The setting is Carthage, in ancient times: the hero Aeneas flees from burning Troy and arrives in North Africa via the Mediterranean Sea with his fleet of ships, where he meets the beautiful queen Dido. They are lovestruck – and yet fail to bond because of fate’s intervention. Aeneas continues on his journey to form a new kingdom in Italy, while the abandoned Dido is left no alternative but to stay.
Henry Purcell composed his one »genuine« opera in 1689, a work that stood out for its musical ingenuity. Virgil’s epic story of the hero and Carthaginian queen told in »Aeneid« found its echo in his equally vivid music. Human passions are candidly unveiled – both their joys and excitements as well as their hardships and worries, all the way to deepest despair at the inexorability of divine will. Dido’s famous lament, with which she ends her life, and the opera draws to a close, and where an entire world is evoked in a few words, demonstrates Purcell’s extraordinary expressiveness. But his skill, too, in writing rhythmically concise dance movements and melodic choruses sealed the composer’s reputation among his contemporaries and ensured the admiration of a truly exceptional composer for posterity.
Song, performance and dance combine to create a special form of opera.