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Dido & Aeneas

1 September - 5 September


“Musically it is a delight under the direction of Ben Palmer with his Orchestra of St Paul’s and the Syred Consort.

Designer Cara Newman, uses a palette of creams and faded brown with sails billowing from the lighting rigs on either side and a great rent sail drawn down across the stage to become a turbulent sea, against which the richer brown of stately Dido’s gown stands out and grey-blues identify the Sorceress and her witches.

Daniel Winder, with his movement director Elissavet Aravidou and choreographer Holly Noble have devised some interesting episodes including a prologue with Dido mourning at her husband’s grave, a great storm that wrecks Aeneas’s fleet and leaves his followers struggling in the waves, a mimed hunt and a sailor’s jig; when Dido sings of cupid the lad himself appear, blindfold and with his bow to shoot darts at the lovers.

If only all performers had the stage confidence of David Baynes’s Cloanthus, or his doubling as the Sorceress’s spirit messenger mimed to a vocal line sung by the Sorceress Claire Eadington herself. Rosemary Galton is a strong and moving Dido and Phillipa Murray an excellent Belinda.”

British Theatre Review


The story of Dido and Aeneas has been told many times by many different people. The common starting point for most of these versions is Books 1-4 of Virgil’s Aeneid. The Aeneid is an epic poem charting the journey of Aeneas from the burning ruins of Troy, through mythic seas, and onto the shores of what was to become modern Italy, where he was destined to found the seeds of the early Roman Empire. Along the way, a short episode is played out, where, wearied by his trials, Aeneas is washed up in Dido’s kingdom of Carthage. Dido and Aeneas begin a doomed love affair which ends with Aeneas departing and Dido’s suicide.

According to Roman sources, Queen Elissa, also known as Dido, founded Carthage in 814 BC. Elissa was an exiled princess of the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre. At its peak, the metropolis she founded, Carthage, came to be called the ‘shining city’, ruling three hundred other cities around the western Mediterranean and leading the Phoenician (or Punic) world. Virgil’s story is itself a reworking of several even earlier sources, with many changes made for poetic effect. Two of the best-known ‘straight’ plays on the subject are Dido, Queen of Carthage by Christopher Marlowe (1594) and Brutus of Alba by Nahum Tate (1678), who also wrote the libretto to Purcell’s opera.

There have been more than a dozen operas written over the last 400 years telling the story of Dido’s tragic love; the range of diverse composers include Cavalli, Galuppi, Piccinni and Berlioz. Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas is therefore part of a long tradition of re-imagining and retelling which stretches back over many centuries. The opera focuses on the central core of the story, cutting out the many subplots; we lose both Soziman, the scheming courtier plotting Dido’s overthrow in Brutus of Alba, and Iarbas, Dido’s spurned suitor and rival king from Dido, Queen of Carthage. As in Brutus, Nahum Tate’s libretto replaces the manipulative gods, Juno and Jupiter, with far more earthly witches and sorceresses. This follows the all-consuming fashion of the 17th Century for the occult, and also gives the piece some of its most memorable music.

Drawing on the tradition of court masques, and the main two contemporary texts (namely Tate’s Brutus of Alba and Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage) we have attempted to provide a frame for the opera which helps to contextualise Tate’s libretto, whilst respecting, and hopefully enhancing, the integrity of the central piece. One of the main manuscript versions of the opera includes a prologue full of nymphs, gods, country maids and rustic dances; with both pure text parts and musical interludes; the opera could certainly have been part of an evening of theatre, dance, music, song and spectacle.

Daniel Winder August 2010


Rosemary Galton Soprano – Dido, Queen of Carthage
Philippa Murray – Soprano – Belinda, Dido’s sister and handmaid
Edwin Mansfield – Baritone – Aeneas, leader of the Trojan sailors
Claire Eadington – Alto – The Sorceress; Spirit; Chorus
Felicity Hayward – Soprano – Second Woman; First Witch; Chorus
Alicia Gurney – Soprano – Second Witch; Chorus
Ben Byram-Wigfield
Tenor – The Sailor; Chorus
Nick Ashby – Bass – Chorus


David Baynes – Cloanthus, companion of Aeneas
Tim Renouf – Achates, faithful companion of Aeneas
Martyn August – Ilioneus, companion of Aeneas
Laura Harling – Ascanius, Aeneas’s son
Emily Tucker – Ishtar
Sarah Coulson-Porteous  – Inanna
Jennifer Gabriele  – Astarte


Alexandra Reid – Violin I
Francesca Barritt – Violin II
Helen Sanders-Hewett – Viola
Sophie Gledhill – Cello
Joseph Chesshyre –
Harpsichord – Artistic Team & Crew

Daniel Winder – Director & Producer
Ben Palmer – Musical Director & Conductor
Cara Newman – Theatre Designer
Benjamin Polya – Lighting Designer
Holly Noble – Dance Choreographer
Elissavet Aravidou – Movement Director
Amy Tapper – Costume Supervisor
Alexia Tonkin – Costume Assistant
Sophie Westerman – Costume Assistant
Nicole Law – Set and Props Assistant
Daisy Macdonald – Set and Props Assistant
Satoko Takeuchi – Set and Props Assistant
Tim Gill – Board Operator
Jen Watson – Electrician and Board Programmer