Purcell: Dido and Aeneas

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Purcell
LABELS: Opus Arte
WORKS: Dido and Aeneas
PERFORMER: Sarah Connolly, Lucas Meachem, Lucy Crowe, Sarah Fulgoni; Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Christopher Hogwood; dir. Wayne McGregor (London, 2009)
CATALOGUE NO: OA 1018 D (NTSC system; LPCM stereo; 16:9 anamorphic)

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After an outstanding Dido on CD (on Chandos), Sarah Connolly here revisits the role for Wayne McGregor’s production, first seen in Milan in 2006, but translated to the Royal Opera House by way of anniversary tribute.

Uniting the Royal Opera and Ballet in a single endeavour was also part of the subtext, and in theory the union should have cemented a sort of Baroque Gesamtkunstwerk. McGregor’s gestural acuity informs more than the choreography (signalled from the outset by Dido’s alarmed ‘start’ soon into the overture), and some beautifully stylised chorus movements segue neatly into The Triumphing Dance at the end of Act I.

But in the event, much of the dance comes across as ‘set apart’, not least because its sophistication jangles with the laudable directness and simplicity McGregor strives for elsewhere. 

The wide open spaces and minimalist designs contrive a vast universe against which a very intimate human tragedy can be teased out, presented with an almost classical purity and restraint.

Lucy Crowe is a seductive Belinda, with Sara Fulgoni equally compelling as the Sorceress, and under Christopher Hogwood’s shapely musical direction the score engorges the amplitude of the Opera House without forgoing any illuminating period pertinence.

Pity then it’s all thrown away at the end with naff back-projection of a horse in slow motion, especially since Sarah Connolly embraces the fateful trajectory towards suicide with almost unbearable intensity.

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The extras consist of a cast gallery, a superfluous synopsis, and the producer talking for ten minutes. Paul Riley