WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Purcell: Dido & Aeneas / Connolly, Meachem, Hogwood [blu-ray]

Purcell / Connolly / Meachem / Crowe / Fulgoni
Release Date: 11/17/2009 
Label:  Opus Arte   Catalog #: 7049  
Composer:  Henry Purcell
Performer:  Ji-Min ParkIestyn DaviesPumeza MatshikizaSarah Connolly,   ... 
Conductor:  Christopher Hogwood
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
On sale! $29.99
Blu-ray Video:  $24.49
In Stock

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Note: This Blu-ray Disc is only playable on Blu-ray Disc players, and not compatible with standard DVD players.

"The sensitivity of her (Sarah Connolly's) acting and her intense musicality was striking throughout. Lucy Crowe made a delightful Belinda, with Lucas Meachem a quarterback hunk of an Aeneas. The young ad-hoc chorus sang beautifully." - The Telegraph

Henry Purcell
(Blu-ray Disc Version)

Dido – Sarah Connolly
Aeneas – Lucas Meachem
Belinda – Lucy Crowe
Sorceress – Sara Fulgoni
Second Woman – Anita Watson
First Witch – Eri Nakamura
Second Witch – Pumeza Matshikiza
Spirit – Iestyn
Read more Davies
Sailor – Ji-Min Park

The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera Extra Chorus
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Christopher Hogwood, conductor

Wayne McGregor, choreographer and stage director

Recorded live at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, on 3 and 8 April, 2009.

- Illustrated synopsis and cast gallery - Interview with Wayne McGregor

Picture format: 1080i High Definition
Sound format: 2.0 and 5.1 PCM
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian
Running time: 72 mins
No. of Discs: 1 (BD 25)


PURCELL Dido and Aeneas Christopher Hogwood, cond; Sarah Connolly ( Dido ); Lucas Meachem ( Aeneas ); Lucy Crowe ( Belinda ); Sara Fulgoni ( Sorceress ); Anita Watson ( Second Woman ); Eri Nakamura ( First Witch ); Pumeza Matshikiza ( Second Witch ); Iestyn Davies ( Spirit ); Ji-Min Park ( Sailor ); O of the Age of Enlightenment (period instruments); Royal Op Extra Chorus; Dancers of the Royal Ballet OPUS ARTE BD 7049 D (Blu-ray: 72:00) Live: 4/3,8/2009

Although it lasts only an hour, Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas presents any number of problems that are rarely apparent in audio recordings, because the challenges tend to be conceptual rather than musical. The basic story is tragic: A vindictive sorceress manipulates Dido, Queen of Carthage, and Aeneas, her Trojan lover, so that Aeneas feels compelled to abandon Dido and continue his travels, which will lead to his founding of Rome. Dido, distraught, commits suicide. Yet this very serious action is leavened by several dance interludes, and the role of the Sorceress is often treated comically—should it be? And how can the lighter dance sequences be integrated into the rest of the action? And how is the important role of Belinda, Dido’s maid, to be handled without making her seem like a mere lapdog? When you listen to a CD, you can work these issues out for yourself, or ignore them entirely. On stage and on video, a director’s approach to these issues is imposed on you, and brings great complications to what otherwise for home audiences is usually a purely musical experience.

“Purity” is a word that might be applied to Wayne McGregor’s staging of the work for England’s Royal Opera House; performances from a year ago are documented on this new Blu-ray disc from Opus Arte. If McGregor has a sense of humor, it isn’t manifested in this particular project. Oh, there are elements of the grotesque in his treatment of the Sorceress and her two witches (which are here played as biracial conjoined twins who don’t get along), but they certainly don’t come off as comic. Neither do they really seem very terrifying, so the tone McGregor is trying to set is puzzling. Furthermore, the three of them—Sara Fulgoni as the Sorceress, Eri Nakamura and Pumeza Matshikiza as the witches—deliver the least appealing vocalism in this production, and I don’t think it’s because they’re trying to sing in character. As for the dance interludes (and dance overlays with some of the vocal numbers), McGregor’s choreography seems almost tense; the dancers tend to maintain ramrod posture and favor repetitive gestures that allude to the imagery from the vocal text, and never break away as independent beings. There’s much to be said for such a consistent approach to the total work, unless you find a full hour of unrelieved gloom to be unbearable.

Similarly, Hildegard Bechtler’s sets are extraordinarily spare: a wall of faux granite for the palace, a line of emaciated young trees for the forest scene, a ruined ship’s hull for the beach—these are the only objects relieving the expanse of a bare stage. Fotini Dimou’s costumes further the notions of spareness and darkness: somber hues for all but the principal singers, and almost everyone, male and female, clad in unisex tunics and ankle-length skirts.

The musical elements work with and against the rest of the production in interesting ways. Christopher Hogwood, that longtime by-the-book HIP specialist, leads the period-instrument Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in a typically light and lean reading that makes all the necessary points while eschewing most special effects. The singers, in contrast, are hardly the white-voiced wraiths that dominated English Baroque performance 30 years ago. Aside from the impassioned Aeneas, Lucas Meachem, who seems to have wandered in not from Troy but from some 19th-century Italian opera house, the singers expertly employ just enough vibrato and other subtle techniques to bring substantial warmth to their work without creating an excessively anachronistic sound. In this regard, Sarah Connolly as Dido and Lucy Crowe as Belinda are outstanding—expressive, focused, entirely comfortable in their roles’ tessituras, keenly attuned to the text (and always employing crystal-clear diction). Dido doesn’t give Connolly much emotional range, but Crowe makes Belinda a bundle of devotion, concern, anguish, and even at one point a little jealousy, without ever overplaying. Perhaps this production sounds too ascetic to you, but be assured that it is hardly bloodless.

The audio formats are limited to PCM 2.0 and 5.1. The only special feature worth noting is a fairly interesting 10-minute interview with McGregor; there’s also a good booklet note by Rebecca Herissone on how Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas has fared through history.

FANFARE: James Reel
Read less

Works on This Recording

Dido and Aeneas, Z 626 by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Ji-Min Park (Voice), Iestyn Davies (Countertenor), Pumeza Matshikiza (Soprano),
Sarah Connolly (Mezzo Soprano), Anita Watson (Voice), Sara Fulgoni (Mezzo Soprano),
Lucy Crowe (Soprano), Lucas Meachem (Baritone), Eri Nakamura (Voice)
Conductor:  Christopher Hogwood
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1689; England 
Date of Recording: 04/2009 
Venue:  Covent Garden, London 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title