Purcell: Dido & Aeneas


 Purcell’s ever-green chamber opera Dido & Aeneas, its story drawn from Virgil’s epic, the Aeneid, is performed by the Armonico Consort with an astounding selection of soloists.

Armonico Consort is one of the largest and most innovative organisations of its kind in the UK, existing to inspire audiences with its unique programmes.


What people are saying

"4* – lithe, colourful, tastefully phrased and dynamically astute playing…[the cast] sing compellingly and inhabit their roles with the same sensitivity that distinguishes the whole performance." The Daily Telegraph, May 2015

"A clean, uncluttered account featuring crystalline voices, good diction, safe tempos and well-defined phrasing…vocal ensembles are luminous and the instrumental playing is bright and streamlined. Best of all is Rachael Lloyd?s dignified Dido, rich-voiced, poetic and flawlessly delivered." The Guardian, May 2015

"The Armonico Consort and its musical director, Christopher Monks, capture this abundance of inspiration in a performance full of life and variety…Rachael Lloyd’s dignified Dido and Elin Manahan Thomas’s bright Belinda are well contrasted." Financial Times, June 2015

&quotBeyond its individual beauties, this is a performance that hangs together in an indefinable but very satisfying way." AllMusic, July 2015

" …this small-scale version of Purcell’s evergreen masterpiece has much to commend it." Early Music Today, Autumn 2015

Release date:8th Jun 2015
Order code:SIGCD417
Barcode: 635212041727

There’s a lot going for this newcomer. The scale is modest…The playing is wonderfully vital…The soloists are equally fine. Bright-toned Elin Manahan Thomas is well cast as Belinda…Roderick Morris is pleasingly unexaggerated as a countertenor Sorceress…Rachael Lloyd – lovesick, imperious, resigned – is an excellent Dido, her famous Lament no less effective for being restrained


The intimate scale of this performance serves as a reminder that Purcell’s 1689 opera Dido & Aeneas was conceived not for a grand theatre but for the “gentlewomen” who boarded at an artistically sophisticated school in Chelsea.

Armonico Consort’s orchestra is a compact ensemble of two violins, viola, cello, double bass and theorbo, demonstrating through lithe, colourful, tastefully phrased and dynamically astute playing that that is really all you need.

Many of us were brought up on the English Chamber Orchestra’s 1962 recording conducted by Anthony Lewis, with Thurston Dart on the harpsichord and with the incomparable team of Janet Baker and Raimund Herincx as the star-crossed lovers. Their captivating performance is still available on Decca Legends, and it is a disc to which I return again and again. But modern thinking brings different interpretative ideas, and this new recording directed by Christopher Monks certainly lacks nothing in humanity, poignancy and vitality.

The pacing is cunningly wrought, combining the 41 separate numbers into a cohesive whole while giving due attention to the contrasts of dramatic tempo and emotional content that lend the 50-minute opera such enlivening spirit and tragic intensity. There is a particularly apt piece of musical characterisation in the Act 1 chorus Cupid only Throws the Dart, where the voices pick out the notes and words with prickly point, but that is but one instance where this performance responds so instinctively to Nahum Tate’s text and Purcell’s music.

The Telegraph

Every hearing of Purcell’s masterpiece sharpens one’s regret that the tast of court and caputal for musicals confined him to one opera. This account has likeable soloists (Rachael Lloyd and Robert Davies the principals), a fine chorus (though "Great minds" and "With drooping wings" are too slow) and a lively band. One-string-to-a-part weakens passages like the end of "Oft she visits", but brings out Purcell’s expressive part-writing. Monks also labours the introduction to Act II, Scene ii, but overall his reading is lively. 

The Sunday Times, David Cairns