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Didos Lament Henry Purcell Analysis Essay

Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in Text and Music

in Classics — October 14, 2011 at 12:42 PM | 3 comments


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Aeneas Introducing Cupid as Ascanius to Dido, 1757, Villa Valmarana, Vicenza

By Patrick Hunt 

After more than three centuries, Henry Purcell’s (1659-95) sole opera Dido and Aeneas remains a treasure.  Considered the greatest operatic achievement of 17th century England [1] and the first great English opera, [2] even though a performance only takes little more than an hour, it is often justified as holding its position as the finest English opera ever written until the 20th century. [3] Despite the opera’s mostly forgotten status from 1700 to the 1890’s when it was revived by the Royal College of Music at the Lyceum Theatre in 1895, who could ever forget the haunting aria, Dido’s Lament, “When I am Laid to Rest”? More on this incomparable aria follows shortly. The earliest full score of Purcell’s music for the opera is late, circa 1750 from a Bodleian Library copy in Oxford. [4]

Portrait of Henry Purcell, circa 1680, London (public domain)

Although arguable, while Purcell was clearly influenced by his master John Blow, the question of how much Dido and Aeneas owes to Blow’s own 1683 opera Venus and Adonis remains to be seen. Debate continues because while traditionally thought to have premiered at Josiah Priest’s school for girls in Chelsea in 1689, good arguments for Dido and Aeneas’ earlier composition and performance in 1684 have been proposed and debated, with some claims of even having been written as early as 1677. [5] The storyline of Purcell’s opera is roughly taken from Virgil’s Aeneid, Book 4, as briefly discussed below.

Notable too is the libretto by Nahum Tate (1652-1715), himself a Poet Laureate of England from 1692-1712, [6] and famous hymnist-poet, for example, of the circa 1703 carol “While Shepherds Watched Their Flockes.” Tate’s libretto for Dido and Aeneas was adapted from his own 1678 masque, Brutus of Alba, or The Enchanted Lovers. Tate was often vilified for his “mutilations and tortures” of Shakespearian plays like King Lear and Richard II, and while attacked by Richard Addison and Alexander Pope for his textual liberties with Shakespeare – already holy ground – no less than Samuel Johnson came to Tate’s defense on occasion, perhaps to be contrarian but just as likely because Tate’s tragic adaptations also had some merit of their own, like the later Charles Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare. [7]  Tate was certainly recognized as a a celebrated poet and successful dramatist in 17th century London by royalty, his literary peers and theater-goers alike. [8]

Nahum Tate, Portrait Engraving, circa 1685, London (public domain)

Tate and his better-known poet contemporary John Dryden who translated Virgil’s Aeneid, collaborated on occasion, including in Absalom and Athitophel in 1682 and elsewhere in The Loyal General (1680). Both of these celebrated poets also wrote “Odes on St. Cecilia’s Day”, Dryden’s 1687 poem receiving the greater, more enduring fame. [9]  Given their collaboration, it must be Dryden’s Aeneid 4 translation that best informs Tate’s libretto. Comparisons of the Dryden and Tate texts, however, in the most dramatic moments shows they have little in common beyond plot highlights. This is best seen, for example, when Dido commits suicide (Act III of the opera, 4.642-705 in the lines of Virgil’s original epic Latin poem). In this tragic climax, the actual texts of Tate’s lyrics are clearly not derivable from Virgil via Dryden, and sometimes echo only the faintest of ideas of the mise-en-scène :

First Dryden:

“Then shalt thou call on injur’d Dido’s name:

Dido shall come in a black sulph’ry flame,

When death has once dissolv’d her mortal frame;

Shall smile to see the traitor vainly weep:

Her angry ghost, arising from the deep,

Shall haunt thee waking, and disturb thy sleep.

At least my shade thy punishment shall know,

And Fame shall spread the pleasing news below…” 

Thus Dido prophesies that even before Aeneas goes to the Underworld in Aeneid Book 6 and while there on his journey, this scène noir is what he’ll find. Later in Dryden’s translation, Dido weeps to Juno and her Punic gods:

“…Receive a soul, of mortal anguish eas’d:

My fatal course is finish’d; and I go,

A glorious name, among the ghosts below.

A lofty city by my hands is rais’d,

Pygmalion punish’d, and my lord appeas’d.

What could my fortune have afforded more,

Had the false Trojan never touch’d my shore!”   [Dryden]

For comparison with Dryden, as well as Virgil’s own incredibly dark lyrics,  here is the most famous of Purcell and Tate’s collaboration in the aria lyrics of  “Dido’s Lament: When I am Laid in Earth” from Tate’s libretto:

“When I am laid, am laid in earth,

may my wrongs create

No trouble, no trouble in thy breast.

When I am laid, am laid in earth,

may my wrongs create

No trouble, no trouble in thy breast.

Remember me, remember me, but ah!
 Forget my fate.

Remember me, but ah!
 Forget my fate.

Remember me, remember me, but ah!
 Forget my fate.

Remember me, but ah!
 Forget my fate.”

Without making any obvious borrowing of even a Virgilian-Drydenesque phrase, in the above text of “Dido’s Lament” Tate has tightly compressed Dryden’s Virgilian translation of several of Dido’s monologues into a highly distilled, emotionally powerful mournful lyric full of irony but stripped of all the venom against Aeneas.

Dido and Aeneas manuscript Title Page , John Hindle / Samuel Howard copyists, 1677? (public domain)

Since he has elsewhere (Act II, Scene 1) invented sorceresses and witches in his libretto, characters who do not appear in the Aeneid, Tate is only loosely following Classical precedents. On the other hand, like Act II, Scenes 1 & 2, Aeneid 4:130-70 does indeed have a hunting scene with Aeneas and Dido and a cave where Venus brings the lovers Dido and Aeneas together by divine trickery. Tate’s messenger of the sorceress – disguised as Mercury – also hollowly imitates Virgil’s Mercury with both messengers’ commands from “Jove” for Aeneas to leave Carthage (Aeneid 4:220-75), thereby abandoning Dido. Finally, Tate’s Act III also parallels Virgil’s original contexts with both the harbor of Carthage (Aeneid 4:535-80) and the culminating palace scene with Dido’s suicide (Aeneid 4:642-705). Nonetheless, it is fair to say that Nahum Tate is a far more biblically than Classically-inspired poet.

One of the first pieces of keyboard music I learned to play was a Purcell ‘Hornpipe’, and I’ve never forgotten this delightful melody with its inverted second part and the austere but perfect counterpoint in this little gem. Although he also borrowed and adapted folk tunes, Purcell was a supreme melodist who created some of the best tunes in English music, [10]  as his ‘Hornpipe’ and “Dido’s Lament” attest.

Dido's Suicide by Simone Vouet (1590-1649)

Thus, it is expected that I can hardly ever tire of the musical plangency of “Dido’s Lament:  When I am Laid to Rest.” I can actually listen to recordings of it ten times in a row, either by the same soprano or by another, especially with its downward ground bass instrumental accompaniment in strings and/or keyboard. The song featured as a central highlight in the blockbuster BBC 1998 film version of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair 1998. My favorite recordings have included Dame Janet Baker’s, Leontyne Price’s, Jessye Norman’s, Rene Fleming’s, or Sarah Connolly’s interpretations, mostly mezzo solos. I seem to often prefer the richness of the young Leontyne Price recordings as most profound, but I also recently heard the non-operatic Alison Moyet’s version, and also found it stunning as an alto solo. Even though some “purists” could fault Moyet’s deeper interpretation as inauthentic and questionably Classical, perhaps it is as accessible as any piece of 17th music ever could be three hundred years after the fact. This is an eternal song that can color one’s dreams lifelong.

It is possible that Tate’s idea of a lament for Dido may also have been influenced by English biblical use of the Hebrew poetic form, the literary qinah, for example as found in the text of II Samuel 1when King David mourns Jonathan’s and King Saul’s death by the marauding Philistines on Mt. Gilboa.[11]  Tate was certainly familiar with biblical texts, having poeticized Psalms and other texts, and his clergyman father Faithfull Teate (son Nahum changed his name’s spelling in 1677) had been a famous preacher and also a poet, both of them having graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, before moving back and forth to London. The qinah was a Semitic literary form, predating Hebrew in Ugarit, and if we can rightly expect Dido’s Punic descendants of Phoenicians to have had a similar lament as their ancestors it might not have been such an unlikely prescience for the biblically astute Tate to appropriate the biblical qinah lament form, although few before Bishop Lowth (1710-1787) had formally studied Hebrew poetry assiduously.

Whatever may be said of Nahum Tate’s liberties or weaknesses as his critics have claimed, his artful collaboration with Henry Purcell on this opera, and in particular this most haunting of arias (“Dido’s Lament”) is as successful as any librettist-composer relationship in Classical music.





[1]  C. A. Price. Henry Purcell and the London Stage. Cambridge University Press, 1984; E. T. Harris. Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. Oxford, 1990.

[2]  M. Kennedy, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of Music. Oxford, rev. 2nd ed. 2006, 699

[3]  D. M. Randel. The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Belknap/Harvard University Press, 1999, 466.

[4]   W. H. Cummings. Dido and Aeneas, Dover repr. 1995, x. There is another partial score copied by John Travers from 1720.

[5]  B. Wood and A. Pinnock. ” ‘Unscarr’d by Turing Times’? The Dating of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.” Early Music 20.3 (1992) 372-90; A. R. Walkling. “The dating of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.” Early Music 22.3 (1994) 469-81. Note above image of a manuscript title page by the copyist hands of Hindle & Howard and claiming a date of 1677, very early indeed, which would certainly antedate John Blow’s 1683 Venus and Adonis.

[6]   B. Corman, “Nahum Tate”. The Literary Encyclopedia (2003).

[7]    technically Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, circa 1807. My copy was published in 1964 by Paul Hamlyn in London. Although the genius twists of plots are Shakespeare, these 19th c. prose tales have a life of their own.

[8]   C. Spencer. Nahum Tate (Twayne’s English Author Series). Twayne Publishers, 1972.

[9]   D. Hopkins. “The London Odes on St. Cecilia’s Day for 1686, 1695 and 1696.” The Review of English Studies, New Series 45.180 (1994) 486-495.

[10]   M. Adams. Henry Purcell: The Origins and Development of His Musical Style. Cambridge University Press, 1995.

[11]   Or likewise in Hebrew prophets like Jeremiah and the biblical book of Lamentations. Also see W. H. Shea. “David’s Lament”. Bulletin of the Schools of Oriental Studies  221.14 (1976) 141-44, noting derivations from the Pre-Phoenician Ugaritic qinah form.

Tags: aeneidbaroque operadido and aeneasdido's lamenthenry urcellnahum tatevirgil




For the myth on which the opera is based, see Aeneid.

Dido and Aeneas (Z. 626)[1] is an opera in a prologue and three acts, written by the English Baroque composer Henry Purcell with a libretto by Nahum Tate. The dates of the composition and first performance of the opera are uncertain. It was composed no later than July 1688,[2] and had been performed at Josias Priest's girls' school in London by the end of 1689.[3] Some scholars argue for a date of composition as early as 1683.[4][5] The story is based on Book IV of Virgil's Aeneid.[6] It recounts the love of Dido, Queen of Carthage, for the Trojan hero Aeneas, and her despair when he abandons her. A monumental work in Baroque opera, Dido and Aeneas is remembered as one of Purcell's foremost theatrical works.[6] It was also Purcell's only true opera, as well as his only all-sung dramatic work. One of the earliest known English operas, it owes much to John Blow's Venus and Adonis, both in structure and in overall effect.[6] The influence of Cavalli's opera Didone is also apparent.[citation needed]

Background and context[edit]

Before Dido and Aeneas, Purcell had composed music for several stage works, including nine pieces for Nathaniel Lee's Theodosius, or The Force of Love (1680) and eight songs for Thomas d'Urfey's A Fool's Preferment (1688). He also composed songs for two plays by Nahum Tate (later the librettist of Dido and Aeneas), The Sicilian Usurper (1680) and Cuckold-Haven (1685). Dido and Aeneas was Purcell's first (and only) all-sung opera and derives from the English masque tradition.


Originally based on Nahum Tate's play Brutus of Alba, or The Enchanted Lovers (1678), the opera is likely, at least to some extent, to be allegorical. The prologue refers to the joy of a marriage between two monarchs, which could refer to the marriage between William and Mary. In a poem of about 1686, Tate alluded to James II as Aeneas, who is misled by the evil machinations of the Sorceress and her witches (representing Roman Catholicism, a common metaphor at the time) into abandoning Dido, who symbolises the British people. The same symbolism may apply to the opera.[6] This explains the addition of the characters of the Sorceress and the witches, which do not appear in the original Aeneid. It would be noble, or at least acceptable, for Aeneas to follow the decree of the Gods, but not so acceptable for him to be tricked by ill-meaning spirits.

Although the opera is a tragedy, there are numerous seemingly lighter scenes, such as the First Sailor's song, "Take a boozy short leave of your nymphs on the shore, and silence their mourning with vows of returning, though never intending to visit them more." Musicologist Ellen T. Harris considers the callousness and cynicism of the song to underline the "moral" of the story, that young women should not succumb to the advances and promises of ardent young men.[7]


No score in Purcell's hand is extant, and the only seventeenth-century source is a libretto, possibly from the original performance. The earliest extant score, held in the Bodleian Library, was copied no earlier than 1750, well over sixty years after the opera was composed.[8] No later sources follow the act divisions of the libretto, and the music to the prologue is lost. The prologue, the end of the act 2 'Grove' scene, and several dances, were almost certainly lost when the opera was divided into parts to be performed as interludes between the acts of spoken plays in the first decade of the eighteenth century.[9]

The first of the arias to be published separately was "Ah, Belinda" in Orpheus Britannicus.[6] The most famous aria of the work is "When I am laid in earth", popularly known as "Dido's Lament". Both arias are formed on a lamentoground bass. "Dido's Lament" has been performed or recorded by artists far from the typical operatic school, such as Klaus Nomi (as "Death"), Ane Brun and Jeff Buckley. It has also been transcribed or used in many scores, including the soundtrack to the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers (renamed "Nixon's Walk"). It is played annually by a military band at the Cenotaphremembrance ceremony, which takes place on the Sunday nearest to 11 November (Armistice Day) in London's Whitehall. The music is thought by some to be too simple for Purcell in 1689, but this may simply reflect that the intended performers were schoolchildren.[6] The work is scored for four-part strings and continuo. The fact that the libretto from the Chelsea School performance indicates two dances for guitar, the "Dance Gittars Chacony" in act 1, and the "Gittar Ground a Dance" in the 'Grove' scene of act 2, has led one scholar to suggest that Purcell envisioned a guitar as a primary member of the continuo group for the opera.[10] Music for neither of these dances is extant, and it seems likely that Purcell did not compose them, but rather left them to be improvised by the guitarist.[11] Several editions of the opera have been made and have been provided with a continuo realisation; a notable, if rather idiosyncratic edition being that made by Imogen Holst and Benjamin Britten. There are a number of editions with realisations, and the opera's accessibility to amateur performers is a feature that has greatly abetted the growth of its popularity in the latter half of the twentieth century.[12] While the Prologue's music has been lost and has not been reconstructed, several realisations of the opera include a solution to the missing ritornello at the end of the second act. Known to have been part of the score, it is now performed as a dance taken from other, similar works by Purcell, or invented outright in the same vein, to keep the integrity and continuity of the performance.

Performance history[edit]

Premiere and early revivals[edit]

A letter from the Levant merchant Rowland Sherman associates Dido and Aeneas with Josias Priest's girls' school in Chelsea, London no later than the summer of 1688.[13] The first performance may have taken place as early as 1 December 1687,[14] and evidence suggests that the opera was performed at the school again in 1689.[3] Several scholars have argued that the work was composed for the English court, either for Charles II (and perhaps as early as 1684)[4][5] or for James II.[15] Following the Chelsea performances, the opera was not staged again in Purcell's lifetime. Its next performance was in 1700 as a masque incorporated into an adapted version of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure at Thomas Betterton's theatre in London.

After 1705 it disappeared as a staged work, with only sporadic concert performances, until 1895 when the first staged version in modern times was performed by students of the Royal College of Music at London's Lyceum Theatre to mark the bicentenary of Purcell's death.[16]Dido and Aeneas received its first performance outside England on 14 December 1895 in a concert version at the University Society in Dublin.

20th- and 21st-century performances[edit]

Dido and Aeneas premiered in the United States at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on 10 February 1923 performed by the girls of the Rosemary School, although The New York Times noted that "considerable liberties" had been taken with the score.[17] A concert version with professional musicians organised by the Society of Friends of Music took place on 13 January 1924 at the New York City Town Hall, using a score edited by Artur Bodanzky, who also conducted the performance.[18]

As new critical editions of the score appeared, and with the revival of interest in Baroque music, the number of productions steadily increased. After Jonathan Miller's visit to Bornholm, Denmark, Dido was performed in 2008 at the Rønne Theatre (which had been built in 1823). Devin Duggan conducted. Amongst the new productions of the opera in 2009 (the 350th anniversary of Purcell's birth) were those staged by the De Nederlandse Opera, the Royal Opera, London, the Divertimento Baroque Opera Company, and Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, New York. The Royal Opera production, which featured contemporary dance by Wayne McGregor Random Dance and animated effects by Mark Hatchard, formed part of a double bill with Handel's Acis and Galatea.[19] In 2011 the opera was revived by City Wall Productions and set during World War II.[20] A new Opera North production of the opera opened at Leeds Grand Theatre in February 2013[21]Opera Up Close performed a truncated version in 2011, setting it in an American high school in the 1950s.


A version of the opera adapted to modern dance was choreographed by the American Mark Morris, who originally danced both the roles of Dido and the Sorceress. It premiered on 11 March 1989 at the Théâtre Varia in Brussels.[22] It has since been performed many times and was filmed in 1995 by Canadian director Barbara Willis Sweete, with Morris in the roles of Dido and the Sorceress.[23] Another dance version, choreographed by Sasha Waltz, premiered at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin on 29 January 2005 and opened with the dancers performing underwater in an enormous tank.[24] The production was subsequently seen at the Grand Théâtre in Luxembourg, Opéra national de Montpellier, and Sadler's Wells Theatre in London. In both the Morris and the Waltz adaptations, the characters are each portrayed by both a singer and a dancer, with the dancers onstage and the singers performing from the side of the stage or the orchestra pit.


RoleVoice type
Dido (also known as Elissa), Queen of Carthagesoprano or mezzo-soprano[25]
Belinda, Dido's sister and handmaidlight soprano
Second Woman, Another Handmaidensoprano or mezzo-soprano
Aeneas, Trojan Princetenor or high baritone[26]
Sorceress/Sorcerermezzo-soprano, contralto, countertenor or bass[27]
First Witch/Enchantressmezzo-soprano
Second Witch/Enchantressmezzo-soprano
Spirit, in form of Mercurysoprano or countertenor
First Sailortenor[28]
Chorus, SATB: all members at one point or another represent courtiers, witches, cupids, and sailors.


Act 1[edit]

Dido's court

The opera opens with Dido in her court with her attendants. Belinda is trying to cheer up Dido, but Dido is full of sorrow, saying 'Peace and I are strangers grown'. Belinda believes the source of this grief to be the Trojan Aeneas, and suggests that Carthage's troubles could be resolved by a marriage between the two. Dido and Belinda talk for a time—Dido fears that her love will make her a weak monarch, but Belinda and the Second Woman reassure her that "The hero loves as well." Aeneas enters the court, and is at first received coldly by Dido, but she eventually accepts his proposal of marriage.

Act 2[edit]

Scene 1: The cave of the Sorceress

The Sorceress/Sorcerer is plotting the destruction of Carthage and its queen, and summons companions to help with evil plans. The plan is to send her "trusted elf" disguised as Mercury, someone to whom Aeneas will surely listen, to tempt him to leave Dido and sail to Italy. This would leave Dido heartbroken, and she would surely die. The chorus join in with terrible laughter, and the Enchantresses decide to conjure up a storm to make Dido and her train leave the grove and return to the palace. When the spell is prepared, the witches vanish in a thunderclap.

Scene 2: A grove during the middle of a hunt

Stay, Prince and hear

The Sorceress' messenger, in form of Mercury, attempts to convince Aeneas to leave Carthage.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Dido and Aeneas are accompanied by their train. They stop at the grove to take in its beauty. A lot of action is going on, with attendants carrying goods from the hunt and a picnic possibly taking place, and Dido and Aeneas are together within the activity. This is all stopped when Dido hears distant thunder, prompting Belinda to tell the servants to prepare for a return to shelter as soon as possible. As every other character leaves the stage, Aeneas is stopped by the Sorceress's elf, who is disguised as Mercury. This pretend Mercury brings the command of Jove that Aeneas is to wait no longer in beginning his task of creating a new Troy on Latin soil. Aeneas consents to the wishes of what he believes are the gods, but is heart-broken that he will have to leave Dido. He then goes off-stage to prepare for his departure from Carthage.

Act 3[edit]

The harbour at Carthage

Preparations are being made for the departure of the Trojan fleet. The sailors sing a song, which is followed shortly by the Sorceress and her companions' sudden appearance. The group is pleased at how well their plan has worked, and the Sorceress sings a solo describing her further plans for the destruction of Aeneas "on the ocean". All the characters begin to clear the stage after a dance in three sections, and then disperse.

The palace

Dido and Belinda enter, shocked at Aeneas’ disappearance. Dido is distraught and Belinda comforts her. Suddenly Aeneas returns, but Dido is full of fear before Aeneas speaks, and his words only serve to confirm her suspicions. She derides his reasons for leaving, and even when Aeneas says he will defy the gods and not leave Carthage, Dido rejects him for having once thought of leaving her. After Dido forces Aeneas to leave, she states that "Death must come when he is gone." The opera and Dido's life both slowly come to a conclusion, as the Queen of Carthage sings her last aria, "When I am laid in Earth", also known as "Dido's Lament." The chorus and orchestra then conclude the opera once Dido is dead by ordering the "cupids to scatter roses on her tomb, soft and gentle as her heart. Keep here your watch, and never never never part."[29]


Main article: Dido and Aeneas discography

The first complete recording of the opera was made by Decca Records in 1935 with Nancy Evans as Dido and Roy Henderson as Aeneas,[30] followed in 1945 by HMV's release with Joan Hammond and Dennis Noble. Kirsten Flagstad, who had sung the role at the Mermaid Theatre in London, recorded it in 1951 for EMI with Thomas Hemsley as Aeneas. Dido and Aeneas has been recorded many times since the 1960s with Dido sung by mezzo-sopranos such as Janet Baker (1961), Tatiana Troyanos (1968), Teresa Berganza (1986), Anne Sofie von Otter (1989) and Susan Graham (2003). In addition to Joan Hammond and Kirsten Flagstad, sopranos who have recorded the role include Victoria de los Ángeles (1965), Emma Kirkby (1981), Jessye Norman (1986), Catherine Bott (1992), Lynne Dawson (1998), and Evelyn Tubb (2004).

Beginning with Andrew Parrott's 1981 recording for Chandos with the Taverner Consort and Players, there was an increasing preference for a more genuine period sound.[31] Further recordings by conductors and ensembles using this approach include those by Christopher Hogwood and The Academy of Ancient Music, William Christie and Les Arts Florissants (1986); Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert (1989); René Jacobs and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (1998); Emmanuelle Haïm and Le Concert d'Astrée (2003); and Predrag Gosta and New Trinity Baroque (2004). The Haïm recording with Susan Graham as Dido and Ian Bostridge as Aeneas was nominated for the Best Opera Recording in the 2005Grammy Awards.[32]

Several performances of the opera have been filmed and are available on DVD, most recently the 2008 performance at the Opéra-Comique in Paris conducted by William Christie and directed by Deborah Warner (FRA Musica FRA001)[33] and the 2009 performance at London's Royal Opera House conducted by Christopher Hogwood and directed by Wayne McGregor (OpusArte OA1018D). The Mark Morris dance version of the opera is also preserved on DVD (recorded 1995, Image Entertainment 8741) as is the dance version by Sasha Waltz (recorded 2005, Arthaus Musik 101311)

See also[edit]



  1. ^"Z" refers to the Zimmerman catalogue of Purcell's works by the American musicologist Franklin B. Zimmerman
  2. ^White, Bryan, 'Letter from Aleppo: dating the Chelsea School performance of Dido and Aeneas', 426
  3. ^ abWhite, Bryan, 'Letter from Aleppo: dating the Chelsea School performance of Dido and Aeneas', 417
  4. ^ abPinnock, Andrew, 'Which Genial Day? More on the court origin of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, with a shortlist of dates for its possible performance before King Charles II’, Early Music 43 (2015), 199–212
  5. ^ abBruce Wood and Andrew Pinnock, "'Unscared by turning times'? The dating of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas,"
  6. ^ abcdefPrice in Grove
  7. ^Harris (1990) p. 17
  8. ^Price, Henry Purcell and the London Stage, 239
  9. ^Price, Henry Purcell and the London Stage, 239–245
  10. ^Holman, Henry Purcell, 200–201
  11. ^Holman, Henry Purcell, 200
  12. ^Purcell (1991) p. iv
  13. ^White, Bryan, 'Letter from Aleppo: dating the Chelsea School performance of Dido and Aeneas', 420
  14. ^White, Bryan, 'Letter from Aleppo: dating the Chelsea School performance of Dido and Aeneas', 422
  15. ^Keates (1996) p. 179 and Walkling (August 1994) p. 469
  16. ^Crozier (1987) p. 114
  17. ^Rosenthal and Warrack (1979) p. 134; The New York Times (11 February 1923) p. 19
  18. ^Harris (1990) p. 157 lists this performance as the US premiere
  19. ^Melanie Eskenazi, The Royal Opera & The Royal Ballet – Dido and Aeneas / Acis and Galatea" on classicalsource.com
  20. ^City Wall Productions' websiteArchived 8 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^"What's On: Details on Opera North's website operanorth.co.uk
  22. ^Mark Morris Dance Group
  23. ^Walker (9 July 1995) p. C1
  24. ^Daily Mail (15 March 2007)
  25. ^The original score was written for soprano, but can be performed by mezzo-sopranos. See Price (1984) p. 247
  26. ^The original score was written for tenor, but is often performed by high baritones. See Harris (1990) pp. 60–62
  27. ^Price and Cholij, ‘Dido's Bass Sorceress’
  28. ^The part was originally played by a woman, although as early as 1700 the part was customarily played by a tenor. See Purcell (1971) p. v
  29. ^Synopsis based on Kobbé (1987) pp. 1010–1014.
  30. ^Darrell (1936) p. 371
  31. ^Boyden et al. (2002) p. 30
  32. ^Associated Press (7 December 2004)
  33. ^Jordy (9 December 2009)


  • Boyden, Matthew et al., "Dido and Aeneas", The rough guide to opera 3rd edition, Rough Guides, 2002. ISBN 1-85828-749-9
  • Darrell, R.D., The Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia of Recorded Music, The Gramophone Shop, Inc., 1936
  • Harris, Ellen T., Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, Oxford University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-19-315252-5
  • Holman, Peter, Henry Purcell (Oxford, 1995).
  • Holst, Imogen, "Purcell's librettist, Nahum Tate" Henry Purcell 1659–1695 Essays On His Music, Imogen Holst (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1959, pp. 35–41
  • Jordy, Catherine, "Flamboyante tragédie au Comique", Forum Opéra, 9 December 2009 (accessed 19 January 2010, in French)
  • Keates, Jonathan, Purcell: A biography, Northeastern University Press, 1996. ISBN 1-55553-287-X
  • Kobbé, Gustav, The Definitive Kobbé's Book of Opera.The Earl of Harewood (ed.), 1st American ed., G.P. Putnam's and Sons, 1987, pp. 1010–1014.
  • Mark Morris Dance Group, Work details: Dido and Aeneas
  • Price, Curtis, "Dido and Aeneas", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed 31 December 2005), grovemusic.com (subscription access)
  • Price, Curtis, Henry Purcell and the London stage, Cambridge University Press, 1984. ISBN 0-521-23831-5
  • Price, Curtis and Irena Cholij, ‘Dido's Bass Sorceress’, The Musical Times, Vol. 127 (Nov. 1986), 615–618
  • Pinnock, Andrew, ‘Deus ex machina: A royal witness to the court origin of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.’ Early Music, 40 (2012): 265–278.
  • Pinnock, Andrew, ‘Which Genial Day? More on the court origin of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, with a shortlist of dates for its possible performance before King Charles II’, Early Music 43 (2015), 199-212
  • Purcell, Henry, Dido and Aeneas (vocal score), Edward Dent and Ellen Harris (eds.), Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1991.
  • Purcell, Henry, Dido and Aeneas (vocal and full score), Margaret Laurie and Thurston Dart (eds.), Novello, 1971
  • Walker, Susan, "Every inch a diva. Opposites attract dancer Mark Morris. They define his life and his art", Toronto Star, 9 July 1995, p. C1
  • Walkling, Andrew (1995). "Political Allegory in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas". Music & Letters. 76 (4): 540–571. doi:10.1093/ml/76.4.540. 
  • White, Bryan, 'Letter from Aleppo: dating the Chelsea School performance of Dido and Aeneas', Early Music 37 (2009), 417–428. doi.org/10.1093/em/cap041
  • White, Eric Walter, "New Light on Dido and Aeneas" Henry Purcell 1659–1695 Essays On His Music, Imogen Holst (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1959, pp. 14–34
  • Wood, Bruce and Andrew Pinnock, "'Unscared by turning times'? The dating of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas," Early Music 20 (1992), 372–90

External links[edit]

"Dido and Aeneas" from Virgil's Aeneid

  • Didone (1641, Cavalli)
  • Dido and Aeneas (1688, Purcell)
  • Didon (1693, Desmarets)
  • Didone abbandonata (1724, Metastasio)
  • Didone abbandonata (1724, Sarro)
  • Didone abbandonata (1724, Albinoni)
  • Didone abbandonata (1762, Sarti)
  • Didon (1783, Piccinni)
  • Dido, Queen of Carthage (1792, Storace)
  • Les Troyens (1863, Berlioz)

Roman d'Enéas (1160)


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