest masterpieces of 17th century opera, DIDO AND AENEAS, by Henry Purcell recounts the story of the tragic queen of Carthage in intense narrative within a rich and complex dramaturgical structure. After having welcomed Aeneas after his flight from Troy, Dido falls in love but the hero, deceived by the Witches who desire the downfall of Carthage, is constrained to abandon her. The queen does not heed his excuses and promises and rejects him. Then, she dies of grief.

Besides the soloist episodes, which include at the end of the opera the famous lament of Dido, one of the highest musical expressions of all time, there are numerous choral and dance sections of powerful musical and theatrical effect. The opera is clearly related to the masque genre where the Vergilian characters appear together with allegorical and fantasy figures of Shakespearian qualities. In contrast to Vergil’s version, Nahum Tate does not attribute Dido’s abandonment by Aeneas to the will of the gods, but rather as the machinations of the evil witches who do not fail to recall those in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Music Henry Purcell

Libretto Nahum Tate

Characters:

  • Dido, queen of Carthage (soprano/mezzosoprano)
  • Belinda, her confidante (soprano)
  • Second woman (soprano/mezzosoprano)
  • Sorceress (mezzosoprano) or bass-baritone[1]
  • Two witches (mezzosoprano)
  • A spirit (contralto)
  • Æneas, a Trojan prince (baritone/tenor)
  • A sailor mezzosoprano or baritone/tenore[1]
  • Courtiers, Witches, Sailors, Cupids (chorus)