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Dido & Aeneas

4.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 10, 2004
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

This new, period instrument version of Purcell's wonderful, brief Dido and Aeneas shows up in a very crowded field. There are close to two dozen other versions available, many of them also historically informed. Here we have a dignified, beautifully sung reading, with instrumentalists performing with a similar sense of loveliness and reserve; indeed, the only time true overt emotionalism shows up is when the witches appear: Felicity Palmer is a nasty handful as the Sorceress. Susan Graham's Dido is elegant and, note-for-note, probably gives us among the best Didos on disc. Ian Bostridge's Aeneas is good without being outstanding; David Daniels and Paul Agnew make remarkable cameos. I prefer the performance led by René Jacobs or starring Janet Baker to this one for sheer drama, but you can't go wrong with Graham, et al, under Emmanuelle Haim's intensely musical leadership either. --Robert Levine
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Digital Booklet: Purcell: Dido and Aeneas
Digital Booklet: Purcell: Dido and Aeneas
Album Only
Digital Booklet: Purcell: Dido and Aeneas
Digital Booklet: Purcell: Dido and Aeneas
Album Only

Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 10, 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Virgin Veritas
  • ASIN: B0000E6POJ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #205,737 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Charles Richards on February 26, 2004
Format: Audio CD
"Dido & Aeneas" is probably Purcell's best-known work (with the possible exception of the rondeau from "Abdelazer") and certainly his most often recorded: off--hand I could probably count at least a dozen different recordings of this miniature masterpiece, and that would probably be only the tip of the iceberg. From the classic, though heavy-handed EMI recording with Flagstad and Schwarzkopf, to Baker's magnificent account on Decca, to the full-chested sound of Troyanos' Queen of Carthage (she recorded it twice), to the vulneralbility of de los Angeles for Barbirolli (EMI), to Norman's luxurious reading for Leppard, to Von Otter's spotless interpretation for Pinnock, and Bott's volatile recording for Hogwood, almost every great dramatic mezzo (or soprano) has tried their hand at this role, usually with grand results. And don't forget Della Jones, Lorraine Hunt, Christie's two recordings, Parrott's two attempts, etc. etc. the list just goes on and on. So with such tough competition, does Haim's new recording for Virgin come up to snuff?
In one word: YES!!!! and then some!
Just when you thought the last word on Purcell's score had been said, comes a new reading that turns everything around and makes us appreciate this great work in a new way, making it as fresh as if it were written yesterday. Emannuelle Haim, whose third disc for Virgin this is, has a firm command of her excellent ensemble "L'Astree" and her love for the music shows. The tempi are brisk and breezy, but never rushed, she supports the singers in all the dramatic moments with heart-breaking accuracy, and she knows just when to throw in a touch or nuance that sheds new light on the music.
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Format: Audio CD
Dido and Aeneas is really a rare gem among the Baroque operas. Even if it doesn't offer a great chance to the singers to show off their virtuoso singing in the same way Alcina, Giulio Cesare and many other operas do, it has been sung by many great artists and is still one of the most successful operas from the Baroque era. So, why would so many great singers be interested in singing this brief masterpiece? The answer for that lays in the pure and sincere drama of his music and in the deep and meaningful way Purcell used the English text to its most dramatic effect.

With an amazing cast headed by Susan Graham and Ian Bostridge and the fantastic Baroque expert conductor, Emanuelle Haïm, this recording has really surprised me. With such recordings sung by legends like Flagstad, Baker and Norman, I thought there were just good versions enough. I was wrong! This one impressed me mostly, particularly because of the lively and intelligent conducting and the inspiring atmosphere.

The role of Dido has been a challenge for some of the most legendary voices of the 20th century: Kirsten Flagstad, Janet Baker, Victoria de los Angeles, Jessye Norman and many others. Here Susan Graham joins the intensity of Flagstad, the feminineness of De los Angeles and the technical aplomb of Baker in one of the best interpretations of Dido ever. Her ''Ah! Belinda, I am prest" is an example of velvety singing and perfect breath control. Her final monologue ''When I am laid'' is sung with a tearful and lush tone. I thought her Dido was perfectly accurate, both in her singing and in her dramaticism. Her creamy voice evokes feminineness, sadness and tragedy very properly. This is certainly one of the most amazing Dido you'll ever hear!
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Format: Audio CD
This is my third Dido and Aeneas recording, and I was struck by how rushed some of the parts are, in particular Belinda's parts. It turns out that this recording is 52:54 long, against EMI's 58:33, for instance. Another disturbing element of this recording is the guitar dance at the end of the first act, which threatens to turn into a Paco de Lucia flamenco.

I do find the chorus in this recording stronger and more nuanced than any other I have heard. I also think the Sorceress is just fine without the usual distortion prescribed for the part.
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Format: Audio CD
For many years I was perfectly happy with the 1981 Chandos recording of “Dido and Aeneas” by Andrew Parrott and his Taverner Consort and Players. Dido is sung there by the incomparable Emma Kirkby at her most girlish-naïve, Aeneas by bass David Thomas, and the Sorceress by Jantine Noorman. But some time ago, I decided to buy a newer version, and having been enchanted by Emanuelle Haim’s recording of Handel’s “Aci, Galatea e Polifemo” on Virgin Veritas, I opted for her version of “Dido and Aeneas” – a decision which I have not had occasion to regret, for although this may not be a “spectacular” disc (whatever that may mean in this context), it is a splendid recording worth every cent of its price. Immediately, several differences from the Parrott were obvious:

1. The documentation is better. I was always a little disappointed that the accompanying notes of the Parrott disc were so compact and that there was no printed libretto. The Haim on Virgin is much more liberal, with an informative introductory essay, black-and-white photographs of the soloists and a complete libretto in English, French and German.
2. The recorded sound is better. The Parrott disc is not at all bad, but in comparison does show its age somewhat. The Haim disc, recorded at the excellent Arsenal de Metz venue, is ideally present, transparent and spacious. The singers stand out clearly, the accompanying music can be heard in all its fine detail.
3. Susan Graham is a more “adult” Dido than Emma Kirkby, vulnerable in her way, but also with a strong will and determination. In the end, I think I believed her a little more than the childlike-sounding Emma Kirkby. Ms.
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