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Purcell: Dido and Aeneas

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0
Dido Parratt 62993

Purcell
Dido and Aeneas
Emily Van Evera, Ben Parry, Janet Lax, Hanne Mari Ørbaek, Haden Andrews; Taverner Choir & Players/Andrew Parrott
Sony Classical SK 62993

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This fresh performance, recorded in 1994, places the accent on giving meaning and colour to every word of the text. Those who are looking for big-voiced singers – big-voiced even within the restricted remit of most period-style performance practice – will be disappointed. But not I. Casting Ben Parry as Aeneas was a minor masterstroke. Parry will never strut the stage of the Met – his singing is more akin to what one might expect in a carefully cast musical – but his youthful, slightly husky Aeneas is wholly credible. What better to excuse the Trojan king’s rather odd behaviour than lack of experience? Emily van Evera’s Dido, Jane Lax’s Belinda and Haden Andrews’s Sorceress (Andrews is a bass-baritone) are all equally good, and Parrot directs the excellent Taverner Players in a performance that charms as well as moves in abundance. For me its closest rival on CD is Christopher Hogwood’s gripping account on Decca Florilegium. But given a simple choice between the two, I’d walk away with this one.

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Stephen Pettitt