Purcell: Dido and Aeneas / Ernman, Maltman, Christie, Les Arts Florissants
Henry Purcell was a genius whose ability to combine French and Italian influences transported the English language to new levels of expression in music. Dido and Aeneas was pioneering in its day and is considered one of Purcell’s foremost theatrical works, with a moving tale of love, betrayal and tragedy that has proved to be of unceasing appeal to audiences for centuries. Deborah Warner’s brilliant stage direction combines period color with present-day dynamism, while William Christie’s affection for this opera shines through in an overwhelmingly acclaimed performance filmed in December 2008 at the Opéra Comique in Paris.
Deborah Warner’s production of Dido and Aeneas has taken a long time to reach us. It was filmed in December 2008 at the Opéra Comique in Paris, and the production was much admired when it was new. It has by and large been worth the wait.
Costumes are period (Purcell’s period, not that of ancient Carthage) for the main characters, with contemporary street clothes for most others.
The musical side of things is a real strength here. Christopher’s Maltman’s Aeneas is firm of voice, although his character is not so firm of purpose and the baritone does not try to make him more sympathetic than the tale justifies. He gets this just right in his stage manner, and sings as well as anyone has in the role I think.
Dido is Swedish mezzo-soprano Malena Ernman is excellent in this moving role, which is so central to the success of any production. From her first confession to Belinda that she is “pressed with torment” through to her “When I am laid in earth” and poignant cries of “Remember me” she combines pathos with queenly dignity, except in her rage at Aeneas’s announcement of his departure. The whole scene of Dido’s lament can rarely have been staged, directed and sung so well live.
The other roles are all well taken, the Belinda of Judith van Wanroij being especially attractive vocally and in stage deportment. The choral work is good, the fine instrumentalists of Les Arts Florissants make an appealing period sound, and the direction of William Christie has his customary authority in such repertoire. Warner’s direction is sure-footed and unfussy, and the stage business she invents to go with the dance music moments is always plausible.
-- MusicWeb International (Roy Westbrook)
Release Date: January 14, 2022
Catalog Number: 2110709
Label: Naxos AV
Number of Discs: 1
Composer: Purcell, Henry Purcell
Conductor: William Christie
Orchestra/Ensemble: Les Arts Florissants
Performer: Malena Ernman, Christopher Maltman, Judith van Wanroij, Hilary Summers
Dido and Aeneas, Z. 626
Composer: Henry Purcell
Ensemble: Les Arts Florissants
Performer: Malena Ernman (Mezzo Soprano), Christopher Maltman (Baritone), Judith van Wanroij (Soprano), Hilary Summers (Contralto)
Conductor: William Christie