Puccini, Verdi and Rossini wrote some of opera’s best loved arias, but in Radio 3’s search for The Nation’s Favourite Aria none of these Italian composers made the top ten.
In a surprise win, Purcell’s ‘When I am laid in earth’, from Dido and Aeneas took the top spot after earning the largest share of the audience vote after the 11 nominations were revealed on 2 June.
One of the earliest English operas to still be performed today, Dido and Aeneas is the only of Purcell’s stage works to be fully sung. The winning aria appears at the end of the opera as Dido, Queen of Carthage kills herself after having been abandoned by her lover, Aeneas.
‘It’s touching that it’s an English rather than an Italian bel canto aria that’s won the most support,’ says Breakfast presenter Sara Mohr Pietsch. ‘Purcell’s music gives us access to the heart of a proud queen in the final minutes of her life, one of those rare and beautiful moments when every listener is on the edge of their seat.’