“Dido and Aeneas” is Purcell’s first opera and one of the earliest English operas. It was written around 1688 and premiered shortly after at the Josias Priest Girls School in London. The opera is based on the story of Dido and Aeneas from Book IV of Virgil’s Latin epic poem, “The Aeneid.”
The opera tells the story of the legendary queen of Carthage, Dido, and the Trojan prince, Aeneas. When Aeneas and his crew become shipwrecked in Carthage, he and the queen fall in love.
In the meantime, witches plot Dido’s destruction. The sorceress has one of her coven impersonate the god Mercury who tells Aeneas he must leave Dido and found the new Troy. Forced to choose between passion and duty, Aeneas and his sailors prepare to leave, much to the witches’ delight. Dido, who cannot live without him, is absolutely heartbroken and awaits death.
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