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Witches dance

Opera details:

Opera title:

Dido and Aeneas


Henry Purcell




Dido and Aeneas Synopsis


Dido and Aeneas Libretto



Scene details:









Previous scene: Destruction's our delight
Next scene: But death alas I cannot shun

A complete version of Henry Purcell's "Dido & Aeneas" (No. 3. The Witches) (Catherine Bott, Emma Kirkby, John Mark Ainsley, Julianne Baird, David Thomas, Sara Stowe, Daniel Lochmann, Michael Chance)

Singer(s): John Mark Ainsley Julianne Baird Michael Chance Catherine Bott Emma Kirkby

I've divided the work itself into several sections, each centered around a key situation of the work. Thus, the present section could be called "The witches".

First, let us note the cast:

Dido - Catherine Bott,
Belinda - Emma Kirkby,
Aeneas - John Mark Ainsley,
Second woman - Julianne Baird,
Sorceress - David Thomas,
Witches - Elizabeth Friday & Sara Stowe,
First sailor - Daniel Lochmann,
Spirit - Michael Chance.

1. "Wayward sisters", the Sorceress' opening recitation is an especially chilling affair, characterized by angular vocalization, as the head witch calls her retinue to order. An interesting touch from the present recording's engineers are numerous additional effects that help to set up the scene: thus, we have numerous claps of thunder that perfectly announce the appearance of the witches. In this performance the role of the head witch is, perhaps controversially, given to a baritone. Though this could be considered unacceptable for some, I find this decision works spectacularly: 1. it makes one truly take notice of the witch's sayings; 2. it's actually historically plausible, as there were precedents of such rewritings; 3. it is also a nod to the time honored tradition of comic actors portraying elderly women; 4. Thomas is actually so good that I cannot imagine any other Sorceress.

2. No. 8. "Harm's our delight", a witches chorus, highlighting even more the comic character of the witches, in spite of their role in the tragedy.

3. "The Queen of Cartridge", a recitation of the witches plan to separate the lovers to destroy Dido, charmingly contrasted with laughs coming from the chorus and questions from two solo witches. I never truly understood the need of replacing the gods with witches, as it doesn't really seem all that necessary, in spite of the surprisingly spirited music written for them. One possible explanation is a possibility that we are talking about female priests who are in opposition to Dido, rather than witches, as it seems unusual that they are acknowledging the gods' presence. Anyway, it doesn't really matter that much as to make one ignore the quality of music.

4. No. 9. "But ere we this perform", a superb duettino for two followers of the Sorceress, as they plan to bring their plan into action by separating Aeneas from his love and retinue during a hunt. A strangely richly-ornamented section but fully in accordance with the words of "storms".

5. No. 10. "In our deep-vaulted cell", a final chorus, as the witches go to prepare for their plan. The section, though brief, utilizes an appealing echo effect.

Hope you'll enjoy :)!

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Full libretto Dido and Aeneas

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Full English translation Dido and Aeneas

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