"The more it is studied the more confidently can we assert its flawlessness as one of the masterpieces of music-drama." — Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians
When English composer Henry Purcell (1659–1695) wrote Dido and Aeneas, opera was not yet publicly performed in London. Indeed, although Purcell was already recognized as one of London's most distinguished musicians and composers, the debut performance of Dido and Aeneas was not in the kind of grand theater we now associate with opera. It took place at "Josias Priest's Boarding-School at Chelsey…Perform'd by Young Gentlewomen," possibly as early as 1680.
In time, sparkling miniature opera, filled with intense drama and elegant song, would dazzle theater audiences around the world. It remains the oldest English operatic work still regularly performed.
Dido and Aeneas lasts little more than an hour, yet encompasses a broad range of expressive music, from a high-spirited sailors' dance to one of the most touching of all operatic arias, Dido's lament, "When I am laid in earth." This brilliant work, by the greatest English composer of his time, is presented here in an authoritative early full-score edition.