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An English classic this week on The Lyric Stage

Julianne Baird heads the cast as Dido this Sunday (9/18) at 8 pm.

Henry Purcell wrote his brief opera Dido and Aeneas in the late 1680's. Nahum Tate wrote the libretto for this, one of the first English operas. The first known performance was at a Girl's school in London in 1688, probably with students and some imported male singers in the cast. The musical provenance is somewhat murky. There is no copy of the music in Purcell's handwriting, and some parts of the score are lost. This has led to numerous editions. The edition we have this week features seven instruments - a string quartet, bass, baroque guitar and harpsichord as well as the vocal soloists.

The story is based on an incident from Book 4 of Virgil's Aeneid. The widowed Queen of Carthage, Dido, falls in love with Aeneas, a Trojan shipwrecked on his way to Italy to found Rome. But Dido has enemies in the form of witches who plot her destruction. They conjure a storm as the lover's are hunting, and Dido and Aeneas return to town where a false Mercury - a spirit at the bidding of the Witches - tells Aeneas he must sail for Italy. He does so, and the grief stricken Dido kills herself, as the cupids mourn.