On air and in print: Dido and Aeneas

  • Jun 26, 2011
Violinist Monica Huggett, director of the Portland Baroque Orchestra, calls Dido and Aeneas "one of the greatest works by an English composer," and explains why she has chosen to perform modern works by Benjamin Britten on gut strings in an interview with All-Classical's northwest previews. The program is available via streaming audio thru June 30. Huggett leads the Oregon Bach Festival's four-concert tour of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas with her PBO ensemble, chorus and soloists June 27-30 in Portland, Bend, and Eugene. Listen to the All Classical interview: Visit http://player.abacast.com/allclassical/allclassical.html
  1. At upper right, click “On-Demand”
  2. Under “Current Episodes” select Northwest Previews
  3. Monica and the PBO are the first story
The program includes recordings of the Britten choral dances, also on the program.

Coverage in the Oregonian

In the Friday June 24 Oregonian, David Stabler writes:

In keeping with its theme of women in music, the Oregon Bach Festival brings an operatic lament about doomed love -- Henry Purcell's gem of an opera, "Dido and Aeneas" -- to Portland on Monday. It's the first of five concerts the 17-day festival brings to Portland from Eugene. "Dido" promises to be a highlight.

First performed in 1689, "Dido" is considered the greatest opera by an Englishman, until Benjamin Britten came along with "Peter Grimes" 256 years later. It is the only English opera before Britten that is continually revived because of its vibrant music and mythological stature. Where most Baroque operas bear the weight of museum pieces dusted off as historical curiosities, "Dido" continues to sound fresh. Perhaps knowing what he had created, Purcell never wrote another opera.

Let's review our Greek history, as recounted by Virgil in "The Aenead." Aeneas, the Trojan hero, flees from ravaged Troy, sails into a fierce storm and ends up in Carthage. Queen Dido welcomes him. She falls for him, but evildoers will have none of it. A witch, disguised as the god Mercury, commands Aeneas to leave Carthage immediately to fulfill his destiny. Brokenhearted, Dido sings of her grief in one of opera's noblest arias, "Dido's Lament." She then falls dead.

The power of the music comes in its vividness, dramatic detail and less stylized emotional quality than other contemporary operas, matching lyrical vocal lines with the meaning of the words. The orchestra also contributes to the drama, portraying the storm and the dark mystery of the witches with specific sounds. Beyond that, the music is simply beautiful to hear.

Red the full story in the Oregonian