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Purcell Dido and Aeneas - CD & DVD

Connolly, Finley, Crowe, Ainsley; OAE

Chandos Chaconne CHAN0757

Here is the latest of the many recordings of the ever popular and fascinating Purcell opera, with Sarah Connolly returning to the role of the Queen of Carthage after having taken it in Berlioz's version.

For this recording it proved possible to call on many of the leading British early music singing stars for small roles. Sarah Connolly was invited to choose the cast and also to suggest some additional music, of which a harpsichord Almand interposed in Act 3 is perhaps the most unusual.

The Orchestra of the Enightenment (pictured below R as they like to be shown) ensures authenticity and the small band chosen is directed "in a pleasantly collegial arrangement" by lutenist Elizabeth Kenny and harpsichordist Steven Devine (who reviews for us when time constraints allow).

Elizabeth Kenny traverses the history and plot, giving us Dryden's summary, adapted for operatic presentation by Nahum Tate.

There are photos of everyone and trilingual texts.

This was received for review soon after the reissue of the historic account for the opening of London's regrettably il-fated Mermaid Theatre by Kirsten Flagstad [Nimbus NI 7956] ; I reckon those two are required listening and both would adorn any collection.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Sarah Connolly is scheduled to perform as Dido (Purcell's) at Covent Garden later this year.

Purcell: Dido and Aeneas

Sarah Connolly
Lucas Meachem, Lucy Crowe, Sara Fulgoni, Anita Watson, Eri Nakamura, Pumeza Matshikiza, Iestyn Davies & Ji-Min Park
Dancers of The Royal Ballet, The Royal Opera Extra Chorus & Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Christopher Hogwood & Wayne McGregor (stage director)
Recorded live at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London on 3rd & 8th April 2009

Opus Arte Royal Opera House Collection OABD7049D - 72 mins £24.50

That production - half of a double bill - has now appeared on DVD. Seeing it thus somehow reinforces what a sketchy little piece it is; unfashionable in its own time when musical theatre was grandiose with spectacular stage effects and evenings were lengthy to satisfy the tastes of the day. It remained little known and not much rated before Bernard Shaw's evaluation in 1889.

This small scale, minimally staged production looks as if it would not have commanded the large Covent Garden opera house. It got mixed reviews, and at first it looked apt for home viewing. But the intoduction of modern dance is no help and I agree with Musical Criticism that "the sense of disjointedness and confusion is exacerbated by the frequent and often unnecessary appearance of the dancers". Its availability will be welcomed by those involved, but at c. 70 mins including an interview with the director/choreographer it is not good value and we are unable to recommend it other than to Connolly fans. Probably best at home on CD and listened to with your own imagination?

Peter Grahame Woolf