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Purcell - Dido & Aeneas / Maria Ewing, Karl Daymond, Collegium Musicum 90

DVD

4.0 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Dido: MARIA EWING
Aeneas: KARL DAYMOND
Belinda: REBECCA EVANS
Sorceress: SALLY BURGESS
Second Woman: PATRICIA ROZARIO
First Enchantress: MARY PLAZAS
Second Enchantress: PAMELA HELEN STEPHEN
Aeneas' Lieutenant: JAMIE MCDOUGALL
Mercury: FRANÇOIS TESTORY
Voice Of Mercury: JAMES BOWMAN
Conductor: RICHARD HICKOX
Director: PETER MANIURA

Purcell's much-loved tragic opera is an intense tale of heroism, passion, betrayal and ultimate tragedy, played out against a backdrop of fiery rituals, evil spells and pageantry. It was filmed entirely on location at Hampton Court House, England, where spectacular settings are created in the house and grounds.

Dido, Queen of Carthage, and Prince Aeneas, a fugitive lately arrived in her realm after the fall of Troy, fall in love; Dido's confidante Belinda urges her to yield to his suit, and they go off on a hunting party which, as a seventeenth-century audience would readily have understood, symbolises Aeneas's sexual capture of Dido. Meanwhile, skulking in the gloom of a cave, an evil Sorceress and her Enchantresses (an addition of Tate's not found in Virgil) plot to destroy Dido by conjuring up a false vision of Mercury to send Aeneas on his way; this is duly done when the hunting party is scattered by a sudden thunderstorm. Soon afterwards, as the Trojan mariners prepare to set sail, the Sorceress and Enchantresses arrive at the quayside to gloat; Dido upbraids Aeneas for his faithlessness and furiously dismisses him but after he has left she dies, broken-hearted, in Belinda's arms.

The dramatic power of the piece is complemented by its musical riches, which are shared among all the individual singers and the various colourful groups: urbane courtiers, gleefully malignant witches, salty mariners portrayed by the chorus.

Dido & Aeneas is not only one of the most perfect operas ever written but also an ideal opera for television. The extreme dramatic compression of its plot, which is one of the few grounds on which it is open to criticism, is even an advantage in film terms. Cinema and television audiences are extremely familiar with fast cutting, rapid plot development and the emotional twists and turns of much contemporary drama. A classical tragedy compressed into just under one hour is thus not as implausible as it might at first appear.

The location, Hampton Court House, is an empty mid-eighteenth century mansion with its own, slightly decayed, formal gardens and grounds. Ancient Carthage on the coast of North Africa, the setting for the story, was a trading city and a melting pot of nations. Niek Kortekaas, the designer, decided to create a rich yet primitive world, lit by fire (for which there are many references both literal and metaphorical in the text) in which Dido's court draws together elements of many cultures and traditions fusing them into a society dominated by ritual and pageantry

The challenge of working on film was a new one for most of the cast and it allowed a great subtlety in the vocal performances since the artists did not have to worry about projecting their performances into an auditorium. Magnetic performers like Maria Ewing were able to relish intimate effects which would not have registered in an opera house. Equally the tight focus of film work with its close-ups and reaction shots called for a style of acting quite different from that employed in a theatre and one which the cast embraced with great enthusiasm. I hope that this film captures both the personal intimacy and the public tragedy which lie at the heart of Purcell's great masterpiece. Peter Maniura


Special features

None.

Product details

  • Actors: Maria Ewing, Karl Raymond, Richard Hickox
  • Directors: Peter Maniura
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Classical, Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French, German
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: KULTUR VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: June 24, 2008
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B0017HEY9S
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,564 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
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