Notes and Editorial Reviews
There have been plenty of fine recordings of Purcell’s gem of an opera Dido and Aeneas, but let’s face it, the work hangs on the character of Dido, and no one, but no one, had the vocal artistry to portray noble suffering like Janet Baker. It was her specialty, and Dido was one of her great roles. No one sang Dido’s Lament as affectingly, and she’s surrounded by an excellent supporting cast, including Patricia Clark as the loyal Belinda, the young Raimund Herincx as Aeneas, and perhaps best of all, Monica Sinclair as the Sorceress leading some aptly rowdy witches. Sinclair is probably best known for her Gilbert and Sullivan recordings (Ruth, Buttercup, Katisha–all the evil altos), and she brings her comic experience in character roles to bear with excellent results.
I know there will be some who prefer to hear the orchestral part played on period instruments, but Anthony Lewis conducts with no lack of energy. Thurston Dart, who published the Purcell Society Edition of the work, plays an excellent continuo harpsichord. The strings of the English Chamber Orchestra bring plenty of color and atmosphere, while the chorus participates fully in the proceedings. Besides, Purcell’s vocal writing is timeless; there’s no issue of countertenors taking over from castratos, or other weirdnesses of casting that need to be worked around. The music sounds just fine using normal, modern voices. Recorded in 1962, the sonics have held up very well in an intimate work that, after all, places no great strain on the engineers. Most Purcell fans will own several recordings of this piece, but if you’re just starting out then this is the place to begin.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com