The Early Music Podcast : Henry Purcell

The Early Music Podcast : Henry Purcell
How could we possibly top the perfection that is a masterpiece like Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas?

If you are British, you probably know the Beatles, and Henry Purcell (1659-1695). And if you know Henry Purcell, it is probably through his opera Dido and Æneas: a short opera with all the ingredients for good Baroque entertainment: love and betrayal, witches, disguise, a storm scene and a tragic ending. This national treasure is among the most performed baroque pieces today, and constitutes a challenge for every artist that dares to tackle this innocent-looking one-hour masterpiece. 

Composer Errollyn Wallen, the only live composer that we could fit in this series, was up to the task and wrote Dido’s Ghost, which premiered at the Barbican in June 2021. This sequel to Dido and Aeneas is a modern take on Purcell’s story that also reconnects it to Virgil’s Aeneid and Ovid’s Heroides, the two roman authors who created and developed the story of Dido, the queen of Carthago that welcomes Aeneas in his flight from Troy. In this piece, Purcell’s music is enhanced by Wallen’s writing, but she also provides a modern take on the story in itself, demonstrating how this 2000 years old story still has meaning today, and is still fuel for creativity!


guest Errollyn Wallen, composer

interview & editing Andrew Burn
production REMA
credits music 
Platée, Act 1, Orage - Jean-Philippe Rameau
performed by Les Talens Lyriques, dir. Christophe Rousset
Camera Lucida 2014
All rights reserved - Courtesy of Les Talens Lyriques
design Doretta Rinaldi
original drawings Vincent Flückiger

cover score Folio, When on my sick bed I languish Z.144, 1678 (British Library, Add MS 30930)

Wayward sisters, you that fright…, 
The Witches' Dance
Thy hand, Belinda, darkness shades me 
With drooping wings ye Cupids come - Henry Purcell
performed by Le Concert Spirituel, Hervé Niquet
Dido and Aeneas, Glossa 2001

Dido’s Ghost - Errollyn Wallen
performed by Dunedin Consort
Live recording 
Courtesy of the Barbican, 2021

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