Dido and Aeneas…Two legendary lovers see their deadly destiny fulfilled…

Around 1683, Henry Purcell, one of the great geniuses of the English Baroque era, created a masterpiece with his opera Dido & Aeneas. This three-act opera was based on a libretto by Nahum Tate and was also Purcell’s only true opera, as well as his only all-sung dramatic work.

Aeneas Taking Leave of Dido, by Guido Reni, c.1630, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Kassel © Bridgeman Images

At the heart of this tragic love story is Dido, Queen of Carthage and her lover Aeneas, a Trojan heroic prince. Belinda, Dido’s sister, is pleased with the union because she thinks Aeneas and the troops who will fight alongside him, will strengthen Carthage.

However, trouble is brewing as cunning sorceresses and witches dance and plot the couple’s demise. Aeneas is informed that he promptly needs to leave for the continent with his fleet: news that Dido doesn’t take very well.

Very shortly thereafter, (despite a desperate plea and change of heart from Aeneas to stay behind with Dido ) she dramatically kills herself.

The dramatic intensity of this love story is powerful and culminates in the famous aria sung by the queen : “ When I am laid

When I am laid in earth,
May my wrongs create
No trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, remember
me, but ah! Forget my fate.

Soprano Myriam Leblanc as Dido

This exceptional work was performed last night, Nov 8th at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ Bourgie Hall by the musicians of Ensemble Caprice and Ensemble vocal Arts-Québec led by maestro Matthias Maute, in an up-lifting 75 minutes, English concert version of the opera with bilingual surtitles.

The cast included:

Soprano: Myriam Leblanc (Dido, Queen of Carthage)
Soprano: Janelle Lucyk (Belinda, her sister)
Baritone: Dominique Côté (Aeneas, a Trojan prince)
Ensemble vocal Arts-Québec

Conductor Matthias Maute went to great lengths to explain the backbone of the narrative to the audience, paying special attention to the details of the mood shifts that define the three acts.

Although the opera is a tragedy, there are numerous seemingly lighter scenes, such as the Drunken Saylor’s Dance and Song, “Take a boozy short leave of your nymphs on the shore, and silence their mourning with vows of returning, though never intending to visit them more.

Maute also emphasized the somewhat simplistic nature of the story and the over dramatization of Dido’s decision to kill herself when she heard of her lover’s momentary decision to leave her.

He went on to explain that the witches in the second act, could represent our human flaws in that we make rash decisions based on our emotions rather than using rational thoughts when in love.

Another highlight of the concert was that the audience were invited to participate in a group vote to choose between two versions of the < Prologue to Dido and Aeneas >

Option 1 was a very melancholy Lament from Dido for Choir and orchestra.

Option two was a comical ” Phone call from Dido ” for soprano and choir.

As the vote tally was rather tight, the decision was made to perform a mix of both options.

It is really moments like these that make performances by the Ensemble Caprice , led by it’s maestro Matthias Maute most memorable !

To learn more about upcoming recitals and concerts please visit their website :